By Daniel Chigundu
National Electoral Reforms Agenda (NERA) says its efforts to identify various polling stations as listed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) mapping exercise, are proving difficult as the elections board is refusing to release the relevant maps.
ZEC has conducted an election mapping exercise that is expected to help in the implementation of the newly introduced polling-station-based voting, a departure from the current ward-based-voting.
Through the mapping exercise, ZEC has listed specific polling stations for each province and NERA has been in the past two weeks moving around to verify the stations.
In a statement, NERA said although it has identified some irregularities in certain wards, but it is however unable to conclusively verify the issues because ZEC and the Surveyor General’s office are playing hide and seek with the maps.
“In the past two weeks NERA has been going around Harare identifying specific polling stations listed by ZEC. The NERA mapping team is yet to receive council maps with roads and coordinates identifying specific polling station areas.
“ZEC has stated that they are not releasing the maps as they can be acquired for a fee. We have referred to the Surveyor General’s office. The Surveyor General’s office has not been very forthcoming. Despite ZEC making the mapping process difficult, our NERA team has been working hard to identify areas listed for polling stations.
“Another issue we have been facing is the use of displaced and mushrooming residence in some areas in Harare. Residents who have been displaced in some areas, do not have an address and when questioned about their residential addresses in the 2013 elections claimed Zanu PF give them an address after which they were taken to vote by Zanu PF.
“NERA will be keeping an eye on the resident addresses and ensuring all residence have specific, identifiable addresses and that residents understand their vote is their secret,” said the NERA statement.
In the 2013 general elections, ZEC was accused of creating bogus polling stations as a way of allegedly aiding Zanu PF to rig the polls and were exposed especially in Harare East.
The mapping exercise is however expected to address that challenge, although there are reports of illegal settlements mushrooming in various areas especially in Harare.
NERA whoever added that despite efforts by ZEC and Zanu PF to make the polling station verifying process difficult, they are however determined to see it through, and that their mapping team will continue mapping in Harare and also begin the mapping process in Mashonaland East.
The electoral reforms advocacy organisation also raised red-flags on some houses which were illegally built on stands which were supposed to be open spaces; schools, shops etc.
And that the local authority claims to be re-numbering all the stands and there is some confusion for some residents between previous numbers and new numbers.