On August 10, 2023, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa wrote a letter to ZEC demanding an updated voters’ roll and a comprehensive list of polling stations. In a letter seen by Pindula News, the party expressed concerns about discrepancies in the voters’ roll and the list of polling stations for the upcoming elections. They highlighted issues such as abbreviated and altered polling station names, inconsistencies in ward allocation, and changes in the number of polling stations. They urgently demanded an updated voters’ roll that adheres to the Electoral Act, including all polling stations, accurate names, and correct ward allocations. The party said failure to address these concerns within 48 hours may result in legal action, jeopardising the integrity of the electoral process. We present the letter below:
RE: URGENT LETTER OF DEMAND: PROVISION OF UPDATED VOTERS’ ROLL COMPLIANT WITH SECTION 21 OF THE ELECTORAL ACT AND A COMPLETE POLLING STATION LIST
We represent the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and its candidates contesting in the 23rd August 2023 harmonised elections. Please note our interest.
Our clients were provided by ZEC with an electronic copy of the voters roll on 10th July 2023. On 14th July 2023 and again on 2nd August 2023, our clients wrote to you raising concerns about the voters roll provided to them. You did not respond to their letters.
On 2nd August 2023, ZEC published a list of “preliminary” polling stations, implying that they were still subject to change. On 8th August 2023, our client wrote to you raising concerns about the “preliminary” list of polling stations, which has also not yet been responded to.
On 8th August 2023, ZEC published a list of polling stations which we presume is now the final list and that they are the polling stations that will be used in the 2023 Elections. However, this list of polling stations clearly demonstrates that the voters roll that was provided to our client is not the same voters roll that will be used in the election. Therefore, the voters roll provided to our client is not compliant with the peremptory provisions of section 21 of the Electoral Act.
This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that:
1. Polling stations names are not the same:
The names of polling stations in the voters roll provided to our clients are not the same as the names of polling stations published on 81h August 2023. It appears, in some cases, that the polling stations in the voters roll have been truncated due to the width of the column for polling stations so that they are not fully readable and in other cases the names of the polling stations have been changed by ZEC since the provision of the voters roll.
For example, in Matabeleland North, Victoria Falls City Council Ward 11, the only polling stations that appear in the voters roll are the following:
KINGS PRIMARY SCHOOL A
KINGS PRIMARY SCHOOL B
ST JOSEPHINE BHAKITA PRIMARY SC
By contrast, the list of polling stations published on 8th August 2023 includes the following polling stations for the same ward:
Kings Primary School A
Kings Primary School B A
Kings Primary School B B
St Josephine Bhakita Primary School A
St Josephine Bhakita Primary School B
St Josephine Bhakita Primary School C
The polling stations on the voters roll and the polling stations published are therefore not the same. Neither “Kings Primary School B” nor the “St Josephine Bhakita Primary Sc” exist at all on the list of polling stations published on 8th August 2023. And this is not an isolated case. Our clients have identified at least 2150 polling stations in the voters roll whose names do not match the names of the polling stations published on 8th August 2023 affecting approximately 1.8 million voters.
This issue is partly due to the format in which the voters roll was provided to our clients. As a PDF document, certain information is not accessible, searchable or analysable. Thus, the voters roll provided to our client does not comply with the peremptory requirements of section 21 (7) of the Electoral Act.
2. Wards have been moved between constituencies:
In several instances, certain wards are part of one constituency on the voters roll provided to our client but are part of a different constituency on the list of polling stations published on 8th August 2023.
For example, Pfura Ward 6 is in Mt Darwin East constituency on the voters roll provided to our clients (contrary to the boundaries in the delimitation report), but it is in Mt Darwin West constituency in the list of polling stations published on 8th August 2023. There are several other wards were similar anomalies have been identified.
Thus, there is a need for an updated voters roll, so that the constituencies in which wards fall in the voters roll match the constituencies that they fall into in the delimitation report and the list of polling stations published on 8th August 2023.
3. The number of polling stations has changed:
On 8 July 2023, ZEC announced that ZEC had established 11,501 polling stations. The list of polling stations published on 8th August 2023 states that there are now 12,370 polling stations. Of these, our clients’ analysis shows that 10,787 are unique polling centres. Neither of these numbers match the number of polling stations in the voters roll provided to our client which is approximately 11,000 polling stations (of which 9,483 are unique polling centres).
Therefore, the numbers of polling stations on the voters roll provided to our client do not tally with the number of polling stations announced by ZEC and the number of polling stations has changed since the voters roll was provided to our clients. As such, the voters roll in their possession is not the same as the one which will be used in the election and therefore is not in compliance with the peremptory provisions of section 21 of the Electoral Act.
Therefore, we are instructed to demand on behalf of our client, as we hereby do, that our client be immediately provided with an updated copy of the voters roll which is compliant with the peremptory provisions of section 21 of the Electoral Act in that it should:
1. Show all polling stations that will be used in the 2023 elections and have the same number of polling stations as list provided on 8th August 2023;
2. Use the same names for polling stations as the names of the polling stations that will be used during the election and show the full and complete name of each polling station;
3. Use the same ward and constituency boundaries as those that will be used during the 2023 election;
4. Be fully searchable and analysable. To this end, the voters roll should be provided in as CSV, Excel or Access files.
Additionally, the list of polling stations published on 8th August 2023 is incomplete insofar as it does not include:
1. Polling station codes
2. The voter population of each polling station
This issue was flagged by our clients’ letter to you dated 8th August 2023, and has not been rectified in the polling station list subsequently published on 8th August 2023. Publication of polling station codes is essential for the openness and transparency of the election and for accurate identification of the polling stations since it provides the polling station with a unique identity. Similarly, the publication of the voter population of each polling station is essential to demonstrate that no polling station exceeds the limit of 1,000 persons per polling station and that the total voter population of all polling stations equals the total number of voters on the voters roll.
It should be noted that this information was published by ZEC during the 2018 election and there is no valid or legitimate reason why it should not be published for the 2023 election.
Therefore, we further demand on behalf of our client that an updated polling station list be immediately published by ZEC which includes:
1. Polling station codes
2. The voter population of each polling station
Given the extreme urgency of this matter in that the election is now less than two weeks away, we request that you respond to our letter and provide our client with the requested documentation within 12 hours, failing which, we have instructions to seek urgent relief from the courts.