By Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE – Soldiers and police officers — who in 2008 voted under the watchful eye of their commanders — will on Sunday and Monday exercise their democratic right to vote freely after electoral authorities removed polling stations from barracks and police stations.
Rita Makarau, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson said observers are welcome to monitor the special voting for the uniformed forces which will take place on July 14 and 15, two weeks before the crunch polls set for July 31.
As of Monday, Zec, the commission in charge of electoral processes in the country, had received 87 000 applications from the police, the army and the Zimbabwe Prison Services. The Zec boss said 60 000 police officers applied for special voting.
Co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone has said the force does not have more than 40 000 officers.
Appearing before Parliament earlier in February ahead of a referendum, Innocent Matibiri, police deputy commissioner-general (operations), disclosed that the force was going to recruit 10 000 officers in order to complement the 40 000 police officers.
“Our polling stations are not going to be in barracks,” said Makarau. “Some are at schools or at community halls but no polling station is within a barrack.”
As the country hurtles towards the crucial elections, Zec has already established 209 special polling stations. Processing of applications for special voting is underway.
In the 2008 poll, members of the uniformed forces complained that they were forced to vote under supervision from their superiors at army camps or police stations.
Police chief Augustine Chihuri has been at the forefront of resisting the changes, writing to co-Home Affairs ministers, Kembo Mohadi and Makone on July 26 last year protesting against the agreed electoral reforms.
But despite fierce resistance, Zec has forged ahead, designing a new voting system for armed forces that seeks to secure their vote. The new requirements are in line with amendments made to the Electoral Act, which have attracted angry denunciations from top commanders. Daily News