By Staff Reporter
A leading election monitoring group says recent parliamentary and local government by-elections held in Matabeleland North were marred by vote-buying by Zanu PF.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said although the by-elections in the Lupane East constituency and Bubi as well as Nkayi wards were peaceful, incidents of vote-buying dented the credibility of the polls.
Zanu PF retained the parliamentary seat and the two wards.
“Vote-buying is one of the oldest techniques of election fraud carried out in electoral competitions,” Zesn said in its report on the by-elections.
“It violates freedom of choice and erodes the principle of fairness in the competition by favouring political parties and candidates who have significantly more resources to invest in political campaigns.”
Zesn said the most prominent incident exposed during the election campaign was a letter from Health minister Obadiah Moyo ordering Natpharm to supply Lupane clinics with drugs in order to aid Zanu PF’s election campaign.
The letter, which was published on social media, was in response to a request by Zanu PF commissar Victor Matemadanda.
“During the campaign season for the Lupane East by-election, some incidents of vote-buying were reported, including the use of government vehicles to carry food and ferrying people to ruling party rallies using government vehicles from the District Development Fund,” Zesn added.
“The highest profile case of vote-buying was the letter, which circulated on social media platforms where the minister of Health and Child Care was responding to a request by the Zanu PF national secretary for commissariat for assistance in the party’s campaign efforts by ensuring that medicines were supplied to clinics within the constituency.”
Zanu PF has in the past been accused of abusing state resources to gain an unfair advantage over its it rivals during elections.
The by-elections were also marred by a low voter turnout
“Zanu PF won the Nkayi and Bubi local authority elections having garnered 544 votes and 777 votes respectively,” Zesn said.
“The number of votes received by all contesting political parties has reduced as a result of the lower voter turnouts that are experienced during by-elections.
“Voting trends in the country have always been at their peak during the harmonised elections, hence the need for political parties and all electoral stakeholders to continue supporting voter education efforts on the need to participate in local authority elections.”
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission rejected a request for a vote recount by the MDC Alliance in Lupane East saying it was filed outside the permitted time frame.
MDC Alliance said it suspected that there was widespread stuffing of ballot boxes by the ruling party.