Police in postal vote storm

THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) yesterday brew a shocker when it clandestinely conducted postal voting for officers in Bulawayo amid reports they were forced to cast ballots before their superiors, NewsDay has learnt.

SILAS NKALA/KENNETH NYANGANI/TAFADZWA MUTACHA

Disgruntled police officers let the “cat out of the bag” after reportedly being forced to cast their ballots before their bosses, a claim the police refuted. Images and videos of police officers at Ross Camp in Bulawayo queuing to cast their vote started to emerge yesterday afternoon amid contradictions by the police and Zec exposing the growing chasm between the institutions.

The postal voting was reportedly conducted in the absence of candidates and political parties’ representatives who are at law supposed to witness the process.

Zec Bulawayo provincial elections officer Innocent Ncube claimed he was not aware of the postal voting.

“I am not sure of what is going on. It is only that their postal ballots are sent to stations and they vote before sending them in one lot. Maybe, you can check with (Zec) headquarters or the police headquarters,” Ncube said.

But, police elections commander Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza, dismissed allegations of a plot to rig the polls and confirmed the process was being supervised by Zec.

“The correct position is that some police officers will be performing security duties in other provinces which are not their normal work stations. Thus in terms of Section 72 of the Electoral Act, the concerned police officers will exercise their right to vote through postal ballot system which is being administered by the Zec,” he said.

National Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed to Studio 7 that postal voting was taking place but denied reports that they were being forced.

“There is no police officer police officer who is being forced to vote. An officer is given a sealed envelope to vote at a secluded area. The voting is taking place in the presence of observers,” she said.

Acting chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana, who was said to be in a meeting was quoted dismissing the postal voting as “untrue”. “Postal is an individual who says I am applying for postal voting and he or she is given a ballot paper in an envelope and he returns it sealed. This is cheap propaganda without substance at all,” Silaigwana reportedly said.

MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa and other opposition leaders, immediately demanded Zec stop the police postal voting process, accusing the force of attempting to rig the polls in favour of the ruling Zanu PF party.

NewsDay understands that the process started at Ross Camp in Bulawayo where police officers who will be deployed away from their polling stations on voting day were suddenly called to start casting their postal votes under the supervision of senior officers — chief superintendents (names supplied), a day after Zec announced it had finished printing presidential ballot papers. Addressing hundreds of party supporters at Gaza Stadium in Chipinge, Chamisa threatened to take legal action against the electoral body if they did not stop the process forthwith.

“I am told that Zec has started postal voting for police and we are saying that this should not be done in (police) camps. We need our agents to be there. This voting should be done in my presence with (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa,” he said.

Chamisa claimed the electoral body was acting under the instruction of Zanu PF. MDC Alliance last night immediately called for a press conference, which was addressed by Tendai Biti condemning the attempt to rig the polls.

Biti, however, said the most shocking and telling aspect was that Zec was unaware of the Ross Camp postal vote.

“Our officials and director of elections spent the whole day there since morning. Zec has also confirmed that they are not there and they have also confirmed their shock to the shenanigans in Bulawayo,” Biti said. He said the alliance had evidence that the police officers’ secrecy of the ballot was compromised as they voted under the watchful eyes of their bosses.

“We have agents at Ross camp as we are speaking right now and I can tell you that they have actually managed to stop the process right now as I am talking right now (sic). So we have overwhelming evidence to show omissions and commissions that took place this afternoon,” Biti said.

The sources in Bulawayo said the postal voting was presided over by senior police officers deployed from the Police General Headquarters.

At Ross Camp in Mzilikazi Bulawayo, a lengthy queue of police officers intending to cast their postal votes was observed as from 1pm.

“Rigging of elections has started already. Postal voting is happening right now at Ross Camp for those deployed in Matabeleland North. It’s supervised by the police bosses only,” one police officer said.

Bulawayo MDC Alliance spokesperson Felix Magalela Mafa Sibanda expressed dismay over the undemocratic process, saying his team went to Ross Camp where they observed the police officers casting their postal votes.

“Indeed voting is taking place at Bulawayo Ross Camp. We went there and found the police gathered in the ground. We requested to see the assistant commissioner who is in charge and he confirmed that yes they were voting. After they heard of our arrival they changed the place of voting and went to a more hidden place. Other police officers who recognised us approached us and requested that we do something,” Sibanda said.

Some police officers at Fairbridge Support Unit in Bulawayo also raised complaints that they were forced to vote under tense conditions.

Zanu PF Bulawayo spokesperson Christopher Sibanda could neither confirm nor deny if his party’s agents attended the postal voting process, indicating that it was not possible that stakeholders could have been left out in such as process.

“That is a Zec process and I do not think that the process could have been done without those participating not participating. I would believe all the stakeholders were there,” Sibanda said.