The premature announcement of election results has emerged as the first flashpoint between the opposition and poll management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa has threatened to announce results as his party gets them, but Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba warned yesterday it would be criminal for anyone to publish speculative results based on social media reports.

While indicating that all results pasted outside each polling station are considered “notice to the whole world as results of that polling station”, Chigumba warned that circulating these even on social media was a criminal offence.

“I have said it is an offence in terms of the Electoral Act to announce results unless you are a duly designated agent of Zec. If you announce results to your friends on WhatsApp as if those are official results, that is an offence.

“But you may do whatever it is that you may wish with results that have been pasted and officially announced as appropriate results for a polling station,” Chigumba said.

“The commission would like to indicate that we will announce results as they come. All stakeholders are reminded that it is unlawful to announce results because this is in contravention of section 66A (a)(b) of the Electoral Act. The announcement of results by unofficial sources has the potential to mislead the public and raise unnecessary political emotions. The public is advised to disregard results not officially announced by Zec.”

Chamisa has consistently indicated that he will reject any result that does not favour him.

Voter turnout, according to Chigumba, ranges from 60% to 78%, a huge increase from the usual average of 40% that had become the norm.

Zec said that around 72 800 people had been turned away from polling stations, representing 1,3% of registered voters.

“We want to report that about 1,3% of registered voters were turned away for reasons such as having incorrect documents, not being registered, while some voters went to the wrong polling stations, but were later redirected.

“You will realise this is our very first election that we have gone polling station specific. So naturally, there was some confusion among our voters, especially those that did not participate in the verification exercise,” the Zec chairperson said.

Asked if there was any room for manipulation of the vote, Chigumba said her commission would respect the will of the people.

“We are absolutely confident that there was no cheating. We are absolutely confident that there was no rigging. We would like to assure the Zimbabwean people that we, as the commission, will not steal their choice of leaders. We will not subvert their will,” she said somewhat emphatically.

Chigumba said the commission had until Saturday to announce results according to the law, but would have no problem to announce all results as long as they had verified them.

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