Africa

Zimbabwe voters' roll fraud exposed

Takudzwa Munyaka

The Zanu-PF is resorting to underhanded means to ensure it registers enough voters to win elections in Zimbabwe.

Getting ready: A woman has her photo taken for an identification card so that she can register to vote in Harare. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

Zanu-PF has drawn up a plan to sway election results in its favour by manipulating the voter registration process that happens throughout the year, and which is being intensively carried out since June 10.

The plan, mainly centered on disenfranchising as many people as possible in urban constituencies where the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) excelled in the 2008 poll, will ensure that as few people as possible who are not Zanu-PF members are registered on the voters' roll in those constituencies. The MDC-T holds 23 of the 24 constituencies in Harare.

Observations by the Mail & Guardian in the past month reveal a pattern of voters being denied the chance to register due to various impediments, and unusually large numbers of voters are being registered in urban areas after suspicious resettlements.

The M&G has previously reported that the registrar general was also possibly manipulating the voters' roll, which would see a substantial number of voters being removed from the roll, making them ineligible to vote.

Party sources this week confirmed the plan that they say also involves resettling landless people in selected MDC strongholds in urban areas, such as Harare, to boost the number of Zanu-PF votes. The party is also intending to ensure that soldiers and the police are mobilised in its favour, the source said.

The plan, according to insiders, was devised by Zanu-PF's commissariat department, which is run by Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena, who retired from the Air Force of Zimbabwe in 2010, and former Central Intelligence Organisation director internal Sydney Nyanhongo, who retired from his post to work for Zanu-PF.

Insiders revealed this week that Zanu-PF's commissariat had come up with alternative ways of swaying votes as it has become apparent that the Southern African Development Community and international groups will be watching developments during the election period. Muchena and Nyanhongo did not respond to queries about their plans.

Land for votes
Zanu-PF won mostly rural constituencies in the last election and, to boost its numbers in Parliament, the party is aiming to wrest some urban seats from the MDC formations.

The opposition alleges the party has been gradually resettling people in selected constituencies such as Harare north, where it has recently been parcelling out land to Zanu-PF aligned housing co-operatives.

"Thousands of people have been given land through housing co-operatives in Hatcliffe, and this will boost our numbers in the constituency," said the same source.

The land-for-votes strategy first came to light in the 2008 general elections when Hubert Nyanhongo won the Harare south seat after thousands of landless people were given housing stands in the constituency in return for voting for Zanu-PF. Harare south is the only constituency Zanu-PF won in Harare.

Housing co-operatives established in Harare north include Imba Mukadzi, Chimurenga, Kukura, Kubatana Kwakanaka and Greater Harare Women's Housing Project.

Some co-operatives were formed in 2010, when Zanu-PF started its poll plans. In Harare north, members of the co-operative who spoke to the M&G said Zanu-PF mobilised its supporters to form the co-operatives, which then applied for stands.

Harare north legislator Theresa Makone, who is also the co-minister of home affairs and chair of the MDC-T Women's Assembly, confirmed the existence of the housing projects, which she said had resulted in more than 10 000 people being moved into her constituency.

"Some of the people who are now being registered in my constituency are from Sally Mugabe Heights, which should be in Goromonzi West constituency. All this is meant to upset my majority because there are thousands of people being registered under these co-operatives."

Makone said her suspicions that the ruling party was up to no good were confirmed when she inspected the voters' roll for her constituency on April 15 and discovered that her name was missing.

After complaining to registry officials she acquired another voters' roll two days later and this time her name had been included, but the number of people in ward 18 had also shot up from 8 305 people to 10 076, she said.

"The jump was shocking, given that on average they were registering about 200 people per day, but in 48-hours they managed to register 2 000 voters," said Makone.

In ward 42, which is also in Harare north, the roll had 5 196 people listed on April 15, but the number had more than trebled, to 17 068, by April 17. The huge increase was caused by the large number of people registered under housing co-operatives, Makone said.

Harare central
Zanu-PF is also counting on the security sector vote, and aims to use it to win the Harare central seat and other seats where barracks, police camps and prisons are located.

Commanders of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, most of whom have publicly declared their allegiance to President Robert Mugabe, have also been reportedly forcing their members to urge families in the camps to vote for the party.

In the 2008 elections members of the army and police reported that they had voted in the presence of their commanders.

The new Constitution allows for prisoners to vote but Zimbabwe Prison Services spokesperson Elizabeth Banda said: "A lot of logistical issues would need to be put in place but we stand guided by the Justice Minister."

Mbare irregularities
In Mbare, an area that is dense with informal traders, vendors said vending stalls were issued only to those who could produce Zanu-PF party membership cards and all traders, including those from areas outside the constituency, were forced to register to vote in the area they trade in.

Although proof of residence is required when one registers, vendors in Mbare allege that Zanu-PF

activists bypassed the requirement by giving their names and national identity numbers to party officials, who registered on their behalf, despite not meeting the requirements.

Residents of Mabvuku in Harare, who also spoke to the M&G, complained of a similar operation. Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo was unavailable for comment.

Voters' roll manipulation
Party sources say Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede has been mandated to make sure that few people are able to register in areas where the MDC enjoys support.

Mudede, who has often been accused of rigging previous elections, is in charge of the voters' roll.

Last month, during the mobile voter registration exercise, officials from Mudede's office, who carried out the process, were widely accused of making it difficult for people in urban areas to register.

They were demanding proof of residence bearing the name of the person who wanted to register, despite the knowledge that most people in townships do not own houses, but instead rent accommodation, mostly without formal leases.

After a flood of complaints, Cabinet ordered that people be allowed to register after they sign an affidavit proving they live in the constituency, but registry officials failed to provide the affidavits.

Inefficiencies
The M&G observed the registration in urban areas such as the Matabeleland region, where registration was slow mainly because of the deliberately sluggish pace of officials. In contrast, registration centres in Mashonaland east, central and west were being run efficiently.

In addition, a large number of people who managed to register in urban areas were not given registration slips, but in Zanu-PF strongholds the slips were more readily available. To be allowed to vote, rules stipulate that potential voters who are not on the roll must produce a registration slip to prove they have registered.

MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said the inefficiencies displayed by officials was meant to aid Zanu-PF.

"It's clear that Mudede's office is staging a go-slow in MDC strongholds so that few people register. In areas where they think Zanu-PF is strong, they are more efficient.

"We are also aware that in our strongholds, people are not being given registration slips and this reinforces our belief that something sinister is being plotted.

"We are demanding that there be a separate voter inspection period after the voter registration exercise."

Left out
Figures supplied by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy chair Joyce Kazembe showed that Mashonaland east, central and west — areas that showed the highest support for Zanu-PF in the last elections — recorded the highest number of first-time voters during the mobile registration period: 204 041 between April 29 and May 19.

In contrast, Bulawayo, the country's second-largest city, recorded only 5 068 first-time voters. Zanu-PF has not won a single seat in Bulawayo since the MDC contested an election, in 2000.

On Monday Mudede raised eyebrows when he said his department did not have enough money to abide by constitutional requirements that voter registration should take place for at least 30 days in all wards.

He said the programme, which began on Monday, would be district-based not ward-based, raising fears that again some people would be left out.

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