Soldiers and police officers to cast ballots in secret

July 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

By Tichaona Sibanda

Members of the country’s armed forces will this year breathe a sigh of
relief as they will be able to cast their ballots in secret in the presence
of presiding officers and not under the supervision of their senior
officers.

Unlike previous elections where officers on duty cast their ballots inside
police, prison and army camps, this time members who apply for the special
vote will use polling stations located in schools or in public areas. The
special vote has replaced the postal ballot, under laws contained in the new
constitution.

Any officers wishing to use this facility will have to apply to the chief
elections officer and prove that they will be on duty outside their stations
on the day of the election. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has set
aside July 14th and 15th as dates for casting of the special vote.

In the past, armed forces members used ballots that had their force numbers
printed on them, making it easy for senior officers to identify culprits who
vote against their preferred candidates.

It is an open secret that all uniformed members are forced to vote for
Robert Mugabe for President and ZANU PF candidates for parliamentary
elections.

But under the new constitution, rules have been changed to allow
confidentiality and remove the element of intimidation when dealing with the
soldiers, police officers and prison guards. The changes to the law were
contained in submissions made by members of the security forces during the
seventh parliament

Settlement Chikwinya, the MDC-T aspiring candidate for Mbizo in KweKwe, told
SW Radio Africa that what is significant about the new set of rules is the
departure of using ballots with force numbers.

‘The ballots will be sent to their respective constituencies where they are
registered. The package will contain an A4 envelope with the member’s name.
Inside the envelope will be three blank envelopes containing ballots for the
council, parliamentary and presidential elections.

‘Once the casting is done, the members deposit the ballots to a ZEC
presiding officer in the presence of candidates or chief election agents and
polling agents of all political parties and independent candidates. The A4
envelope with the member’s name will be destroyed by the voter away from the
polling station,’ explained Chikwinya.

Meanwhile the internal strife in ZANU PF continues, amid reports the former
ruling party is cracking down on disgruntled members who filed their
nomination papers as independents.

The chaos was triggered by the primary elections that left more than 100
members lodging complaints with the party and sending their members to the
ZANU PF headquarters to protest.

SW Radio Africa is reliably informed that a crack team comprising senior
members of the uniformed forces and party stalwarts are to visit each
province and pay personal visits to the independent candidates. The team has
been given until next week to finish its task.

‘The purpose of the visit is to force them to withdraw their applications,
or else they will be told they face dire consequences for their actions,’ a
source said.

The source told us ZANU PF could be the party that would be most happy to
see an extension of the election date from July 31st, to give them time to
put their house in order.

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