Zim recount is 'fatally flawed', says observer

The vote recount in a number of constituencies in Zimbabwe following March 29 elections is futile because ballot boxes have been tampered with, a South African member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer team said on Monday.

“From what I have seen and experienced in Zimbabwe over the past three days, it is clear that the process of recounting the contested wards from the recent elections is fatally flawed,” Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard said.

The process had been marred by delays, administrative problems and the clear political intent of blaming the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for all the problems associated with the recount.

“Of particular concern was the evidence of ballot-box tampering that I witnessed personally, which points to a concerted effort to rig the election results in order to bring about a [President Robert] Mugabe ‘victory’,” she said in a statement.

Evidence supporting this view included repeated miscommunication of venue addresses, resulting in party agents and electoral observers frequently posted to the incorrect venue, thus undermining the observation process and contributing to further delays in the recount.

The protocol registers at several counting stations were missing, bringing counting to a halt in a number of areas, while on a number of ballot boxes, the seals holding the keys for the two padlocks on each box had been broken.

One set of ballot boxes was missing a book of voting papers from the presidential election box, although all the other books were locked inside.

A number of other boxes had broken or missing seals, missing keys and no voting-paper books inside.

Loose ballot-box seals with serial numbers identical to those on already sealed boxes were easily available, giving the impression that ballot-box seals could easily be replicated, thus opening the way for large-scale vote tampering.

All of theses problems pointed to the fact that a number of ballot boxes had been tampered with, rendering the entire exercise of recounting the contested ballots a futile one, she said.

“Despite these many problems, a number of my colleagues on the SADC observer mission must be commended for the excellent work that they have done under often difficult circumstances.

“There is no doubt that the situation in Zimbabwe is at breaking point as anger over the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s failure to release the results of the presidential election escalates.

“In many instances it was thanks to the work of SADC observers that this anger did not boil over into violent confrontation,” Kohler-Barnard said.

Firm stand

Meanwhile, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said on Monday it is mobilising against a ship carrying arms from China destined for Zimbabwe from offloading in any African harbour.

“Our objective is to mobilise and organise unions in Africa to take a firm stand and try to stop the ship from offloading these dangerous weapons, which could be used to kill Zimbabweans,” ITF spokesperson in Durban, Sprite Zungu, said.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union is affiliated to the London-based ITF, a federation of more than 650 unions representing 4,5-million transport workers in 148 countries across the world.

“I am not sure of exactly where the ship is headed. I am still seeking tangible information on the destination of the ship. As soon as I get the exact information today [Monday] or tomorrow, I will travel to the country and ensure I mobilise workers not to offload it,” Zungu said.

The Chinese ship, An Yue Jiang, left South Africa on Friday after a court barred its cargo from being transported to the border.

The vessel, anchored off the South African port of Durban, sailed to an unknown destination.

“We have heard some information that the ship might berth either in Mozambique or Angola.
We are following up, even up to Nigeria,” Zungu said.

The Durban High Court had ruled earlier on Friday that the ship could be offloaded in Durban but barred its cargo from being transported to the border with landlocked Zimbabwe.

The court ruling came after the South African Litigation Centre, a legal group focusing on human rights issues, filed an urgent application to block a conveyance permit allowing the arms to be offloaded and transported.

Three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1 500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3 000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes are among the cargo on the Chinese ship, according to copies of the inventory published by a South African newspaper.—Sapa, AFP

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