By Elita Chikwati and Nokutenda Chiyangwa
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has warned the public and political parties against interrupting, obstructing or disturbing any electoral proceedings as this is a punishable offence. The commission has also advised all stakeholders that ZEC has the sole mandate to announce the results of an election and declare election results in terms of Section 66A of the Electoral Act.
The warnings came after some MDC-Alliance members tried to disrupt issuing of postal ballots in Zvishavane.
It also came after MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa last week threatened to announce the results of the July 30 elections.
In a statement yesterday, ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said the Electoral Code of Conduct, which binds political parties, candidates and other stakeholders, prohibits declaration or announcement of the results of an election before it has been declared officially by an electoral officer.
“Any person who purports to announce the result of an election as the true or official results; or purports to declare any candidate to have been duly elected before an electoral officer has announced the result of that election or declared a candidate to have been duly elected in that election, shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both fine and imprisonment. The public should thus note that it is only the prerogative of the ZEC to announce election results” she said.
“The commission has witnessed incidents where some elements have tried to destabilise the processing of the postal vote on the pretext of demanding transparency. In particular, ZEC would like to condemn an incident that occurred at the ZEC district office in Zvishavane where a group of MDC-Alliance members disrupted the issuing of postal vote envelopes to 78 applicants supposed to be deployed for electoral duties. Stakeholders are reminded that it is an offence in terms of Sections 186 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) for a person to wilfully interrupt, obstruct or disturb any proceedings taken in terms of the Act.
“Any further disruption by any party or stakeholder may force the commission to invoke this provision for those found in breach,” she said.
She said those whose papers were not processed within the deadline set by the law will now have to exercise an ordinary vote on July 30 as the deadline for receipt of postal ballots was yesterday.
“The commission, therefore, expected that by the end of that day (yesterday) all ballots that were dispatched to the successful applicants for postal voting had been returned.
“It should be noted that the envelopes that contain the ballots will not be opened, but will be sorted and then dispatched to their respective constituencies and specific polling stations. Postal ballots will be counted together with ordinary votes cast on 30 July 2018,” she said.
Justice Chigumba urged all political parties to campaign peacefully, practise restraint, exercise tolerance of divergent views and to adhere to the Code of Conduct for Political Parties, Candidates and Stakeholders. She said there was nothing wrong with political parties using digital campaign methods as long as this did not infringe on other people’s rights.
“In the latest campaigns, parties are increasingly using digital campaigning methods. There is nothing wrong with this as long as this is done responsibly and it is certainly not part of the commission’s role to discourage campaigning as long as their activities are lawful and not infringing on other people’s rights.
“The commission urges stakeholders to use social media platforms responsibly.
“The public is also urged to avoid spreading fake news which may bring alarm and despondency to fellow citizens. Several electoral processes are at an advanced stage as the 30 July 2018 polls draw closer,” she said.
Justice Chigumba said essential materials which include ballot paper, indelible ink marker pens and prescribed forms had been bought while ballot booths, gas cylinder filling and fuel had been procured and delivery was under way.
“On July 2018, 35 chiefs were elected to the National Council of Chiefs in terms of Section 37 of the Traditional Leaders Act (Chapter 2:13).
“The chiefs will meet on 18 July 2018 (tomorrow) to elect the President and Deputy President of the National Council of Chiefs. After that, the chiefs will again meet on August 1, 2018 to elect two Senator Chiefs for each of the eight non metropolitan provinces. ZEC will preside over those elections, she said.
Justice Chigumba said ZEC had accredited 1 140 observers; 187 foreign observers, 34 foreign journalists, 279 local journalists and 640 local observers.
The first observer briefing was held last Friday and the second briefing will be announced in due course.
The commission will be accepting applications for observer accreditation until 26 July, 2018, in accordance with Section 40I of the Electoral Act. The issuing of accreditation cards will continue until 30 July 2018.