MDC Alliance officials arrested on Saturday evening for entering Mutare Main Police Camp to protest the “appalling” handling of the ongoing postal ballot by the police have been released.
Simon Chabuka, Godwin Sithole and Walter Mutwayo have been summoned to appear before the courts on Friday to answer to trespassing charges.
The three were held at Mutare Central Police station after being arrested at Mutare Main Camp canteen area between 2000 and 2030 hours. They had gone to camp to answer a distress call that members of the police force were being forced to cast their ballots under the supervision of their bosses.
Chabuka is the MDC Alliance local government candidate for Ward 12 where the camp lies.
MDC provincial secretary for legal affairs and Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese was the first to respond by visiting them to establish the reasons for their arrest.
“A leopard doesn’t change its spots. Zanu-PF and its junta government are determined to proceed with controversial electoral processes which clearly do not conform to basic standards of free, credible, accountable and transparent running of elections, MDC provincial spokesperson Trevor Saruwaka said.
He said the opposition party would remain vigilant to thwart any attempts to steal the election.
“We must remain vigilant in order to thwart any efforts by Zanu-PF, working in cahoots with some elements of the police, military and Zec to steal elections.
“There is no chance under the sun of Zanu-PF winning any free and transparent election in Zimbabwe hence their resorting to these suspicious processes,” Saruwaka said.
Zec was also hauled before the coals on Thursday after police held a highly-contested postal vote in Bulawayo which the MDC Alliance and other opposition parties said was fraught with irregularities.
In the aftermath of that fiasco, angry opposition parties and rights groups also claimed that the impending national elections were now at the risk of losing their credibility altogether, unless Zec acted on all the serious flaws that contesting parties had cited.
The MDC Alliance accused both Zec and the police of undermining the “credibility” of the polls – charging that the postal vote had been held “clandestinely” and thus violated sections of the Electoral Act.
Apart from complaining about not having been notified of Thursday’s special vote, the MDC Alliance made further stunning claims that it had information that “most” of the police officers had been forced to vote in front of their bosses.
However, the police dismissed the allegations as false on Friday.
“No police officer was forced to vote in front of any officer. The voting process went on very smoothly … the voting process is being done according to the laws of the country, period,” said senior assistant commissioner Erasmus Makodza.
During a subsequent meeting with election observers, Chigumba also said that there was nothing amiss about Thursday’s special vote, adding that it was thus valid.
“Unless we have evidence that someone was intimidated or forced into exercising the postal vote against their will, my preliminary answer would be yes, they will be valid unless there is evidence of electoral malpractice around the practice of that postal vote.
“And I would like to urge and encourage those who are not willing to practice postal vote to simply decline to do so,” Chigumba said.
Zimbabwe will hold its crunch elections on July 30 – which for the first time in two decades will not feature both ousted former president Robert Mugabe and the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his valiant battle against colon cancer in February.
This year’s elections have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike, with many people anticipating a close contest between Zanu-PF and the MDC Alliance.