PRISON officers based at Khami Prison on the outskirts of Bulawayo have complained that their superiors are forcing them to apply to be postal voters, in a bid to ensure that they vote for Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections.
REPORT BY NDUDUZO TSHUMA
According to prison officers who spoke to Southern Eye on Thursday, they were forced by their superiors to register as postal voters on the basis that they would be prohibited to vote on the election date due to the nature of their work.
“The exercise started on Thursday. They are conducting it section by section,” a prison officer who spoke on strict confidentiality, said.
“Others have already filled the forms to apply for postal votes on the grounds that they will not be able to vote on election day.”
He said he feared that if they voted by postal ballots, their ballots will be monitored to ensure that they voted for Zanu PF.
“What worsens our fears is that we and our wives were forced to go and register to vote,” he said.
“Some of us were sent to Nyamandlovu and some to Tredgold in Bulawayo in trucks to register as voters. The bosses afterwards demanded proof that we had registered.”
The prison warders said they did not want a repeat of the 2008 Presidential runoff election where they were forced to vote for Zanu PF.
“In 2008 all of us were forced to vote Zanu PF in the presidential runoff,” he alleged.
“We fear that this is not only done in Khami, but in all the prisons and perhaps other security organs.”
In 2008, a former prison warder Shepherd Yuda produced a short recording, allegedly showing that they were being forced to vote for Zanu PF.
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) public relations officer Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Banda evaded most of the questions asked by Southern Eye .
She could only say: “The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has according to the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) established 215 district special voting centres for the purposes of the special voting exercise.
“This is meant for the people, who according to the nature of their duties, will not be able to make themselves available to cast their votes. Hence those officers falling into this category are to apply to ZEC through their stations so that they can be considered to cast their votes in this way.”
Banda said the voting process would be supervised by ZEC officials at the special voting centres and for Bulawayo these will be City Hall, Nketa Primary, Emakhandeni Secondary and Magwegwe Secondary.
ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau yesterday said she was not aware of the prison officers’ complaints adding that no one should be forced to vote in any form.
“Postal voting is not for everyone unless for disciplined members of the security forces who will not be available to cast their ballots on Election Day because of work,” she said.
“No one should be forced to vote in whatever form. For ZEC to investigate this matter we would need a written complaint from the aggrieved so that we could make correspondence with the ZPS.”
MDC deputy spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said his party had received reports on plans by ZPS to force the postal vote on prison officers so that they vote for Zanu PF.
“We have received similar reports and we fear the same thing might be done even in the police and army so that Zanu PF rigs elections,” he said.
“Those people have their constituencies where they can vote.”
Chihwayi said his party will keep an ear to the ground and “will not leave any stone unturned in exposing rigging”.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora echoed Chiwayi’s sentiments saying: “It is absolutely not normal that the prison officers must take part in the postal vote.”
“It is a ploy by Zanu PF to force officers to vote under the supervision of superior officers,” he said. “We will fight that tactic and ensure that voting by prison officers is as normal as possible.”
ZPS boss Paradzai Zimondi last month urged his subordinates to rally behind Mugabe in this year’s harmonised polls.