By Zvamaida Murwira
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) yesterday dismissed claims by the MDC Alliance that the design of the ballot for the presidential candidates for the July 30 elections favours the incumbent, President Mnangagwa. In a statement yesterday, ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba also rapped some political parties, saying their demands to be close to the ballot printing machines in a high security area was an abuse of the right to transparency.
Justice Chigumba’s statement followed complaints by MDC Alliance presidential candidate Mr Nelson Chamisa’s chief election agent Mr Jameson Timba, who claimed that the design of the presidential ballot where President Mnangagwa is the first on the second column favoured him ahead of other candidates.
Addressing journalists at the party headquarters, Mr Timba alleged that they had failed to observe the printing process.
Justice Chigumba said the Constitution empowered ZEC to have the sole responsibility on the designing, printing and distribution of the ballot paper.
“According to Section 239(g) of the Constitution, the designing and printing and distribution of ballot papers are the sole responsibility of ZEC,” she said. “Anyone else other than ZEC demanding to be involved in these functions directly or indirectly is deemed by the commission as one attempting to usurp the powers and independence of the electoral management body.
“However, the Multi-Party Liaison Committee is currently tasked with building consensus around this area. To enhance transparency in the electioneering process, the law also compels the commission to publish the name of the ballot paper printer and the number of ballots printed. This will be done at the conclusion of the printing process.”
Justice Chigumba dismissed claims by the MDC Alliance that over 400 people on the biometric voters’ register shared the same residential address in Chitungwiza.
“The stand number 100086 Unit G, Chitungwiza, alluded to by some press reports is in fact a church shrine with 122 voters, which is contrary to some press reports that it has 400 voters,” she said.
“After all, the right to reply is a tenet of responsible reporting. It should be noted that through the use of affidavits, a residential address can have many registered voters.”
On accessing the printing process by political parties, Justice Chigumba said while there were no legal obligations compelling the election management body to invite stakeholders, they did so in the spirit of promoting transparency.
“In the spirit of transparency and stakeholder engagement, the commission invited stakeholders, including representatives of all political parties contesting presidential elections, local and foreign observers, embassies, as well as civic society and faith-based organisations to witness ballot paper printing at Fidelity Printers last Friday,” said Justice Chigumba.
“However, the commission noted with concern demands by some political parties to get very close to the printing machines which are located in an area with high security documents belonging to other clients. The commission views such demands as an abuse of the right to transparency.”
Mr Timba complained at the MDC Alliance press conference that the manner in which the presidential ballot was designed benefited Zanu-PF presidential candidate Cde Mnangagwa.
“They have looked at 23 candidates and have created two columns and number 1 up to 14 and number 15 starts at the second column.
“By designing and laying out the ballot that way, they are ensuring that (President) Mnangagwa, presidential candidate for Zanu-PF, becomes the number one candidate on the second column. This is obviously discriminatory. By approving such a design, ZEC has behaved in a biased manner that all Zimbabwean candidates sitting on that ballot are less important to (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa.”
On postal voting, which closed on June 28, Justice Chigumba said they received 7 200 applications and were currently processing them.
“However, this does not mean that all the applications will be considered as some of them may not be on the voters’ roll,” she said.
“If the commission is satisfied that the applicant is entitled to a postal vote, the Chief Elections Officer shall issue a postal ballot paper to the applicant by placing it in an envelope addressed to the applicant.”