The Election Resource Centre (ERC) deployed a team of mobile observers in Bikita West constituency where voters are electing a Member of Parliament (MP). The Constituency fell vacant after the former Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) MP Munyaradzi Kereke was convicted.
The ERC is working with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to immediately intervene whenever there are reports of irregularities and election related human rights violations in line with Sections 239 and 243 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The ERC also collaborated with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and Heal Zimbabwe Trust to promote the observance of human rights and peace in the Bikita West by-election.
Although the Electoral Act remains not fully aligned with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, ZEC managed to efficiently and effectively administer the Bikita West by-election. As of last night all the materials that are required for the election had been distributed to all the 58 polling stations and on Election Day all polling stations were adequately staffed.
ZEC also deployed commissioners and senior officials to monitor the voting process.
All the 58 polling stations opened at 07:00 hours as stipulated in Section 53 of the Electoral Act.
An unusually high number of assisted voters was recorded during the Bikita West by-election. Although the bulk of the assisted voters were genuine owing to old age (illiterate and or visually impaired), there were isolated cases of young people who claimed illiteracy. Upon investigation, it turned out that they are literate but were coached to claim otherwise. They were assisted by two ZEC Polling Officers and one Police Officer.
The ERC reported the issue to the ZHRC and ZEC who are conducting investigations.
As at mid-day an average of 300 people had voted at various polling stations that were visited, most of them being the elderly. The environment was largely peaceful with most voters voting freely. There were however isolated cases of intimidation in certain Wards such as Ward 12 where people’s names were recorded before and after casting their votes. Reports received by the ERC also indicated that voters were marshalled to polling stations at Birivinge Secondary and Chikutukutu Primary schools in Ward 12.
Observance of people with disabilities
Although ZEC acquitted themselves well in administering the election, some of the polling stations were not conducive for people with disabilities. Additionally, the distance from some polling stations was too long. This saw some voters having to walk for 15 kilometres to cast their ballot.
There was a notable presence of foreign observers, domestic observers and local journalists in Bikita West.
Political parties and candidate agents
ZANU PF and Zimbabwe People First managed to deploy polling agents at all the polling stations that were observed, while other candidates did not comprehensively deploy agents.