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Observers Urge Zimbabwe to Introduce Electronic Voting

  • Thomas Chiripasi

FILE: Zimbabwean election officials count ballot papers after the close of voting on a referendum in Harare, March 16, 2013.

FILE: Zimbabwean election officials count ballot papers after the close of voting on a referendum in Harare, March 16, 2013.

Over the years Zimbabwe has held elections that were disputed in one way or the other and now election watchdogs in the country are urging the authorities to change the country’s voting system from manual to the electronic system to ensure the poll results reflect the true democratic will of the people.

From 2000 to date, Zimbabwe’s electoral processes and outcomes have been dismissed by the opposition and the international community as incorrect reflections of the will of the people.

Disputed elections have resulted in the country being isolated by the West. The United States and European nations, for example, imposed sanctions on Harare citing among other issues, alleged poll rigging.

But President Robert Mugabe insists that sanctions against him and his inner circle were imposed to punish Harare for embarking on land reforms that disposed the majority of the country’s white commercial farmers.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and some civil society organizations allege that all elections held since 2000 were marred by several irregularities that included ballot stuffing, double voting and voter disenfranchisement, among others.

To curb this in future, Election Resource Centre director, Tawanda Chimhini, is advising the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to adopt the use of technology in the running of elections to ensure that the collation and announcement of election results is speeded up to minimize chances of electoral fraud.

Namibia became the first African country to use the electronic voting system in its recent presidential election. The system has over the years been used in developed countries such as the United States and Britain.

Former Oxford lecturer Philani Zamchiya, who observed the Namibian polls, says the electronic voting system reduces the cost of running elections and ensures that the outcome of the polls would be made public in a very short space of time.

In 2008, it took the Electoral Commission more than a month to announce the results of the presidential elections that were contested by the MDC.

ERC’s programs manager Jack Zaba agrees with Zamchiya, adding that the electronic voting system has its own disadvantages.

However, ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau notes that Zimbabwe is not yet ready to start using e-voting technology although she agrees that this would effectively improve the credibility of the country’s elections.

Namibia used less than 2 million dollars to purchase the e-voting machines from India.

Chimhini criticized the 2015 national budget presented before parliament by finance minister Patrick Chinamasa for failing to provide funding for electoral processes in Zimbabwe.