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Zanu PF primary elections prove there is no need for ‘assisted voting’

The just-ended Zanu PF primary elections have revealed something that should be of interest to SADC, Africa and the rest of the world. There was no single assisted voter in these elections. This is a true reflection of the level of literacy among Zimbabweans.

Soon after attaining independence, the Government of Zimbabwe embarked on a deliberate effort to ensure that every Zimbabwe had essential reading and writing skills.

In addition to ensuring that every child of school-going age went to school, the government also introduced the Adult Literacy programme everywhere, including in rural areas so that those who missed the opportunity to learn during the Rhodesian times had an opportunity to make up for the loss.

Forty-three years after independence, it is a fact that every Zimbabwean below the age of 80 years can read and write, so there should be no cases where people should be assisted to vote, except for a few adults over the age of 80 who missed on the opportunities provided through the adult literacy programme.

Despite the high literacy levels, the leadership in Zimbabwe makes people wonder what has happened to all the investments made in education because during elections an unacceptably high number of voters are assisted to vote because they have been told by a chief, headman or some Zanu PF thugs that they should pretend that they cannot write an X on a ballot box so that they are assisted to vote.

This is done because Zanu PF suspects they will vote for the opposition, so people in rural areas known or suspected to be not Zanu PF supporters are intimidated and told they will be killed if they do not pretend they cannot cast their votes by themselves.

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This practice by Zanu PF is not hearsay as there is video footage where Zanu PF officials address meetings and give the instruction that certain people should pretend they cannot cast their vote by themselves.

In some cases, the Zanu PF officials tell the terrorised audience that this is an instruction from President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a case in point being in Gokwe Sesame where a video available on the internet provides the evidence.

An unacceptably high number of voters have been assisted to vote in elections held since 2000, and the number is on the increase. In by-elections held in 2022, some rural polling stations recorded up to 50 assisted voters, when the total number of voters at that polling station was less than 500.

As we approach the 2023 elections, there have been numerous reports from the rural areas that headmen and chiefs who have recently received lucrative payments and gifts from Government have been telling people who they suspect may not vote for Zanu PF to claim they are illiterate so that they are assisted to cast their vote.

This year, the plan is for ZEC to recruit teachers who have been mobilised into a pro-Mnangagwa group known as Teachers for ED, who have been given various incentives to subvert the will of the people.

But there is no problem without a solution, and my suggestions for a solution are as follows:

  • Citizens in rural areas targeted for assisted voting must record the names of the people giving those instructions, and seek the assistance of whoever they chose to help them report the matter to the Zimbabwe Elections Commission (ZEC), and the police, and copy the incident report to SADC, the African Union, and the United Nations;
  • People who have been forced to claim illiteracy and assisted to vote in previous elections should similarly report their cases so that SADC can investigate these claims in a bid to gather the authenticity of the claims;
  • With the assistance of the international community, SADC should consider sending one observer to every polling station to ensure that there are no unjustifiable cases of assisted voting;
  • A register should be created for assisted voters at every polling station. The register should contain the details of the assisted voter such as their National Identification Number as shown on the identification document used to vote, their name, date of birth, address, and the polling station at which they voted. Audits can be carried out after the election if the number of assisted voters is suspiciously high, or just to prove the authenticity of the process;
  • All pro-human rights organisations in Zimbabwe be encouraged to support this call;
  • Parliamentarians are encouraged to include a clause that includes the creation of a register for assisted voters at each polling station in the Electoral Amendment Bill

Disputed election results are a key cause for the lack of investment in Zimbabwe as it erodes investor confidence. We need to ensure that our elections are credible to attract investment and improve the economy and allow the opportunity for all to prosper.