How Zim poll was fixed

A former Zanu-PF provincial chairperson has spilled the beans on how the ruling party rigged the 2002 presidential election, which President Robert Mugabe won against most expectations.

Dr Daniel Shumba is a retired army officer, former provincial chairperson of Zanu-PF and central committee member who was kicked out of the party last year, together with four others after facilitating an “illegal” meeting that sought to thwart the nomination of Vice-President Joice Mujuru as the party’s vice-president.

Now the leader of the newly formed United People’s Party (UPP), Shumba said Zanu-PF manipulated the postal votes, which election observers are unable to monitor properly.

Concerns about vote-rigging are beginning to mount, as the nation gears towards the 2008 presidential election, which could see a new political candidate from Zanu-PF. Civic groups are pushing for a coalition to unseat Zanu-PF, which has been in power for the past 26 years.

Mugabe has repeatedly dismissed concerns about the 2002 electoral fraud, saying the Movement for Democratic Change were “cry babies”.

This week more than 200 members of the reform-seeking National Constitutional Assembly were arrested across the country for their involvement in protests to demand constitutional change. By Thursday they had not been released.

In a detailed reaction to Mail & Guardian inquiries on how elections have been rigged in the past, Shumba said the weakness is that “nobody has ever been able to account, monitor and verify the figures of postal votes”.

Mugabe’s apparatus has been able to “exploit [this] at every turn”, he said.
“There has never been a supplementary voters’ list showing the people who cast postal voters in Zimbabwe.”

“That’s correct. We have never had access to postal votes,” says Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) chairperson Dr Reginald Matchave-Hove. “The possibility of rigging is very very high,” he added. “Accessing [postal votes] has been a mountain to climb and nobody has the full picture.”

The ZESN says it has evidence of rigging from the last parliamentary elections, in which the figures originally announced by the government—sponsored Zimbabwe Elections Commission do not tally.

In the 2002 presidential election the government’s strategy was to frustrate the urban electorate by reducing the number of polling stations. This created queues, which frustrated many people who eventually did not vote. An application to extend the -voting days by two was accepted by the high court.

But, according to Shumba’s UPP, the area of postal votes needs to be closely examined. Manipulation would be used again “because it has worked before”.

Thousands of ballots are marked in favour of the Zanu-PF candidate, Mugabe, from a central point, usually an army base, and then posted so that they can be counted as postal votes from residents who are physically way from an area in which they normally reside. They were commonly sent to areas where Zanu-PF is expected to win a large majority so that the disproportionately big margins do not raise eyebrows.

A former operative within the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), who did not want to be identified, told the M&G he was privy to the postal vote-rigging strategy.

The insider said the decision to rig the 2002 election was made at a joint operations group (JOG) meeting, prior to the army issuing a controversial statement saying it wouldn’t salute anyone who had not participated in the struggle. “Mugabe was only told [at the JOG meeting] they were working something out to make sure the sell-outs never won. He agreed but never understood the mechanics involved,” the insider said.

The JOG comprises the army, police, prisons authorities, home affairs officials and the CIO, chaired by Mugabe.

To boost votes in the presidential election, postal votes were used in strategic provinces including Mashonaland Central, West and Manicaland.

Despite the vote-rigging, the UPP will participate in all future elections.

Shumba insisted the rigging would not prevent Zanu-PF from being rejected in the next election.

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