THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has disbanded its National Command Centre,
Â where it claimed the March 29 presidential election votes were being “meticulously” verified, raising suspicion that the results will not be released at all.
However, there is growing pressure from the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC and regional and international players for President Robert Mugabe’s government to compel the ZEC to announce the results.
The MDC has since approached the High Court seeking an order requiring the ZEC to announce the results. Justice Tendai Uchena is expected to make a ruling on the application on Monday.
Official sources yesterday said there were indications that the ZEC may release the outcome of the poll on Monday, although it was under pressure from Mugabe and Zanu PF not to do so but instead proclaim a date for a presidential run-off between the ruling party’s first secretary and Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai last week claimed that he won against President Mugabe of Zanu PF and independent candidates Simba Makoni and Langton Towungana.
The MDC yesterday ruled out a run-off, re-run or recounting of votes claiming that Tsvangirai had won 54% of the valid votes against Mugabe’s 42%.
The command centre – then located at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) – was dismantled on Tuesday amid reports that opposition parties were not informed of the move and were in the dark as to where the vote counting was now taking place.
Sources in the ZEC told the Zimbabwe Independent that the commission dismantled the command centre from the HICC and moved electoral materials to Century House, the commission’s headquarters.
“The command centre is no more,” one of the sources said. “All electoral materials were moved to our headquarters where verification, counting and collating of votes will take place.”
The sources said while reasons to disband the centre were not given, the suspicion was that the ZEC acted on instructions from the government.
“Presidential candidates’ chief agents were not informed of the dismantling of the command centre,” another source said. “The verification is going on without the candidates’ representatives.”
The MDC-Tsvangirai this week claimed that the ZEC chief elections officer, Lovemore Sekeramayi, told the party that verification, collating and counting of the votes was now a “private” process.
“We are concerned that at this very late stage verification hasn’t started,” MDC secretary-general, Tendai Biti, said this week. “The National Command Centre has been dismantled. Sekeramayi told our people at the command centre that the process was now being done in private.”
He alleged that the centre was disbanded to allow the ZEC to “fix the matrix of a run-off.”
Makoni – widely believed to have come a distant third in the election – on Wednesday alleged that the command centre had been disbanded.
“There is no more work taking place in that place,” he said. “It gets me very worried and I believe other political contestants are similarly worried that it is taking so long and why it is taking so long is not known.”
Makoni said he asked the ZEC chairman George Chiweshe and Sekeramayi to personally check on the verification, counting and collating process without success.
“I regret to say that I wasn’t accorded that opportunity,” he said.
Yesterday, ZEC deputy chief elections officer (operations), Utoile Silaigwana, insisted that the command centre was still in place.
“The National Command Centre has not been dismantled, take it from me,” said Silaigwana. “We are now left with one election only, we will announce it from where we had originally intended to do so.”
Meanwhile, the MDC national executive met yesterday and condemned the dismantling of the command centre, among other things. The party’s spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa, said the national executive noted with concern the “deployment of the army in rural areas” to spearhead Mugabe’s run-off campaign.
“We also noted with concern that Zanu PF was now arm-twisting the judiciary, and is using the ZEC to tamper with ballots of the presidential election,” Chamisa said.
By Constantine Chimakure