Zec shoots messenger

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HARARE – The reaction by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) yesterday to grave allegations by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party, the MDC, that special vote ballots cast in the premier's favour were found dumped in dustbins in Harare boggles the mind.

Shockingly, Zec looks like it is effectively s eeking to behead the bearer of the damaging claims, Morgan Komichi, rather than investigate seriously and transparently the substance of the matter.

This is not just tragic, it is a complete and double travesty of justice.

By Zec's own account, Komichi, a senior official in Tsvangira's MDC — the aggrieved party which stands to lose so much if the serious allegations are proven correct —  rightly took the claims and alleged evidence of dumped special ballots to the elections body.

And as any responsible person would do under the circumstances and in the banana republic that our country has become, Komichi refused to name the person who gave him the alleged evidence — obviously fearing for the whistle-blower's safety. Yes, our country is notorious for selective justice as this case so amply demonstrates.

And how does our esteemed electoral body respond to all this?

Staggeringly, Zec said in a formal statement that it wished to register its concerns at the manner in which Komichi handled this matter.

"Firstly, he took a day to bring this matter to the attention of the Commission and only did so after attaching copies of the ballot papers in his opposition to the application by the Commission in the Constitutional Court.

"Secondly, we are clear that the ballots were not marked by the voter and cannot have been marked in the polling station as the ballots do not bear the secret mark of the presiding officer of the pollingstation.

"Thirdly and more telling, if the ballots had been marked by the voter, they would not have remained sealed in the tamper-proof envelope as this had to be broken open first by the presiding officer to retrieve the brown envelope in which the ballot papers were enclosed to give the voter," Zec said.

It went on to conclude, without blinking or mounting any visible investigation for such a
serious allegation, that Komichi’s claims were not credible and that, accordingly, “we have severe reservations regarding the details he provided to the Commission.”

The key question that Zec needs to answer urgently and honestly is: Why is the electoral body then handing over the case to our partisan police force for “investigation” if it has already established that Komichi’s allegations are without merit, and if this is simply not an endeavour to now pressurise the whistle-blower?

If one dissects the points that Zec raises above, the fact that Komichi took a day to report the allegations, did not do this directly to our patently partial police, and that the hero citizen who found the allegedly dumped ballot papers neither wished to report the matter themselves to authorities, nor to be identified, is more important to Zec than establishing whether these grave allegations are true in the first instance.

This is warped thinking, and only possible in Zimbabwe.

Is it not the responsibility of Zec, in the first instance, to tell the nation whether the ballots that were allegedly dumped in dustbins are in fact genuine or not, and to explain to Zimbabweans how they may have ended up outside of their hands if they are genuine?

Secondly, if the “dumped” ballots were taken out of the custody of Zec without authority, how come that the electoral body did not appear to know this, as there is no public record anywhere of a report that someone had stolen the papers?

Thirdly, would this not be the opportunity for Zec to assure Zimbabweans and the watching world at large that both the ballots and the fate of this election are secure in Zec’s hands rather than raise frivolous and technical issues around claims of gross irregularities?

So we ask, with tears in our eyes, is this belated reporting of the matter to the police simply not a way of intimidating other potential whistle-blowers, so that people do not report any further similar allegations from now on?

The signs look ominous for Wednesday’s polls. Is our nation cursed?

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