Tanzania: NEC Reacts to Allegations of Vote Stuffing

Tanzania President John Magufuli casting his vote in Dodoma.

Dar es Salaam — Opposition party candidates cried foul over vote stuffing yesterday, saying the election malpractice happened during the period that some of their agents in certain places were denied access into polling stations.

But the National Electoral Commission (NEC) swiftly refuted the claims of vote stuffing, sayign they were unfounded and asked Tanzanians to ignore them.

Claims of vote stuffing at Tarafani Polling Station, Kawe Constituency, Dar es Salaam saw the police holding Chadema candidate Halima Mdee for questioning for some time before releasing her.

Ms Mdee, who had been Kawe MP for two five-year terms, is battling it out with preacher Josephat Gwajima who is vying for the seat on the ruling CCM ticket.

The MP, who is also the opposition party's women's wing chairperson, found herself in bad books of the law enforcers when she questioned the legitimacy of some votes which had been cast by the time she visited Tarafani Polling Station at around 10pm.

Kinondoni Regional Police Commander Edward said Ms Mdee was arrested after a misunderstanding broke out between her and the law enforcers, forcing the police to take her to Kawe Police Station for questioning. She was later released.

Social media outlets were also awash with video clips, showing residents in some areas who had allegedly seized a bag containing fake votes that had been cast. The Citizen did not independently verify the authenticity of the reports.

But NEC chairman Judge Semistocles Kaijage told Tanzanians to ignore the vote stuffing claims as alleged by some candidates and as posted widely on some social media platforms.

"There is information on social media platforms claiming that there have been vote stuffing in Kawe (Dar es Salaam), Pangani (Tanga) and Buhigwe (Kigoma). These claims have not been substantiated. They also do not show which specific polling stations were involved in the reported claims," said Judge Kaijage.

Besides, he said, the claims have not been presented to NEC as required by law. "NEC urges Tanzanians to ignore them," he said.

Earlier, the ACT-Wazalendo leader and Kigoma Urban parliamentary candidate Zitto Kabwe said his party had seized thousands of 'fake votes' from various polling stations in his constituency, including from 3,000 that had been sized from Katubuka ward.

He said his party had reported the issue to authorities.

But the returning officer for Kigoma Urban, Mr Issa Bukuku, said they had gone to Kasingirima Ward to follow up the opposition politician's claims of fake votes. However, all they found was a young man who was seized but those who had detained him failed to show the fake votes that he allegedly possessed.

But Mr Zitto took to his twitter account and showed what he claimed to be fake votes that he had been seized in his constituency.

The other widely held complaint from the opposition bench yesterday was a tendency of their agents being denied entry into some polling stations due to failure to produce introductory letters.

Some agents said they had been told that they would find the letters at office of the ward executive but on the contrary, some ward executives, could not produce the letters.

"Why is it that all CCM agents have the letters but getting the same proves difficult for us from the opposition... This is unfair. The City Director - who doubles as the returning officer at constituency level - said we would find them here but why are things going differently," said a councillorship candidate at Mzingani Ward on the ticket of ACT-Wazalendo, Mr Fadhili. A misunderstanding erupted in the process, forcing police to come in and arrest several opposition party agents. Tanga Regional Police Commander, Blasius Chatanda confirmed the incident.

In Arusha, the Chadema Parliamentary candidate for Monduli, Ms Cesilia Ndosi, threatened to withdraw all her agents from taking part in the exercise after some of them were 'deliberately delayed into entering polling stations by poll officer'.

The Monduli returning officer Steven Ulaya said the problem really did occur, blaming the situation on little knowledge of election processes by some poll officers. He also blamed Chadema leaders for their attempt to change names of some of their agents in certain places.

A similar challenge occurred at Karatu Constituency but it was swiftly dealt with. In Karatu, which has been held by the opposition Chadema for 25 years, the party's candidate, Cecilia Pareso is battling it out with CCM's Daniel Awake. Claims of late entry or where agents were completely denied access to polling stations also happened at Mpanda, Mbeya Urban, Arusha Urban, Iringa Urban and Tanga Urban among others. Similar incidences were also reported in Dodoma and some parts of Singida and Morogoro.

"Most of our agents have not been allowed into the polling stations while those of CCM had no problem," complained Chadema candidate for Arusha Urban, Godbless Lema.

Meanwhile, fifteen students from Lindi Secondary School were on Wednesday, October 28, prevented from casting ballots for the Union president, parliamentarians and councillors in four polling stations in two wards of the Lindi Urban Constituency.

The incidents involved students whose names didn't appear in the constituency's voters' registry were reported in Likotwa and Mitema Polling Stations in Rasbura Ward as well as Mkupama and Mbuyuni voting centres in the Ng'apa Ward respectively.

Also, a woman whose name couldn't be established immediately allegedly cast two ballots for the presidency, parliamentary seat and councillors contrary to stipulation of the laws.

Speaking to The Citizen, the constituency's parliamentary candidate on the ACT-Wazalendo ticket, Mr Isihaka Mchinjita, said he received information from the school saying students were being prepared to participate in the voting process in various polling stations in different wards in the constituency.

"In the morning, party's councillorship candidate for Rasbura Ward told me on phone of presence of the students at Likotwa and Mitema polling stations. I hurriedly went to the scene and found the students," he said on phone.

However, election supervisor Jomaary Satura said the students had been there to serve as TLP agents after the party's parliamentary candidate rejected those appointed by the party and who had taken an oath.

"Mr Satura reiterated that he will make sure they remain agents and no voting role will be undertaken. Regarding the woman alleged to have voted twice, he said his assistant and a police officer have been instructed to arrest her for defying the election laws," he said.

Reported by Louis Kolumbia, Ephraim Bahemu, Burhani Yakub, Mussa Juma, Stephano Simbeye, Mary Clemence, Florence Sanawa, Sharon Sauwa, Habel Chidawali, Nazael Mkiramweni, Rachel Chibwete, Lwitiko Mwamakula (Dodoma) na Gasper Andrew (Singida), Jesse Mikofu, Happy Tesha, Burhani Yakub, George Sembony, Paskal Mbunga na John Semnkande.

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