Zanu drags Zec to High Court over ballot papers

A Zimbabwe Electoral Commissioon (ZEC) official checks names in the voter roll register which critics say has been padded out with babies, the dead and bogus names in the past to help rig elections
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HARARE – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been hauled before the High Court by the little known Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), which is seeking to force the electoral body to use ordinary bond paper for printing of ballot papers.

In an urgent chamber application filed at the High Court, Zanu, through its leader Chawaona Wilbroad Kanoti, is seeking an order compelling Zec and its chairperson, Priscillah Chigumba, cited as the first and second respondents respectively, not to use special but ordinary paper for printing of the ballot papers for the 2018 national harmonised elections set for July 30.

Kanoti, the applicant in the matter, goes further to say the court must take judicial notice of the serious allegations of vote manipulation that have been talked about in the past, as well as manipulation of the vote through the “special” ballot paper.

He said since 1980, Zimbabwe’s elections have been marred by allegations of vote rigging, through the conflation of Zec and its favoured forces.

“This has been notoriously popularly now known as the ‘Nikuv’ the use of claimed special paper that has such a chemical composition it ‘swallows’ a voter’s mark for the immediate appearance of an already existing water-mark against a favoured contestant’s name,” he said, adding that despite all the other issues that militates against a free and fair election having been dealt with, the issue of the ballot paper remains contentious.

“However, the most important issue that continues to raise applicant and even the general public’s concern is about the nature and chemical composition of the ballot paper. This ‘Nikuv’ concern has not been allayed.

“There has been engagement between the first respondent and political parties but all engagements turned out to be stakeholders’ meetings alone and have not been able to resolve concerns raised by applicant and fellow opposition groups.

“First respondent (Zec)’s conduct in so far as the procurement of ballot papers is concerned has caused alarm upon applicant and without doubt the general public, even,” he said.

He also said Zec has made it clear that it is going to use the direct tender process in the procurement of the special ballot paper, which resulted in his party writing to Zec demanding clarifications.

Zec responded to the letter, claiming the use of the special ballot paper has always been the case in previous elections and cannot be changed now.

“No reference to the law was made. Applicant (Zanu) has therefore approached this honourable court seeking an order to compel first respondent to file with this honourable court reasons outside precedence why it sees it fit to continue with the special ballot paper in the face of applicant’s reasonable apprehensions and objections equally premised on electoral precedence as well as in the face of respondents’ constitutional obligation to arrange for and conduct credible elections and, meanwhile, with respondents being interdicted from proceeding with the tender for procurement of the claimed ‘special’ ballot paper pending the return date,” Kanoti said.

He further said Zec as an independent commission must do everything within its means to allay any rigging fears.

“If the first respondent is transparent and accountable and truly at law and indeed independent as is expected and required of such an independent commission, it should be ready and not fear to switch and to use normal bond paper at the forthcoming 2018 national elections,” he said, adding that there is nothing provided for in terms of the law for Zec to use the special ballot paper.