The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) says it will not entertain any complaints of rigging and electoral malpractices raised by opposition party candidates in the Gutu West constituency by-election held on Saturday.
Zanu PF candidate John Paradza emerged the winner after polling 12 147 votes against Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) candidate Ephraim Morudu who garnered 1 258.
Independent candidate Sebastian Mudzingwa polled 1 775, while Robson Kurwa of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) got 138 votes.
Morudu and Mudzingwa refused to endorse the results, citing massive irregularities, among them voter intimidation by Zanu PF. The opposition party candidates complained that Zanu PF affiliate Forever Associate of Zimbabwe (FAZ) frogmarched some voters to polling stations demanding serial numbers of ballot papers from them after they voted.
They also accused FAZ members of setting up booths at polling stations ordering voters to register with them after casting their ballots. They also accused Zanu PF members of campaigning within polling stations on voting day in violation of the Electoral Act.
“We are also concerned about the high number of assisted voters in the election. Our polling agents were victimised and villagers were being forced to reveal who they voted for outside the polling station,” said CCC secretary for elections Ian Makone.
Elections were not held for the Gutu West constituency on August 23 after the polls were suspended following the death of one of the candidates Christopher Rwodzi who died in a road accident.
Zec deputy chairperson Rodney Kiwa said the electoral body was not bothered that some candidates had refused to sign the V23 form to endorse the results.
“We will not force them to endorse the results. That is their choice. We have nothing to do with that issue. What we know is that the election was run perfectly, and I say very perfectly. So whatever they are saying is none of our business. As Zec we can’t force anyone to sign for the results. I will not even bother to comment on that,” he said.
Several electoral observer missions raised concerns over the conduct of FAZ during the voting process.
Electoral watchdogs have raised alarm over why Zec was allegedly condoning electoral malpractices ahead of more by-elections on December 9.
In its report on the Gutu West by-election, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network revealed that at one of the polling stations, about 25% of the voters were assisted to vote.
“The highest number of assisted voters was recorded at Chiguhune Primary School in Gutu West, where 67 out of 270 people were assisted, translating to 25% assisted voters at this particular polling station. In the same constituency, 51 out of 378 voters at Mbirikira Primary School, 11 out of 122 voters at Ingogo Farm Tent, 8 out of 137 voters at Chindida and 11 out of 154 voters at Rufaro High School were assisted in casting their ballots,” reads the report.
Election Resource Centre (ERC) programmes officer Takunda Tsunga said: “The ERC notes that the Gutu West election was conducted in the backdrop of continued concerns around voter intimidation as we continued to witness the involvement of traditional leaders and FAZ in the electoral processes.”
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association director Dzikamai Bere said cases of electoral violence and electoral malpractices had worsened since the August 23 elections.
“There has not been any change since the August 23 elections. The violence has actually increased. We have recorded several cases in the run up to the Gutu West by-election. We also note an increase in the abduction cases of opposition political figures,” he said.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya added that they did not expect Zec to change the way it runs the country’s electoral processes.
“We do not expect to see any change on how Zec runs elections as long as the legitimacy question has not been resolved. We have witnessed an economic quagmire just after the August 23 election because we are serving an illegitimate government. But the opposition has to contest even under those conditions because rigged elections can be won and Zanu PF won’t care even if they boycott,” said Ruhanya.
Zanu PF director of information Farai Marapira dismissed the rigging accusations and described the opposition party candidates as crybabies.
“We go to the election to win and we have won,” Marapira said.
“The opposition will always complain in the election that they lose when they are silent on the election that they win. It is unfortunate that they don’t understand the tenets of democracy that it is the people’s will … they want to superimpose themselves on the people’s will. We did not rig. We don’t take heed of what they are saying.”