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Early voting in Zimbabwe - 2002-03-06

The Office of the Registrar-General of Zimbabwe has confirmed media reports that some members of the defense forces are already voting. This was made public at a meeting today which was called by the electoral supervisory commission to brief observers on the progress of election preparations.

The office made the confirmation when a member of the audience raised a question which was based on recent media reports. Tobaiwa Mudede is an official in the office of the Registrar-General, which is responsible for the conduct of elections. Mr. Mudede says the voting reported in the media was the postal vote cast by those who, due to the nature of their work, cannot vote in their constituency on the polling day.

He said, "as you know the people who qualify are the people in the defense forces, constituency registrars, all electoral officials who will not be in their constituencies during the taking of the ballot and those in our diplomatic missions..” He explained, “It is being done at the central registrar's office and I know the candidates sent their agents to monitor the process."

The question was repeated by another member of the audience who wanted to know whether the postal vote is being conducted in the presence of election observers. The question was not answered but an official from the election supervisory commission assured the observers that the process was so transparent that there was no room for any malpractice. Members of the audience sought clarifications to a number of questions pertaining to the voting process.

Some observers expressed satisfaction at the responses given by the election officials. Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika, a Zambian, is the team leader of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa. He said, "The main concern is that as many people as possible vote. We note that if the armed forces are voting and the members of the diplomatic corps then the majority of the people are not voting.” He said, “I think that’s their concern. However that’s the law in their country and we are not here to change the law. So they're operating within the law. but in future this is something we will have to share."

Observers here say generally the Electoral Supervisory Commision has responded to a number of concerns relevant to a free and fair election. The Zimbabwean government invited ten international organizations to come and observe the forth-coming presidential elections. Of these six are already in the country. These include the African Union, the Commonwealth and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The rest are SADC, the 14-member Southern African Development Community, and the World Council of Churches.