Zimbabwe: Massive Chaos ahead of elections

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MASSIVE administrative chaos has marred the run up to March 29 polls raising questions as to whether the elections would be free and fair.
Five weeks ahead of the election date, the average voter still in Zimbabwe has to plough through a maze of confused messages coming from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the state body in charge of elections in Zimbabwe.

from our correspondent in Harare

This will be the first time Zimbabweans vote in four different elections at the same time and the sheer scale of the exercise has caused massive administrative bottlenecks that could lead to chaos at the polls on March 29. Each voter will get four different ballots, each a different colour, for elections for local government, the two houses of parliament and president. And with a new localised voters’ roll, voters will be required to vote at prescribed voting stations. But the ZEC has yet to publish a full list of the polling stations.

ZEC spokesperson Mr Utoile Silaigwana says the commission is struggling torecruit enough staff to deploy as voter educators countrywide. “We had planned to use civil servants as voter educators but they are not forthcoming in taking up the post. So our task has been complicated” Mr Silaigwana says they need about 10 000 voter educators. Also to date there are still no accredited election observers on the ground to blow the whistle.

Rules for Obervers and Journalists

The government announced tough rules for foreign observer groups and
journalists. Foreign observers and journalists will be allowed into the country, but they will need an “invitation letter” from the ministry of foreign affairs. The government did not say how such a letter could be obtained.

In addition, journalists will need accreditation from the Media and Information Commission — which still regulates the media despite new
legislation replacing it with a new body — before the ZEC will authorise
them to cover the elections. Journalists and observers from outside Africa will be required to pay US$300 per individual, while the fee for observers and journalists from the region has been set at US$100.

The terms are no easier for local observers, who will need their own letter of invitation from the ministry of justice.

Mr Simbarashe Mbengegwi, foreign affairs minister says his department is still finalizing a list of foreign observers that it would invite.
Government has made it clear that it will bar observers from countries that do not have an open mind and whose observers sow the seeds of confusion, disunity and ultimately bloodshed.

International Observers

Invitations would likely be sent to SADC countries, SADC itself, the African Union and selected countries in the Caribbean and possibly Russia, China and India.

Observers from Western governments, European Union and the Commonwealth are unlikely to be invited. Dr Albert Moyo, apolitical commentator says the stringent rules laid down by government will discredit the elections. “Its surprising that government would select few countries to monitor the elections. The motive is clear- that is- it wants the observers to give a favorable account of the elections”

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