Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Zimbabwe Prepares for National Referendum on Constitution

Poll roll-out begins. . . Election materials dispatched . . . Hundreds besiege recruitment centre

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 00:00
Herald Reporters

ELECTORAL materials such as indelible ink, ballot papers and ballot boxes have been dispatched to all the provinces under tight security ahead of the constitutional referendum set for this Saturday, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission acting chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said yesterday.

She hoped that the situation would remain calm and that the referendum would be conducted without any hinderances.

ZEC has reduced its budget for the referendum from US$85 million to US$58 million and Treasury has so far released US$31,5 million.

The commission has said it would pay polling officers 30 percent of their allowances with immediate effect and deposit the balance into their respective bank accounts at the completion of the exercise.

Mrs Kazembe said the electoral body had recruited polling officers from lists they obtained from various civil service departments, local authorities and parastatals.

“The selection was done depending on the list compiled by these various departments.
Those called for training were invited and it is up to the provincial election officers to use their discretion and see if there is a need to add polling officers in their province.

“Teachers, as we stated earlier, will be taken in where it is necessary and if the provincial election officers say they have enough numbers, then there is nothing we can do,” she said.

However, more than 500 teachers thronged Girls’ High School in Harare, where polling officers for the referendum were being deployed, demanding to be included in the excercise. Riot police had to be called in to disperse them.

The teachers argued that they wanted to augment their low salaries and were later addressed by Harare provincial education director Mr Edward Shumba, who threatened to charge them for deserting classes.

Recruited polling officers from Harare met at Girls’ High School between Monday and yesterday before being deployed to various command centres for training as part of the 70 000 polling officers to be deployed throughout the country starting today.

Some schools in Harare were deserted yesterday as the teachers anticipated that they would be roped in the exercise despite ZEC stating that it would take a limited number of them to prevent disruption of learning at schools.

Mr Shumba described the teachers who thronged Girls’ High School as “unruly elements”.

“All those who were at Girls’ High were not invited and had just left schools willy nilly,” he said.

“I advised them to go back to their schools and, as I speak, I am consulting with district education officers to see that lessons are not disrupted by unruly elements.”

Some of the teachers interviewed at the school said the selection process was unclear.

“We believe we should be part of this exercise because we are also civil servants,” said one teacher.

“Those participating have also left their work stations and what can stop us from doing that for those few days.”

The Sadc Parliamentary Forum observation mission that is in the country for the referendum commended the inclusive Government yesterday for bringing the desired political stability and economic recovery.

Speaking during an orientation and training workshop in Harare, the mission leader Prince Guduza Dlamini of Swaziland said the Global Political Agreement needed support.

The 40-member team includes parliamentarians from Sadc countries.
“Indeed our goodwill mission as Sadc PF was meant to show Sadc Parliamentarians’ solidarity with the people and Government of Zimbabwe and send a message not only to Sadc, but also to Africa and the world over that the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe is normalising,” he said.

Sadc PF secretary general Dr Esau Chiviya said the team’s observation process would be guided by regional and international instruments such as the norms and standards for elections in the Sadc region and the Sadc principles and guidelines on elections.

Copac co-chairperson Cde Paul Mangwana addressed the Sadc PF team on the constitution making process, briefing them on undertaken activities and challenges faced.

In Masvingo, Copac co-chairperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said yesterday that Zimbabwe was sitting on the threshold of making history should the majority of people vote for the new constitution.

Speaking at a media and civil society workshop on the new constitution, Mr Mwonzora urged Zimbabweans to go out in large numbers and vote yes.

“The gains that Zimbabweans will accrue from this new constitution far outweigh the disadvantages, so lets go out and vote for it because it is one of the best constitutions ever,” he said.

ZRP election commander Senior Assistant Commissioner Lee Muchemwa yesterday assured the nation that they had enough manpower for the referendum.

“We have already commenced deployment of police officers since Monday. The country has 9 449 polling stations and we are going to cover all of them. Material resources are needed for the welfare of officers on the ground but we have harnessed little resources at our disposal.

“We thank the people on maintaining peace and tranquility so far and we appeal to the people to observe peace before, during and after the referendum,” Snr Asst Comm Muchemwa said.

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