Absent printing press throws ballots into chaos

Zimbabwe has had to find an alternative way to print ballots after it emerged that a $2.5-million press it ordered would arrive only in August, well after the election. 

The setback has once again heightened concern about the country’s readiness for the election next week.

However, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Justice Rita Makarau reportedly said yesterday that the printing of ballot papers was complete and that “sufficient measures” had been put in place to ensure a credible election.

The completion of the printing comes amid concern from Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change that the state-owned companies printing the ballot papers, Harare-based Fidelity Printers and Printflow, fall directly under the control of Zimbabwe’s security establishment, which openly supports Zanu-PF.

The MDC-T wrote to the ZEC on Tuesday demanding access to the printing of the ballot papers at the companies, fearing that they may be tampered with.

According to a source close to the transaction, Printflow ordered a Speedmaster SX 74 two-colour printing press from German-based Heidelberg Printing Machines some months ago. However, the press has not yet reached Durban harbour and Zimbabweans go to the polls next Wednesday.

Delivery date
“Unfortunately, the delivery dates don’t tally with the date of the election. The estimated arrival dates are between August 5 and 12,” the source said. “I think the buyer thought that elections were going to be held later.”

The source said Printflow was experiencing a number of logistical problems in printing the ballots, and the company was under “enormous pressure”, worsened by technical breakdowns.

Heidelberg South Africa’s representative, Eddie Schmidt, yesterday confirmed that Printflow had bought the machine, but that it had not yet been delivered in Zimbabwe.

Efforts to get comment from Printflow were fruitless as the manager, Nomsa Sigale, said she was not in a position to comment.


Makarau blamed Printflow for the chaos in last week’s special voting by members of the security forces, telling the media that the company had suffered a breakdown and that the ZEC had not been informed in time.

On the day the special votes were cast, she said ballot papers were not available and “some were coming through and others were still being printed”. However, she insisted that there would be sufficient ballots at next week’s elections.

Complaint to the ZEC
Meanwhile, Makarau’s announcement has thwarted the hopes of MDC-T policy co-ordinator Eddie Cross, who had tried to become involved in the printing of ballot papers by complaining to the ZEC that the process was not transparent enough.

Cross said his party was having difficulty in disengaging Zimbabwe’s security sector from democratic processes, including polling, even though the law is now clear that they should not be involved.

“So, in the letter to the ZEC we basically said, for the election process to be transparent and accessible, political parties have to be involved.”

Opposition sources also raised the question whether Heidelberg was violating European Union sanctions by dealing with a Zimbabwean firm alleged to have links with the security forces.

However, the head of the EU Zimbabwe delegation, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, told amaBhungane that Printflow was not among the companies listed by the EU as subject to sanctions.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Small towns not ready for level 3

Officials in Beaufort West, which is on a route that links the Cape with the rest of the country, are worried relaxed lockdown regulations mean residents are now at risk of contracting Covid-19
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday