At least 2½ million fake voters on Zimbabwe’s roll
by BILL CORCORAN
AN EVALUATION of Zimbabwe’s voters’ roll by a leading South African academic and journalist has concluded that the list of adults eligible to cast a ballot in the country’s next referendum or election includes at least 2½ million phantom voters.
In a report published by the South African Institute of Race Relations last week, author and historian RW Johnson claims the roll, as it stood in October 2010, had been manipulated to include fictitious voters so President Robert Mugabe’s regime could dictate the outcome of the next poll.
The electoral roll is vital because Mr Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party appear intent on pushing for fresh elections to end the country’s stalled powersharing arrangement, which has been in place since a disputed presidential election took place in 2008.
Negotiators from all three of Zimbabwe’s main political parties, under the supervision of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), are engaged in trying to devise a road map to free and fair elections under a new and democratic constitution.
When the 2010 roll is compared to the voters’ roll used before the 2008 election, 360,500 new voters have been added despite mass emigration that occurred then because of election violence and economic turmoil.
There are 5.7 million people eligible to vote, said the report. This figure is about 2½ million names too many given Zimbabwe’s probable population, which has been estimated at 10 million for the purposes of the study.
“This phantom vote is more than enough to settle the outcome of any election,” Johnson said.
The report, Preventing Electoral Fraud in Zimbabwe, says many of the suspect people entered on to the roll are far too old or young to merit inclusion.
Mr Johnson argues that in a country where life expectancy has dropped to 45 over the past 10 years there are now 41,000 voters who are over 100 years of age and 132,500 who are over 90. Incredibly, the roll has 16,800 voters born on January 1st 1901, which makes them 110 years old.
“Mr Mugabe seems intent on cheating his way back to untrammelled power by pushing for quick elections later this year, based on the current constitution and a voters’ roll so defective as to boggle the mind,” said Mr Johnson. “Mr Mugabe is no doubt hoping for South African and SADC support for his proposal. But [South African] President Jacob Zuma has done well to date in keeping Mr Mugabe to the terms of the GPA [Zimbabwe’s powersharing deal].”
He added: “Between them, he and the SADC have the power to put an end to Mr Mugabe’s plan. The SADC needs to remember this when it meets again in South Africa on 11th June, 2011 to help lay down a road map to democracy in Zimbabwe.”
In the past Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change party and civil society groups have claimed the voters’ roll has been manipulated to ensure Mr Mugabe and his regime can cheat their way back to power. Zanu-PF has always gone to great lengths to keep a complete copy of the roll under wraps because of these claims, which surfaced following the results of general elections in 2008, 2005 and 2002.
While rolls were eventually made available by the partisan Zimbabwe Electoral Commission after each of these elections, they were presented in a way that made analysing the data difficult.
The printed voters’ roll supplied to the Movement for Democratic Change by the electoral commission for the 2008 elections was eventually converted into digital format, which allowed for complete analysis to be undertaken.