Police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri has refuted allegations that officers are being forced to vote for President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party in the special voting that takes place July 14 and 15 saying their vote will for the first time this year be in secret and outside police stations.
Responding to questions from journalists attending an election reporting workshop organised by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre in Harare on Thursday, Phiri said even if it was true that officers were being forced to choose one party over others, he did not see how that could influence the ballot since officers will this year vote outside their stations and in secret like everyone else.
Phiri declined to answer questions about how many police officers were eligible to cast ballots under special voting saying the Public Service Commission, as the employer, was better placed to respond.
He, however, said that regular police officers are augmented by the police reserves during such national exercises like the elections, adding it is surprising that people like Co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone are questioning the number of officers in the country when she knows how the force operates.
Deputy Police Commissioner responsible for operations, Innocent Matibiri, however, told parliament’s Home Affairs Committee a few months ago that police required at least 50,000 officers for the July 31 polls.
With a compliment of about 40,000 officers, Matibiri said they would augment the force with 10,000 police reserves, popularly known as special constabularies.
But the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says more than 69,000 police officers have applied for early voting prompting political parties to charge the figure is far too high. They fear the special vote could be used to rig the poll.
In a related development, the MDC-T deputy youth chairman Costa Machingauta and two other activists who were arrested Wednesday in Budiriro were Thursday formally charged with assault and are expected to appear in court Friday.
Their lawyer, Marufu Mandevere, said the charges are funny and his clients deny them.
He said Machingauta’s arrest is meant to stop him from campaigning ahead of the elections. Machingauta is the MDC-T parliamentary candidate for the Budiriro constituency.