By Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)
In the spirit of promoting democratic elections in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) observed Local Authority by-elections on 3 December 2022 in Binga Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 20, and Gweru Municipality Wards 4, 5 and 18. The by-elections in which both the ruling party and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) won two seats each out of 4 local authority seats were held to fill in vacancies that arose in Binga RDC Ward 20 and Gweru Municipality Wards 4, 5 and 18 following the recall of sitting councillors by the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC–T).
The by-elections were held in accordance with Section 121 A of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) following the recall of councillor for Ward 20, Binga RDC Chrispen Munkuli (MDC-Alliance), as well as Gweru Municipality Ward 4 councillor Cleopas Shiri (MDC-Alliance), Ward 4 councillor Martin Chivhoko (MDC-Alliance) and Ward 18 Councillor John Manyundwa (MDC-Alliance).
The Nomination Court sat on Thursday 3 November 2022 at the offices of the Chief Executive Officer for Binga Rural District Council to receive nominations of candidates for election as councillors for the vacant Ward. On the same day, the Nomination Court sat at the Town Clerk Office for Gweru Municipality to consider nominations for candidates to be elected as councillors.
ZESN trained and deployed 20 static observers and four (4) mobile observers who were accredited by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to observe the four (4) Local Authority by-elections. The observers were deployed to seventeen (17 polling) stations in the four (4) Wards a few days before polling to observe the electoral and political developments ahead of the polls. The findings and recommendations of this preliminary statement are made in reference to the Electoral Laws of Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections as well as other regional and African election guidelines and principles. This preliminary statement is based on reports received from the ZESN observers.
Campaigns to solicit votes formally commenced in November soon after the sitting of the Nomination Court on 3 November 2022. The pre-election period was by and large peaceful across many wards where by-elections were scheduled. Incidents of violence were, however reported in Binga RDC Ward 6 where one person was reportedly hospitalised following an assault by suspected ZANU-PF members at Siabuzuba Business Centre. It was also reported that some youths had torn to pieces a couple of posters belonging to Felix Munsaka, a National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) candidate in Ward 6 of Binga RDC.
Polling day political environment
The political environment was reported to be calm and peaceful in all the Wards that ZESN observed.
Set up and opening of polling stations
Prior to the setting up of polling stations, voters’ rolls were displayed outside to enable the electorate to check their names, a good practice from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that serves to lessen the number of redirected and turned away voters on polling day. In the seventeen (17) polling stations observed, ZESN observers reported that the polling stations were opened on time with all the essential polling materials such as ballot boxes, ballot papers, indelible finger markers, voters’ rolls and the ZEC official stamps available.
Political parties’ agents
Zimbabwe African National Unity Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC), contested in all the four (4) Local Authority by-elections and had polling agents in all the 17 polling stations where ZESN observed. Emmanuel Party fielded a candidate in Ward 5 of Gweru Municipality but did not field any political party agents at the polling stations. ZESN commends political parties who fielded political party agents and implores parties to field agents across all polling stations on all elections as this allows them to track polling processes and their ability to make any interventions where necessary.
Polling Officials, Voting Process and Procedures
In the seventeen (17) polling stations that ZESN observed there were eight (8) polling officers, and the majority of the presiding officers were male. Polling procedures were duly followed in accordance with the law, for example checking voters’ names on the voters’ roll and checking their fingers for ink before they could be allowed to vote. Ballot papers were stamped with an official ZEC stamp before being issued to voters. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, ZESN commends ZEC for putting in place preventative measures for voters, polling officials, political party agents and observers, such as hand sanitizers or water and soap to wash their hands as well as ensuring that voters properly wore masks before entering the polling station in Binga Ward 20.
Observers reported that at Lubimbi Primary 1 in Binga RDC ward 20 as at 1830hrs, 46 people out of 310 people who voted were assisted. In the same ward at Kavunikwa Primary School, 24 of the 178 people who casted their vote, were assisted. At Child Welfare in Gweru Municipality Ward 18 as at 6pm, only one person – an elderly woman out of 58 who had voted was assisted because of poor eyesight. At Matongo Primary School polling station A in Gweru Ward 5, only one person – an elderly man who was assisted to vote due to blindness out of the 106 who had voted by 1800hrs.
Voter turnout was particularly low in Gweru Municipality wards. For instance, at CJR Primary School in Gweru Ward 18 as at 1830hrs, 35 people had voted out of a voter population of 645. In the same ward at Child Welfare, 58 people had voted by 1830hrs. In Ward 5 of Gweru Municipality, 86 people, out of a total of 448 turned out to vote. In Binga Ward 20, voter turnout was slightly higher as compared to polling stations in Gweru Municipality. For instance as at 1830hrs, 228 people out of 393 voted at Lubimbi Primary School. At Kavunikwa polling station 176 people voted out of the 289 expected.
Redirected and turned away voters
At some polling stations, the number of turned away was significantly high. At Kavunikwa Primary School polling station in Ward 2o Binga, as at 1830hrs, 44 people had been turned away for several reasons including names not on the voter’s roll and turning up to the polling stations with the unacceptable documents. At Lubimbi Primary School polling station, 31 out of 465 voters were turned away.
Both ZANU-PF and CCC clinched two (2) each out of four (4) local authority seats that were being contested. The table below shows the results of the by-elections.
Table 1. Results for Binga RDC Ward 20 by-elections.
|2022 By-Elections||2018 Harmonized Elections|
|Muleya Luyando||M||ZANU-PF||945||Munkuli Chrispen||M||MDC-A||1440|
|Munkuli Chrispen||M||CCC||546||Mumpande Kenne||M||ZANU-PF||445|
Table 2. Results for Gweru Municipality by-elections.
|2022 By-Elections||2018 Harmonized Elections|
|Chivhoko Martin||M||CCC||643||Chivhoko Martin||M||MDC-A||2641|
|4||Chingwidza Gibson||M||ZANU-PF||300||Mukwembi Alex||M||ZANU-PF||1568|
|Mheyamwa Strike Fredrick||M||PRC||39|
|Mafa Kwanisai||M||ZANU-PF||556||Shiri Cleopas||M||MDC-A||1986|
|5||Shiri Cleopas||M||CCC||472||Ndahwi Leon||M||EP||31|
|Ndahwi Leon||M||EP||11||Mafa Kwanisai||M||ZANU-PF||1375|
|18||Manyundwa John||M||CCC||250||Manyundwa John||M||MDC-A||1974|
|Makwalo Walter||M||ZANU-PF||182||Muriva Makombe Phinias||M||ZANU-PF||818|