THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission last Friday allowed political parties contesting the July 30 harmonised elections an opportunity to witness the printing of ballot papers as the electoral body moved to clear suspicion from opposition parties and their local and international sympathisers that the process would be secretive.
Apart from observing the printing process, the parties were also given a sample of the paper that is being used to print the ballots.
The Presidential and National Assembly ballot papers are being printed at Fidelity Printers in Harare while those for local government elections are being printed at Printflow, also in the capital.
The decision to invite the parties to witness the ballot printing follows an outcry from the opposition that the process was opaque and might lead to manipulation and possible rigging.
With exactly four weeks before the country goes to the polls to usher in a Second Republic of Zimbabwe, everything appears to be progressing smoothly towards that important landmark with parties going about their campaigns unhindered.
President Mnangagwa has exhorted Zimbabweans to be peaceful and refrain from violence during the pre-election period and his message has been heeded. All 23 presidential contestants signed a high-level peace pledge last week committing themselves and their political parties to a peaceful campaign ahead of the polls. The pledge — the first in the history of elections in Zimbabwe — is in line with the President’s repeated calls for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
Most of the demands made by the opposition (some of which are plainly ridiculous and impractical) have largely been met as the electoral management body bends over backwards to accommodate a quisling opposition and deliver the nation’s most credible poll since independence.
It is important for Zimbabwe to conduct a credible election as its future hinges on it. International acceptance and lifting of ruinous sanctions will only happen if the outcome of the July 30 plebiscite is deemed to reflect the will of the people of this country. Of course, to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, a credible poll is one in which it is declared the winner of the presidential race, House of Assembly and local authority elections.
While this is not surprising, the lengths to which they are prepared to go to discredit Zec should worry Zimbabweans and all those who are pining to see this country navigate its way out of pariah status and take its rightful place in the community of nations. As the clock slowly ticks towards election day, the MDC Alliance is raising frivolous grievances and exerting undue pressure on Zec to mask its fear of an impending electoral defeat. This is very unfortunate.
Instead of preoccupying itself with the logistical preparations for the elections, Zec is now working full time to dispel notions that it will tweak the outcome of the poll in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF party and its presidential candidate.
Without proffering a shred of evidence, the MDC Alliance is alleging all manner of chicanery even when the processes leading to the elections are open, transparent and beyond reproach. It has demanded and was availed a copy of the voters’ roll – but that was not enough. It wanted photographs of each voter and their personal details amid fears of invasion of citizens’ privacy. On Friday when parties were observing the printing of ballot papers, the opposition was at it again, demanding to even print the ballots themselves. Some of the opposition political parties even condemned their colleagues for demanding to print the ballot themselves when they started observing the process.
Independent presidential candidate Mr Brian Mteki said the process went well, but was concerned by the far-fetched demands of some of his colleagues.
“The process went well, but there are some of us who are overzealous and disruptive,” he said. “When we went there, everything was well, but some wanted to go and do the printing itself. We had been told to observe and not to do the printing.”
MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa’s chief elections agent Mr Jameson Timba said they were not satisfied with the manner the observation process was carried out. “I sent a representative to observe, but the report I got is that no observation took place at all, but what happened is akin to a tourist visit to the printing centre,” he said.
“We were also told that printing started three days ago and that is an area of concern.”
Mr Timba said they were not allowed into the printing area as they expected, did not get a sample of the printed ballot and also called for joint custody of the printed ballot between Zec and political parties contesting the election.
He said they wanted to accompany the printed ballots to polling centres and for the delivery vehicles to be fitted with satellite tracking.
Zimbabwe needs a credible election but the opposition demands on Zec are beginning to sound outrageous and ridiculous. At this rate, the opposition might as well run the elections themselves.