WASHINGTON DC —
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) says preparations for Wednesday’s parliamentary by-elections in Zimbabwe are on course.
But the election has been marred by reports of massive vote-buying and violence.
ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau says preparations for the polls are going smoothly and most of the logistics are in place in what is promising to be an exciting election boycotted by the main opposition parties but contested by 11 smaller political parties and a record number of independent candidates.
Makarau says more than 400,000 people have been registered to vote, 104 candidates from 11 political parties and some independent candidates will contest the national assembly seats in various constituencies.
Election monitoring bodies such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Heal Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Peace Project have been complaining about the level of violence, especially in Hurungwe West, where former Zanu-PF member Temba Mliswa is contesting as an independent against Zanu-PF candidate Keith Guzah.
The Electoral Court is expected to rule Wednesday if the election must be postponed as requested by Mliswa, who is citing violence and voter intimidation. But violence is said to be continuing.
The chairman of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Elasto Mugwadi, was also forced to dispatch a monitoring team to Hurungwe West. Mugwadi says they have a report but the commission is yet to officially release it.
Makarau says they have received some reports on the alleged violence in Hurungwe west but since it is a matter before the courts, it is difficult to comment.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network director, Rindai Chipfunde Vava, says apart from violence in Hurungwe West they are concerned by alleged vote-buying in some constituencies.
But Makaru says those incidents have not been reported to her office. Independent candidate, Thembelihle Sibanda, says victory is certain though the campaign has not been smooth.
In Harare, Glenview candidate Moses Nkomo of Transform Zimbabwe echoes the same sentiments.
In Manicaland province, Chikanga Dangamvura candidate, Ruramai Musiwa of the National Constitutional Assembly, says he is confident he will win despite the problems he has been facing.
But Zanu-PF candidate, Esau Mupfumi, also contesting in the election, says his opponents stand no chance as independent candidates cannot bring development in the area.
Mupfumi dismissed allegations that the ruling Zanu-PF is engaged in violence.
With a record number of independent candidates, what are their chances? We turned to Margaret Dongo one of the very few candidates to take on the ruling Zanu-PF party’s well-oiled political machinery and score a historic victory.
Apart from the violence and intimidation, constituencies where the by-elections are being held are enjoying national attention and improvement in their infrastructure, mostly from the ruling Zanu-PF party.
The influx of independent candidates in the by-elections has rekindled interest in the June 10 polls, but analysts say the boycott by major opposition parties would lead to voter apathy.