Claim: Permanent Secretary of Information, Nick Mangwana claimed that there voters are not allowed to remain at a polling station after casting their vote. This is after opposition political parties urged voters to remain at their polling stations in order to defend their vote.
“There is nothing called defending a vote. That’s a threat to peace. After voting people should just go home and wait for the announcement of the results. Imagine a polling station with 2000 voters from different parties all milling around after voting now waiting to defend their vote,” said Mangwana in his post on the X platform.
“That’s a potentially explosive scenario. For the sake of peace, after voting just go home, to work, to your business or whatever else that gives you a livelihood,” he said.
This prompted Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) to respond on the matter during a press briefing in Harare where the spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said its imperative for citizens to defend the vote after voting.
“Now you all noted yesterday that Mr Nick Mangwana was on the X platform trying to sell a lie, that it’s illegal to defend the vote. In fact, it’s a constitutional imperative, an obligation upon everyone, citizens and state institutions alike to ensure that this vote is transparent and verifiable,” said Mahere.
‘We have an obligation as citizens to ensure that the election meets the credibility test that is free, that is fair, that meets and holds up to the constitutional standards.”
She said citizens have to stand guard after the vote has been cast, maintaining peace and order, and observing the 300-metre rule.
“It’s a matter of record that we are mobilizing polling agents but their task does not end there, as citizens we have to stand guard after the vote has been cast, maintaining peace and order of course, observing our 300m rule and ensuring that until the V11 is posted on the polling station we don’t go home,” said Mahere.
“Every citizen is allowed by the constitution to verify the count and to ensure and satisfy themselves that the vote is free, fair, credible and verifiable. In this sense, citizens must be primary observers of the election and safeguard it jealousy,” she said.
WHAT DOES ZEC SAY
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Deputy Chairperson, Commissioner Rodney Kiwa said each party will have polling agents at each polling station to monitor the voting process.
“In fact, I don’t understand, I don’t even know what they mean by defending the vote, it’s a strange concept to me, honestly, I don’t even know who even is articulating that votes need to be defended. For each party, there will be observers, this process by the way is witnessed by observers as you can see now that our country is awash with observers from all over the world, from the Commonwealth, African Union, SADC, all sorts of observers we accredited as we are talking note they will be observing that,” he said.
He said each participating political party or candidate is entitled to have an election agent at each polling station to witness the whole process.
“That is even after the voting has been completed they can witness the counting, collection and they have to sign up to say indeed this is what took place and there are appropriate forms that they complete to confirm that they are satisfied. If they are not satisfied, they indicate that they are not satisfied,” said Kiwa.
He added, “I don’t know what this notion of defending the vote means and I am also aware that the law requires that once you have cast your vote, you must not be within 300m of the polling station. It must be clear except for those people that are authorized to be there, that is the election agents and the observers.”
Kiwa said there is also a limited number of observers.
“When it comes to the observers, there is a limited number that has to be present inside the polling station or the collation centre at any given time, they must not exceed I think six, so they will have to give each other turns to go in and so forth and of cause proving that they are bonafide accredited observers or election agents and so forth,” he said.
What does the Electoral Act say?
The Electoral Act Section 40J talks about the Limitation on the number of observers.
“Not more than the prescribed number of observers shall be permitted—(a) to enter or remain at any polling station; (b) to be present at the counting or collating of votes at a polling station or constituency centre,” states the electoral act.
In addition, section 90 speaks about the refusal to leave polling stations.
“Any person who, without lawful excuse, refuses or fails to leave a polling station when lawfully required to do so by the presiding officer shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level four or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” reads the electoral act.