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Zimbabwe's Opposition Concerned by Election Announcement

FILE - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa addresses his first political rally since forming the Citizens Coalition for Change, Feb. 20, 2022

WASHINGTON — Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe say they are concerned after the southern African nations's president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced Aug. 23 as the date for the 2023 elections, despite voter irregularities that are yet to be addressed.

Mnangawga's proclamation, which ended months of speculation over Zimbabwe's pending poll, was met with resistance by critics and opposition leaders who argue the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC, is not equipped to facilitate a democratic election by the announced date.

In an interview with VOA, Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change, CCC, said the election proclamation came amid electoral irregularities and pending electoral reforms.

"We have not yet dealt with the issue of electoral reforms. We have also not cleared the issue of the electoral voters' roll which has been disputed because certain names are missing, certain people have been displaced and deployed where they don’t belong and where they don’t reside," Chamisa said.

"The voters' roll is a big issue. We want an auditable, analyzable, and searchable voters' roll. A voters' roll that is audited by all the stakeholders, but more importantly by reputable audit firms," Chamisa added.

David Coltart, a Zimbabwean opposition member and human rights lawyer poses for a portrait in the garden of his residence in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, July 22, 2018.
David Coltart, a Zimbabwean opposition member and human rights lawyer poses for a portrait in the garden of his residence in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, July 22, 2018.

In an interview with Agence France Presse, CCC lawmaker David Coltart said he was among those that could not find their name on the voters' roll at his local polling station.

"Whether it is chaos or whether it is deliberately targeting CCC members, we cannot say at the moment, but one can only describe the voters' roll as shambolic," Coltart said.

ZEC released a report in February demarcating wards and constituencies which faced backlash from civic groups that analyzed the document and detected constituencies that fell outside the nation’s borders.

Team Pachedu, a Zimbabwean online pressure group, said several locations in ZEC’s report pointed to distant places like Antarctica, the middle of the Indian Ocean and neighboring nations like South Africa and Zambia.

Lloyd Damba, the spokesperson for MDC-T’s President Douglas Mwonzora, said his party looks forward to exposing irregularities that will happen on August 23.

"The proclamation of election dates by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a blatant disregard of the rule of law. A blatant disregard of judicial issues. A blatant disregard of the courts in this land, but it does not mean that the MDC is not going to contest this election," Damba said.

"We are going to be contesting in this election because we want to test the system. We want to make sure that we expose some of the things that are going to be happening this election, the irregularities that we have already pointed out and also, I want to pay attention to the voters' roll which is in shambles in this country," he added.

Despite the sentiments echoed by the opposition, lawmakers and representatives of Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU PF argue President Mnangagwa acted constitutionally.

Photo of Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, May 2019
Photo of Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, May 2019

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Justice Ziyambi Ziyambi called on opposition parties and critics to respect the election proclamation and use the time to prepare.

"President Emmerson Mnangagwa set aside this day (election day) as per the constitution. All Zimbabweans need to respect that and prepare accordingly," Ziyambi said.

This report was compiled by VOA’s Mike Hove with contributions from VOA Zimbabwe’s Blessing Zulu and Mlondolozi Ndlovu. Some of the information was sourced from Agence France-Presse.