Observers at the 2023 elections in Zimbabwe have said the conduct of the exercise by the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) fell below expectation and have scored the commission low.
The preliminary report by the election observers, led by the Southern Africa Development Commission (SADC) comes as results from the polls trickle in.
Both the incumbent president, Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and his closest rival, Nelson Chamisa of Citizens Coalition for Change are claiming to be in the lead even though results have not been fully announced.
Presenting the report, the head of the SADC election observation mission and formal Vice-President of Zambia, Nevers Mumba, pointed out some irregularities.
According to the report, the observers noticed issues of late arrival of election materials in some areas which resulted in people voting till the next day, intimidation of opposition candidates, clampdown on rights and election groups and unprofessional activities by some agencies like the Police.
“There were stakeholder concerns about the right to freedom of assembly for election campaign purposes, whereupon the CCC reported that their rallies were being subjected to unreasonable cancellation by the Zimbabwe Republic Police,” said Mumba.
“The country’s electoral management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), failed to timeously avail the voters’ roll for audit purposes by contesting parties in line with the country’s electoral laws,” the report also stated.
Mr. Mumba also raised the issue of a group called Forever Associate Zimbabwe (FAZ), which he said is linked to the ruling ZANU-PF party that its members were seen taking down names of voters before voting.
“FAZ and other unidentified persons, who were not polling officers, were observed taking down voters’ names before casting their votes,” he said.
“The group was said to have been deployed around 36,000 villages. The allegations were that people were intimidated to vote in a particular manner and were warned that it would be easy to determine who voted against certain parties.”
Other issues raised by the election observers include one-sided coverage of political activities by the Zimbabwe state media and over-pricing of candidate form.
“In conclusion, the mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases, on 23-24 August 2023 Harmonised Elections, were peaceful and calm. However, for reasons outlined above, the mission noted that some aspects of the Harmonised Elections fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections,” Mr. Mumba stated.
Zimbabwe’s elections took place on August 23 and 24 and results are to be announced five days after voting and if no candidate gets more than 50 Percent of the votes cast, a run-off election between the top two contenders will be held on October 2nd which is six weeks after the initial votes.
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