A COALITION of non-governmental organisations has discounted ballot stuffing as the sole method Zanu PF used to rig the March election in which President Mugabe’s party beat the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change by 78 seats to 41.
The MDC has challenged the results citing massive rigging in the election. It is currently entangled in court actions challenging the outcome of the presidential poll in 2002.
In a report titled Of Stuffed Ballots and Empty Stomachs, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum attributes Zanu PF’s victory in the March election to militarisation of the electoral process and skewed legislation.
For instance, Justice George Chiweshe who chaired the Delimitation Commission and one of the other two commissioners, Job Whabira, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, as well as retired Lt Col Kennedy Zimondi who was chief elections officer on the Electoral Supervisory Commission, have a military history.
“In the 2005 election this was manifested by the presence in the electoral process of military personnel, or personnel with a military background, with, in addition, a significant influence being exerted by a partisan police force,” the report says.
It notes that a common thread that ran through all the various pieces of legislation that established and regulated the electoral process in Zimbabwe was that those responsible for its implementation and supervision were almost all either selected by government or subject to government interference and influence.
It says for Zanu PF to have won the ballot in a climate of massive economic decline defied logic.
According to the report, an analysis of voting figures by polling stations suggests that if there was any stuffing of ballot boxes, it was not significant enough to affect the result.
More people turned out to vote for Zanu PF than the MDC owing to Zanu PF’s capability to withhold food to starving villagers, the report says.
It says having increased the power of traditional leaders by giving them influence in the distribution of food and land and having secured their sympathies through largesse, the ruling party deployed these leaders to ensure that villagers voted and voted favourably.
“This strategy was combined with a relentless campaign to portray the opposition and its supporters as responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic decline and as enemies of the state and the opposition was unable to counter this,” it says.
The MDC, which posed the stiffest challenge to Zanu PF since 1980, suffered serious losses to the original 57 seats it won in 2000 during last March’s election. The MDC initially sought to contest the poll results from 13 constituencies but has withdrawn some of the petitions citing the improper composition of the Electoral Court.