Mwenezi East By-Election Update 1 as at 10:00 hours

 

Introduction

The Election Resource Centre (ERC), Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) and Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) deployed teams of mobile observers in Mwenezi East Constituency where a by-election is being conducted to elect a new Member of Parliament (MP). The constituency seat fell vacant following the death of Hon. Joshua Moyo of the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). Three candidates are vying for the post and these are Mr. Joosby Omar of ZANU PF, Mr. Welcome Masuku of the National Consultative Assembly (NCA) and Mr. Turner Mhango of Free Zimbabwe Congress. This by-election was characterized by withdrawal of one of the candidates, Mr. Kudakwashe Bhasikiti of Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF), citing allegations of intimidation of his supporters and vote-buying by ZANU PF.

Administration of ZEC
As provided by Section 239 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), was able to deliver all the required materials for the by-election on time. The materials were distributed last night to all 62 polling stations. ZEC also managed to conduct a test run of the materials, this was attended by some political party candidates who witnessed the process.

Opening
Most polling stations opened by 07:00 hours in line with Section 53 (1) of the Electoral Act states that all polling stations are to open by 07:00 hours and this was the case in Mwenezi East as most polling stations opened on time. Voters started queuing at some polling stations particularly in Ward 13 as early as 05:00 hours while at some polling stations such as in ward 18 there were no queues.

Assisted voters
At most polling stations a significant number of assisted voters had been recorded as of 10:00 hours. Reasons for assisted voting include voters being illiterate and visually impaired. The voters were being assisted in accordance with Section 58 of the Electoral Act which provides that a presiding officer shall permit another person, selected by the voter, to assist the voter or in the absence of a person selected by the voter, assist the voter in the presence of two other electoral officers or employees of the Commission and a police officer on duty.
Participation
A significant number of elderly voters more than youth were observed as at 10:00 hours. In addition, longer queues of women were noted as compared to men. In Ward 13 there was a significant number of people who were turned away as they were not registered voters, defaced Identity Documents and attempts to use ZANU PF membership cards to vote. An isolated case of an attempted underage vote was recorded at Tokwe-Mukosi Primary School polling station.

Observers
There is a notable presence of mobile observers in Mwenezi East. However, a limited number of static observers was noted as at 10:00 hours.

Political environment
The environment is generally calm with no notable cases of election related human rights violations reported in all the polling stations observed as at 10:00hours. In accordance with Section 133J of the Electoral Act, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has allocated officers to lead investigations and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has assigned three magistrates to preside over reported disputes. In addition, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is on the ground monitoring human rights abuses that might arise.

However, the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) has not formally assigned a prosecutor specific to the Mwenezi East by-election neither have they formally communicated with election stakeholders.

Political party agents
ZANU PF has managed to deploy agents at all polling stations observed. There were however limited numbers of opposition party agents at polling stations observed by 10:00 hours.