By Farayi Machamire
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) triggered a fresh storm yesterday after it availed the voters’ roll to the British Embassy while denying same to candidates participating in the forthcoming general elections.
In a tweet posted yesterday, the embassy revealed receiving the contentious voters’ roll from Zec offices — immediately triggering a social media storm from critics who are livid with what appears to be the commission’s double standards.
“@UKinZimbabwe team was able to obtain a searchable copy — in Excel format — of the voters’ roll from @ZECZim offices in Harare this morning. It took about two hours, but we came away with a disc @FCOHumanRights @ZimMediaReview,” the embassy tweeted on its official handle yesterday.
The pronouncement immediately ignited an outcry from ordinary Zimbabweans, civic society and opposition parties, adding impetus to claims by Zanu PF’s rivals that the ruling party had since had sight of the consolidated electronic copy of the voters’ roll.
Upon realising that the tweet had triggered a storm, the British Embassy tried to calm the tempers on social media but with a lot of egg on its face.
“When we paid for the voters’ roll this morning, we did not identify ourselves as being from the British Embassy. We weren’t the first or the only ones to get it. We advise patience — and a bit of pushiness!” the embassy tweeted.
Earlier yesterday, Zec had told participating candidates to wait a little longer to access the voters’ roll because the commission was still in the process of gazetting the names of all successful candidates nominated for municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on July 30.
“It was actually remiss of us to advise Zimbabweans that the voters’ roll was now ready,” Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba had told journalists in Harare yesterday.
“…Unfortunately, for those who had paid for the voters’ roll and this information was not made available to them by us, as a commission, we owe you our apologies. It’s really a question of logistics and administration. We are frantically running copies for all our nominated candidates.”
Chigumba said once the names have been gazetted, those seeking the voters’ roll will have to pay for it.
She, however, said the roll cannot be “purchased like bread” adding “you pay and then you are advised on the date of collection”.
“…At the moment, we are running copies for the successfully nominated candidates. On the day that we gazette the names of the successfully nominated candidates, we should actually be ready to provide each and every candidate with an e-copy of the voters’ roll…after the gazetting and having provided all of our candidates with a copy, then the 48 hour rule should kick (in) ordinarily, barring any other issues such as (the availability of electricity) in our provinces,” she said.
Chigumba said “nothing short of an earthquake can stop” the July 30 polls, pouring cold water on plans by the opposition parties to legally challenge the final 2018 voters’ roll in the event that they discover irregularities.
“Let me put the law into perspective. The first thing to take note of is that once the president has proclaimed the election date, there is nothing short of an earthquake which can stop the election.
“So whether candidates scrutinise the voters’ roll, if there are any anomalies in the voters’ roll, candidates can avail themselves to probably challenge the outcome of the election but whatever legal recourse is at hand cannot stop the election. I think the Chief Justice was very clear, nothing stops the election after proclamation date…anyone is at liberty to look at our product, analyse it and scrutinise it (but nothing will stop the election),” she said.
But as Chigumba was apologising for the voters’ roll fiasco, it turned out that the British Embassy and other stakeholders had been availed with a copy of it.
Opposition parties have been clamouring for the voters’ roll to help them plan for the general election.
Only last week, a former Cabinet minister who was at the centre of Zanu PF’s power-retention strategies between 2000 and November 2017 sensationally claimed that the ruling party had devised an elaborate plan to rig next month’s elections.
Jonathan Moyo, a former politburo member who is currently in self-imposed exile in Kenya, said he was ready to testify under oath how Zanu PF and Zec were plotting to subvert the people’s will on July 30.
He alleged that Zanu PF, which is seeking to extend its rule beyond 38 years, had been given hard copies of the voters’ roll, despite claims by the electoral management body that they were still cleaning up the register following the recent conclusion of the biometric voter registration (BVR).
Yesterday, Moyo also waded into the debate and warned that the commission could push the country into turbulence.
“It’s concerning @ZECzim is becoming a source of potential conflict, with civil war implications. What should a peace-loving electorate do when it’s kept in the dark about polling stations and the voters’ roll while it’s given to Zanu PF, Chinese cyber experts and British diplomats?” Moyo wrote on Twitter.
MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa took to microblogging site twitter to register his displeasure saying “Zec continues to refuse to release the voters’ roll. Worse still, the chairperson has now shifted goal posts and says they are printing hard copies.”
Kent university law lecturer, Alex Magaisa, found Zec’s move bizarre.
“Imagine you are in Britain, with elections just weeks away and the Zimbabwean embassy announces that it has obtained the voters’ roll while contesting parties and candidates are being told it’s not yet ready! And the Zimbabwean embassy advises the British to be patient,” Magaisa said.
National Patriotic Front spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said he was not surprised that the British embassy had received the voters’ roll ahead of participating candidates.
“We have always maintained that the British ambassador is baby-siting the coup government. We are being vindicated. We have always said the coup government is a British government baby so it’s a case of the baby giving the parent the voters’ roll. We are not surprised,” Mawarire said.
Analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya found it absurd.
“Would the British government (Conservative Party) give the Zimbabwe Embassy its voters’ roll first before its citizens and political parties like the Labour Party?” he questioned.
MDC legal secretary David Coltart took to twitter to try and find answers.
“I have just spoken to nelsonchamisa at 4.30pm who confirms that the #MDCAlliance still doesn’t have a copy of the voters’ roll despite repeatedly asking for it. How is it that @ZECzim has given it to @UKinZimbabwe but not us? What on earth is going on?”
Independent candidate Duduzile Nyirongo felt Zec was not being sincere after being denied a copy of the voters’ roll yesterday.
“I’m just coming from Zec offices and they are saying the voters’ roll is not yet ready and they are busy working on it. I mean like really Zec. What is so complicated about a BVR system? I thought (the) system is updated once a person registers,” Nyirongo said. DailyNews