The recently released report by the SADC Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) has highlighted concerning issues regarding the credibility of the August 2023 general elections in Zimbabwe.
According to the report excerpt posted by the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi, the subsequent revelation by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that they had no sufficient ballot papers has cast doubts on the integrity of the electoral process.
Delays in voting were experienced at multiple polling stations, particularly in Harare and Bulawayo, prompting the extension of voting hours initially by the ZEC and later by the President.
ZEC attributed the opening delays to the prolonged printing of the ballot papers due to numerous court challenges.
The report depicted that ZEC had previously assured them and all the stakeholders that all necessary voting materials, including ballot papers, were readily available before the election day.
A report in the state media before the election stated:
“All ballot papers for next Wednesday’s election have been printed and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday published details of the numbers printed and who printed them.
The details were published by ZEC Chief Elections Officer, Mr Utoile Silagwana, in terms of the Electoral Act.”
This revelation from the SEOM report adds to the growing concerns over the transparency and smooth execution of the electoral process in Zimbabwe.
“Prior to election day, ZEC had assured our Mission and other stakeholders, that all necessary voting materials, including ballot papers, were available and ready for use before election day.
“This communication was made in the context of section 52A(2) of the Electoral Act which requires ZEC to provide information on the number of ballot papers and publication of details regarding them.
“On the basis of these two considerations, the subsequent information from ZEC that they did not have adequate ballot papers has the unfortunate effect of creating doubts about the credibility of this electoral process,” partly reads the report excerpt.
The report excerpt further indicated that during the voting period, a significant issue was observed by the SEOM at 26% of the polling stations. At these stations, not all voters who showed up were able to cast their vote.
“The reasons advanced for this included: 1. Voters were identified, but the names were not found on the voters’ roll;
ii. It was not possible to establish the voter’s identity;
iii. Voters were at the wrong polling station; ( illegal transfer of voters),” reads the report excerpt.
According to the report, at over 500 observed polling stations, the indelible ink, which is meant to mark voters after they cast their vote to prevent multiple voting, was not checked before allowing them to vote.
“Ballot boxes did not remain locked and/or sealed at more than 300 of the polling stations observed by SEOM,” the report excerpt added.