The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Bid to Discredit Voters' Roll

With the watershed elections on the horizon, indications are increasingly pointing to a Zanu-PF victory. Even the MDCs and their surrogate Civic Society Organisations are sensing the inevitable defeat. Consequently, they have forged an unholy alliance to devise a scapegoat for use in the aftermath of the harmonised elections.

Their plan is to scandalise the national voters' roll. The deliberate scheme to discredit the voters' roll resulted in the recent arrest of Okay Machisa, the executive director of ZimRights, a leading driver of the plot. Machisa was arrested for conspiring to commit voter registration fraud and publishing or communicating falsehoods that are prejudicial to the state.

Machisa and other members of his organisation manufactured fake voter registration certificates, which were meant to provide grounds for the international community to condemn the impending elections as a charade. Some of the people on the forged voters' roll were supposedly born in the 1840s while others died in the 1940s.

There is an outcry from the civil society and MDC-T over the arrest of Machisa. Some people might be hoodwinked into rendering their sympathy to Machisa; oblivious of the grave consequences his machinations were to cause.

According to Michael Reza, a law officer in the Attorney-General's office, who prosecuted Machisa, the forged voter registration slips were to be presented to the international media in the event of a Zanu-PF victory. This would result in the international community discrediting the electoral process and declaring it a sham, a ground for foreign intervention. In this regard, the arrest of Machisa and his cohorts was the most ideal reaction, considering the seismic turmoil their plot was meant to cause.

An impeccable source revealed that ZimRights finance director, a Mr Abraham Masawi, was going around the country advising the organisation's sub-offices to remove all the material that is related to voter registration. Members of the security forces managed to confiscate some of the stuff in Midlands, which included, among others, ZimRights voter registration forms and completed voter registration certificates. It also formed groups of community mobilisers, which compiled reports on alleged manipulation of the voter registration exercise.

The West, in particular Britain and the US, are involved in the plot to meddle in Zimbabwe's electoral process. The British Embassy, for instance, recently approved a US$500 000 grant to fund the operations of The Zimbabwe Election Support Network. The funding enabled ZESN to hold several workshops whose theme was to discredit the voters' roll while participants were drawn from civic society, the diplomatic community, student bodies, opposition political parties and the media.

The network is currently engaged in a discreet voter registration test exercise, ostensibly to evaluate the performance of the RG's office. According to an insider, the exercise is meant to put together issues that will be used to discredit the election results in the event that they will be in favour of Zanu-PF.

The EU is also meeting the CSOs at its fortnightly meetings where the latter present their reports on the voter registration programme. Funds were availed to CSOs such as Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, ZimRights and Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe to take their campaign to some Sadc countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania.

Machisa was set to travel to South Africa on February 4, 2013, where he was to present his fake voters roll to CSOs and government officials there. The West generously funded bogus researches, which were done by Research and Advocacy Unit, and the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, in a bid to further discredit the voters' roll.

Some of the CSOs have gone to an extent of bribing processing officers at the RG's office to fraudulently register known MDC supporters. A case in point is that of YIDEZ Mutare focal person, Tichafara Musana, who in December 2012, bribed a processing officer at the Sakubva sub-office in Mutare to illegally register as voters, some 18 members of his organisation.

The security forces should be commended for busting the syndicate. This is the 'crime' that the security forces have committed which has seen the MDC-T incessantly calling for the security sector reforms.

The CSOs have been vocal critics of the voters roll that they have always said was in shambles. The law allows anyone to request a copy of the voters' roll and it is this democratic privilege that the CSOs and other individuals are abusing.

Through this privilege of access to the voters roll, Claris Madhuku, the Chairman of the Youth Development Trust, tried to scandalise the voters' roll by claiming that the number of registered voters in Chipinge South Constituency did not match the small voting population recorded in the previous elections.

Thomas Madhuku, a freelance journalist who works in cahoots with the Election Resource Centre in the campaign to discredit the electoral system produced his own fake voters' roll which, he used to scandalise the RG's Office. The voters' roll, purported to be that of Chipinge South Constituency had serious flaws. For instance, the ID numbers were wrongly quoted and the names were not in alphabetical order as should be the case.

Madhuku was to admit in one of his Internet articles dated September 5, 2012, that his voters' roll was not genuine, albeit he had already put a dent on the integrity of the national electoral system.

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