Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Political parties contesting the July 30 harmonised elections were yesterday allowed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to witness the printing of ballot papers, as the electoral body moves to clear suspicion from opposition parties that the process will be secretive.
Apart from observing the printing process, the parties were given a sample of the paper that is being used.
The Presidential and National Assembly ballot papers are being printed at Fidelity Printers, while those for local government elections are being printed at Printflow.
Some of the political parties condemned their colleagues for demanding to print the ballot themselves when they started observing the process.
Although some parties and candidates hailed ZEC’s initiative, some felt the electoral body did not do much to allay their fears of vote manipulation.
The parties stated their positions during a meeting of the Multiparty Liaison Committee soon after observing the printing process.
Independent presidential candidate Mr Brian Mteki said the process went well, but was concerned by the far-fetched demands of some of his colleagues.
“The process went well, but there are some of us who are overzealous and disruptive,” he said.
“When we went there, everything was well, but some wanted to go and do the printing itself. We had been told to observe and not do the printing.”
The secretary general of Dr Thokozani Khupe’s MDC-T Mr Nixon Nyikadzino said they were happy with the process.
“We are happy because we saw what we wanted to see, that is how the ballot is printed and how the paper looks like. Our main concern though is the insulation of the vote itself because we can deal with the mechanics of the ballot paper, but our main concern is protection of the vote itself more than the paper.”
Zanu-PF was not represented, with President Mnangagwa’s chief elections agent Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi saying he had pressing engagements.
“I could not attend as I had three other engagements that I had to attend to,” he said.
MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s chief elections agent Mr Jameson Timba said they were not satisfied with the manner the observation process was carried out.
“I sent a representative to observe, but the report I got is that no observation took place at all, but what happened is akin to a tourist visit to the printing centre,” he said.
“We were also told that printing started three days ago and that is an area of concern.”
Mr Timba said they were not allowed into the printing area as they expected, did not get a sample of the printed ballot and also called for joint custody of the printed ballot between ZEC and political parties contesting the election.
He said they wanted to accompany the printed ballots to polling centres and for the delivery vehicles to be fitted with satellite tracking.
Ms Siwinile Ncube of the Republican Party of Zimbabwe echoed similar sentiments, saying there was need for ZEC to reconvene the observation process.
“If ZEC have decided to print the ballots on their own, it means it doesn’t involve us or the generality of Zimbabweans,” she said.
Mr Divine Hove of the National Alliance of Patriotic Democratic Republicans said the issue of ballot paper was critical in the election.
“The issue of the ballot papers is what the elections are hinged on and we cannot continue until we have resolved the issues raised,” Mr Hove said.
Mr Farai Mbira of the Joice Mujuru-led People’s Rainbow Coalition called on ZEC to suspend the printing of ballots until their concerns were addressed.
ZEC commissioner and chair of the Multiparty Liaison Committee Dr Qhubani Moyo said the full commission would convene to consider the concerns of the parties.
“I hear you colleagues on the issues that you raised,” he said. “There are issues that are practically possible and issues that are practically impossible. There are issues that I doubt can happen like stopping the printing of ballots.
“I, however, have to consult the full commission and will give you feedback at the next meeting.”