Eight ways in which the Zimbabwe election has already been rigged even before the vote


Superficially, voting on 30 July will almost certainly appear better than past charades. A new biometric voters’ roll was created and international observers were invited.

In a first for Zimbabwe — and a sign of how low the bar has become — opposition candidates have even been allowed to campaign relatively openly this time around.

But election observers should not be fooled. The lack of blood in the streets does not mean the vote reflects the will of the Zimbabwean citizenry.

Here are eight ways that the vote has already been rigged, hacked or altogether stolen:

The election body is not independent

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) acts like a hyper-partisan arm of the ruling party, ZANU-PF, and its repeated behavior has gutted any credibility of the vote. No significant opposition party or civil society organisation — or credible diplomat — has any confidence that the ZEC can manage a fair poll.

Concerns with manipulation of the voter roll and ballot papers have been ignored

The ZEC resisted multiple requests for transparency in how the vote will be conducted. It released a final register without any process to fix existing errors. The opposition is convinced ballot paper alteration is a high risk, but ZEC officials have refused to disclose any details of how ballots were procured and printed — or why the ballot design inexplicably gives Mnangagwa a prime spot.

Integrity of the vote tally and data security

The ZEC has yet to clarify rules on vote counting, while the computer servers that will tally reports from the field are unknown. Fears are understandable after Kenya’s experience, where its High Court annulled an observer-endorsed vote after it was found the election’s computers were hacked.

Denial of fair access to media

Zimbabwe’s constitution and regional guidelines say that all parties should have equal access to the dominant state media. Yet the main newspapers, radio, and TV continue to be blatant propaganda mouthpieces for ZANU-PF.

Ballot secrecy has been deliberately undermined

ZANU-PF agents have systematically spread rumors that fingerprints from voter registration will allow the government to trace individual votes. This is both an effective and chilling threat since citizens — especially those in rural areas — recall 2008, when poll data was used to target violent attacks against opposition supporters. Three hundred people died, while others were beaten, raped and brutalised, and thousands had their homes burned to the ground.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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