Zimbabwe Electoral Commission seeks to destroy ballot paper evidence

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The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission last week filed an urgent application in the High Court chambers seeking an order to destroy ballot papers used in the controversial March 29 elections.

from our correspondent in Harare

But according to the terms of the Electoral Act ballot papers should not be destroyed for a total of six months after the election.

Both the victorious Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe’s losing Zanu-PF party have mounted legal challenges to the results announced in a total of 105 constituencies.

ZEC chairman George Chiweshe argues that he wants to re-use the empty ballot boxes in the forthcoming presidential election run-off that has set down for June 27.

He argues that the legal challenge mounted in court to half of the results of the parliamentary polls in March has no bearing whatsoever to the order he is seeking.

Zanu-PF, now technically the opposition party after it lost the parliamentary election, has filed petitions challenging the results in 53 constituencies, while the MDC, now the majority party in Parliament, has challenged 52 results.

Members of Parliament have not yet been sworn-in, two months after the elections were held.

Chiweshe says the commission does not have the capacity to purchase new boxes and seals for the second round of presidential elections because of financial constraints.

An order for the manufacture of the seals, which are imported, has to be made six months in advance, Chiweshe says.

Surprisingly, Chiweshe recently rejected a donation of transparent ballot boxes from the United Nations.

Chiweshe’s application has been opposed by the MDC leader Tsvangirai, who beat Mugabe at the polls on March 29.

Results published by ZEC showed, however, that Tsvangirai did not win the 50 percent required to avoid a run-off. His party, however, maintains that Tsvangirai won at least 50.3 percent. ZEC delayed announcing the presidential election result by five weeks, without offering the public any satisfactory explanation.

The case to hear Chiweshe’s application to destroy the ballot papers for the March 29 presidential election will be heard in chambers this week. It was not immediately clear which judge would preside over the case.

In its opposing affidavit, Tsvangirai said Chiweshe’s application should not be granted because this would be tantamount to destroying critical evidence needed in the challenge to the election results.

In his application, Chiweshe makes the that the destruction of the ballot papers has nothing to do with the finalisation of the ongoing court challenge in 105 constituencies since the harmonized elections were a four-tier election where there were four different ballot boxes for the presidential, parliamentary, Senate and local government elections.

In terms of the Electoral Act, ballot papers should not be destroyed for a
maximum period of six months.

The petitions were filed by losing candidates across the political divide for alleged electoral malpractice such as vote-buying, intimidation and corruption.

To cope with the extra legal work, the chief justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku, has appointed 17 more judges to hear the cases in the electoral court.

Under the law, the court has up to six months to deal with the cases, with another six months allowed for appeals.

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