Experts unearth Zec results mess

Discrepancies in election figures contained in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s own documents and signed by acting chief elections officer, Utloile Silaigwana, are expected to be put to test by MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa’s legal team led by Thabani Mpofu at the Constitutional Court today as the opposition leader seeks to overturn President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory.

BY BLESSED MHLANGA

Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba

Chamisa, challenging the presidential results released by Zec, pointed out that most of them did not add up, further denting the credibility of the electoral body and raising more questions to the final tally announced late last Thursday.

The seemingly embarrassing errors have been flagged by a team of technical experts in the MDC Alliance and an independent human rights and science data group Team Pachedu in separate reports.

Team Pachedu, which is not linked to the alliance, noted that in a number of polling stations — using data from Zec source documents — the total votes cast, votes rejected and total valid votes, did not match.

In Bikita East ward 16, which had six polling stations where a total number of votes cast were 2 189, votes rejected were 54 — the total number of valid votes was captured as 2 183, instead of 2 135.

These discrepancies are replicated in various constituencies including Gokwe-Sengwa, Gokwe-Kana and other polling stations in Harare.

In Zaka, a phenomenon that could make world records is displayed in the results published by the electoral commission, where the number of voters who cast their votes in two different wards is identical at all polling stations and the voting patterns are also similar.

Team Pachedu said the Zaka West phenomenon was statistically improbable and could only point to figures being “cooked up”.

“Zec defies probability theory, a sample of a duplicate entry from Zec presidential data the example is statistically improbable. The presidential results announced were, thus, inaccurate and there may be need for an auditor to look into these figures,” Team Pachedu said.

In Zaka West ward 23, at Chiringeno Primary School polling station, 330 people cast their votes, while the total number of valid votes was given as 321.

In ward 22 at Harava business centre tent, 330 votes were cast and 321 votes were valid, according to Zec.

Presidential candidates also got similar number of votes at different polling stations, with Mnangagwa getting 160 votes at Harava and Chiringeno, while Chamisa polled 139 votes at both polling stations.

Both ward 22 and 23 had four polling stations and each of them had results in sync with another, same number of spoilt ballots, votes for each candidate and same number of voters who turned up to vote.

In total, ward 22 recorded 1 438 voters, 58 spoilt votes and 1 380 valid votes.

Mnangagwa polled 835 votes, while Chamisa got 447 votes, which figures were similar to those recorded in ward 23, with no variation.

A presidential results projection from sample-based observation report released by Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, (Zesn) notes that there were polling stations where more votes, than registered voters were cast.

“The SBO data shows overall turnout at 84,7%, with a margin of error of 0,7%, with all provinces with turnout over 80%. There were 11 (1,5%) polling stations with turnout over 95% of which 5 (0,8%) had turnout of 100% or more,” the report, based on a sample of 750 polling stations, read.

One of the polling stations which had over 100% voter turnout was in Zaka West in Masvingo at Manatsa business centre tent polling station, which had 484 registered voters, but a total of 542 votes were cast on election day.

Elections Resources Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said the figures released by Zec were partial and showed some discrepancies, which was a cause for concern.

“The figures have some discrepancies and this will be detailed in our full report, however, it’s important to note that announced results must tally for them to be credible. All release of results must be accompanied by all necessary and official source documents to allow for verifiable of the same. Such release must also include key details such as the complete voters’ roll used on polling day,” he said.

Chimhini said this should be done in line with Zec’s constitutional obligation to run the elections transparently.

“A partial release of information may easily be viewed as an attempt to mask some inadequacies which will be unfortunate given the growing tensions arising from the election,” he said.