10 ways of rigging an election


THE country heads for historic elections in the next few months and I would like to throw a few thoughts on how elections can be rigged. It is also interesting to note that rigging is not the preserve of Zanu PF since some parties have learnt the art.

No holds barred with Dumisani Nkomo

However, this article looks at how the current system can be used to rig elections in favour of Zanu PF which has been accused of rigging elections from as far back as 1980.As to whether there is substance to this, is another story altogether and the subject of an entirely different article.

Voter registration

On paper, voter registration appears to be going on well. However, it has been conducted in such a manner that registration centres are concentrated in Zanu PF strongholds, while limiting numbers in strongholds of progressive parties. This means more Zanu PF supporters will be registered to vote in the elections.


The so-called aliens will experience difficulties in exercising their right to vote as it may require more time for their citizenship to be regularised than the available 75 days. An early election (July 31) or even August 14 will be too early for them to have dealt with administrative hurdles. Once again thousands of voters — most of whom would have voted for the progressive — will be disenfranchised.


Many soldiers will be forced to apply for special votes, which is a status usually given to members of the uniformed forces who are on duty and are not in their normal places of residence. They may be forced to vote in barracks and camps under compulsion from their superiors. If monitoring is weak, they will be compelled to vote for Zanu PF. This will swell Zanu PF votes for both presidential and parliamentary elections.

This coincides with the massive recruitment of new soldiers and policemen, many of whom were previously unemployed and unemployable.
Returning/absentee residents.

Zimbabweans who are continuously absent for a period of six to 12 months may find themselves deleted from the voters’ roll. Finding their way into supplementary voters’ roll may be a difficult as they could be systematically frustrated at border posts. This could result in few of them registering to vote or checking their names in the voters roll and consequently, many will be disenfranchised.

Social engineering

There has been in the past massive social engineering typified by resettlement of people to progressive party strongholds deliberately, systematically and purposefully. New Zanu PF strongholds have been established in places such as Harare South, Marula in Mangwe, Insiza North, Bubi and Umguza, just to name a few.

This has been done through the creation of new settlements with the use of formal and informal processes such as resettlement, allocation of land or stands.

Urban settlements, which are strongholds for progressive parties, have been a target for such activities with so-called co-operatives getting stands and land in previous progressive party strongholds. These new settlements owe their status, rank and possessions to Zanu PF and will vote for Zanu PF.

Special voting

There remains great potential for special votes to be manipulated in favour of Zanu PF. Members of the security forces may be intimidated into applying for special votes which may be manipulated.

Voters’ roll

The voters’ roll remains the single biggest potential source of rigging with allegations of ghost voters and the elimination of perceived progressive party supporters from the voters’ roll. What makes it worse is that the process of maintaining the voters’ roll continues to fall under the the discredited Registrar General (RG)’s Office which has been accused of being partisan.

Security sector

State security structures such as the old Joint Operations Command will campaign for Zanu PF either covertly or overtly right up to ward and village level.

The State security structures have in effect been fused with the structures of Zanu PF and are being used to monitor activities of opposition parties and civil society organisations.

The large number of CIO operatives, police and army members participating as candidates for Zanu PF in the elections effectively means that State security organs will be manipulated to serve the interests of one political party in the elections.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and RG’s Office

The ZEC and the RG’s Office will be populated with security officers with the same mandate of maintaining the political status quo.

These are just a few ways in which the elections may be rigged excluding counting, collation, tallying, ballot stuffing, multiple voting etc which are used in other countries where political fraudsters use sophisticated techniques.

More brute methods such as vote-buying through food aid and handouts are already being used, but these will largely fail because people just consume the food and vote for the party of their choice.

In spite of all these machinations, Zanu PF will lose to a united front of the two MDCs even if they rig. It must be noted that not all members of the security forces are pro-Zanu PF as noted by Baba Jukwa in one of his/her/their instalments and the plan of using the army and police to manipulate the electoral process will fail.

Dumisani Nkomo is an activist and opinion leader