Zimbabwe Referendum: CIOs and Police Deployed at Stations

By IndepthAfrica
In Analysis
Mar 19th, 2013
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Analysis

The inefficiency demonstrated through some assigned officers in the just-ended Zimbabwean referendum has raised concern especially with the presence of the CIO operatives and police officers deployed at voting stations. While many may have assumed that these officers were meant to boost security, the objective was to create an atmosphere of intimidation among the electorate.

Although several places across Harare experienced high voter turnout, complaints were rife from residents who had either been force-marched out of their houses, or threatened by the heavy presence of police officers in their surbubs. In Chitungwiza, some residents reported that they had before Saturday been ordered to register to vote. A woman interviewed on Satuday afternoon at 4PM said that she had been told that not turning up at the polling station would draw firm police attention.

 

Voters in Mbare

 

Displaying election results.

It also emerged that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) failed to promptly display results at the stations as stipulated by the law. According to the SADC protocol on elections and referenda, election results must be displayed outside the polling stations soon after counting the ballots. Interestingly, by 10pm, 3hrs after polling was finished, most polling stations had not yet displayed the results marking gross  inefficiency and deliberate ploy to frustrate the wishes of the people from being timely heard.

It would not have been a problem to balance the ballots, counterfoils and the handwritten ballots with the improvised register of people who came to vote. If what was seen on Saturday is a precursor of the upcoming July plebiscite, then the nation is in trouble when three or four ballots from presidential to council will be cast and counted at once. More problems are already expected due to such gross inefficiency.

 

CIOs and Police at stations.

This reporter also found out that ZEC used members of the CIO to be part of polling process. Zanu(PF) used ZEC to employ members of the notorious  CIO as Referendum Retaining Officers in some polling stations. Normally such CIO agents who are blatantly partisan and defiant of the law, should stay away from the polling stations because the voter will not feel secure or free to express a choice. At the Fungisai Primary School polling station, the District Security Officer(DSO) for Chitungwiza was in charge of polling station B contrary to the best practice as practiced all over the world.

Commentary:

If the opposition political forces  in Zimbabwe condone such conduct to go unchallenged through the SADCprotocol in a timely fashion, that means the 2013 plebiscite is going to be rigged with their blessing. Already the dliberate flouting of such basic rules reflects a wanton disregard of ethics and the law, a sign that the 2013 elections could bring rife complaints, disgruntlement and a platform that is not free and fair for the ordinary voter. The wanton use of security forces to further one political party means a lot in this national exercise. The voter should be free and enabled to express oneself without being made to feel under spotlight or awaiting consequences.

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