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    Saturday, 4 March 2017

    ZEC begins ‘mapping’ polling stations

    Parties cry foul as ...


    MASVINGO - The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) has begun mapping  for polling and is about to complete the process without notifying key stakeholders including political parties; a development that has seen the later coming out guns blazing and describing the process as a sham.
    According to documents in the hands of The Mirror ZEC is carrying out the process in order to verify and confirm polling area, ward, constituency and district boundaries.
    The process has already been completed in Mat South, Harare, Masvingo, Mash East, Mash Central, parts of Midlands and parts of Mash West.
    MDC T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora described the process as clandestine and said ZEC is required by law to publish and announce the beginning of the process in order for every stakeholder including members of the public to participate and air their views.
    The Mirror is however, informed that the ZEC technical teams are only consulting traditional chiefs and local authorities during the process.
    ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau who is also the Judiciary Service Commission secretary was not picking up her phone until the time of going to print.
    Mwonzora said it is the views of the voting public which determine where polling stations should go. He hoped that ZEC would not change constituency boundaries because this can only be done after a census and the next census is in 2022.
    According to documents in the hands of The Mirror the mapping process started on January 18, 2017 and will end on April 4, 2017.
    "The digitilisation of maps is now completed, and map printing, for the purposes of polling area, ward, constituency and district boundary verification exercise is in progress," reads one of the documents.
    "They must make it public that they are now mapping out polling stations, but they have been doing it clandestinely since the exercise began in January. The ordinary people and political parties must make their input, what is being done by ZEC shows that there is somebody controlling the body," complained Mwonzora.
    Efforts to get a comment from Constance Chigwamba the ZEC chief elections officer were fruitless as she was said to be out of the country on business.
    Henry Chimbiri who is director of elections in the MDC led by Prof Welshman Ncube said the whole exercise is a façade as the parties were only told when the exercise had begun.
    "As a party we have always stated that the whole system is not straight, they only told us after they had already hit the ground, the whole thing is crooked, ZEC has been hijacked which means administratively what they are doing is illegal.
    "They are running away from us by refusing to engage us as stakeholders. We are disturbed by what they are doing. Makarau must come down and know that we are the stakeholders, one day history will judge her harshly," said Chimbiri.
    Tawanda Chimhini director of Elections Resources Centre said ZEC must carry out the mapping exercise in a fair and transparent manner in order to avoid disputed polling stations and election outcomes.
    "They should follow three principles when carrying out the exercise, they should be guided by ward boundaries of 2007 when the last delimitation was carried out, consider accessibility of the polling station and finally the voters threshold that is the maximum number of voters per polling station," he said.
    Jealousy Mawarire who is spokesperson of the Zimbabwe People First was not picking up his mobile phone until time of going to print.
    The national political commissar for Zanu PF Saviour Kasukuwere expressed satisfaction in the exercise. He said it was good that it had started early.
    "It is a good thing now that they have started early to map out polling stations for people to know where they are supposed to cast their votes preferably at polling stations nearer their residences," said Kasukuwere.
    Chimhini reiterated statements by political parties that ZEC must engage all stakeholders without discrimination and added that the methodology must be exhaustive.
    "After the mapping exercise ZEC must publicise the outcome in order to get public input until the final product is produced," said Chimhini.
    "ZESN appreciates the efforts by the Commission to map out polling stations in preparation for the Biometric Voter Registration exercise. However, it is sad to note that such an important exercise has not been adequately publicized and there has been very limited involvement of stakeholders. Our call to the Commission is to clarify the polling stations mapping criteria and to ensure that the polling stations are placed in public places thereby safeguarding the principles of neutrality and accessibility of polling stations," said ZESN National Director Rindai Chipfunde Vava.
    The teams doing the mapping are divided into four groups, two for the northern region led by a Muchenjekwa C.C and the Southern region led by Brian M. Mhonda with a team leader and four members.
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