Over the last few days, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) 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 theAct. Any further disruption by any party or stakeholder may force the Commission to invoke this provision for those found in breach.
The mater has since been reported to the police for further investigations. Those whose papers were not processed within the deadline set by the law will now have to exercise an ordinary vote on 30 July 2018.
The deadline for receipt of postal ballots was 16 July 2018. The Commission therefore expected that by the end of that day, 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.
Need to be peaceful
The country has seen an upsurge in political activity as candidates campaign for seats in the forthcoming elections. The Commission urges all political parties to campaign peacefully, practice restraint exercise tolerance of divergent views and to adhere to the Code of Conduct for Political Parties, Candidates and Stakeholders.
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. Political parties must avoid hate speech which is sometimes replicated by the media in their reportage and the media ought to uphold the right to reply to avoid misinformation and misrepresentation. 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.
Election material and logistics
The essential materials which include ballot paper, indelible ink marker pens and prescribed forms have been procured. Other materials including additional ballot booths, gas cylinder filling and fuel have been procured and delivery is under way. In general, procurement of election material is nearly complete with deliveries at various stages.
Chiefs’ council elections
On 11 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 to elect the President and Deputy President of the National Council of Chiefs. After that the Chiefs will again meet on 1 August 2018 to elect two (2) Senator Chiefs for each of the eight (8) non metropolitan provinces. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will preside over those elections.
Accreditation of observers
As of 15 July 2018, the Commission had accredited a total of 1,140 observers broken down as follows: 187 foreign observers, 34 foreign journalists, 279 local journalists and 640 local observers.
The first observer briefing was held on 13 July, 2018 and the Commission will hold a second observer briefing at a date to be announced. All accredited foreign and local observers, including journalists, will be invited.
All those who want to participate in this year’s harmonised election as observers are encouraged to apply for accreditation. The Commission will be accepting applications for observer accreditation unti126 July, 2018, in accordance with Section 401 of the Electoral Act.The issuing of accreditation cards will continue until 30 July 2018.
Announcement of election results
Contrary to what a leader of a political party is alleged to have said in the print media, ZEC would like to advise all stakeholders and the public that it is the Commission that has the sole mandate to announce and declare election results in terms of Section 66A of the Electoral Act.
Further, the Electoral Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates, 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 Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce election results.