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250 000 ‘ghosts’ on Zimbabwe’s voter roll

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Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has reportedly released a register of voters with over 250 000 ghost voters on its final biometric voters’ roll (BVR).

The alleged scam, according to the experts who have been analysing the data released by the poll management body, is feared to have involved the highly-discredited Registrar-General’s Office.

An independent team of BVR, electoral administration, human rights and data science experts who sifted through the roll claimed that they unearthed several discrepancies, indicating that over 250 000 ghost voters were on the roll.

The alleged shortcomings also expose a fatal failure by the AFIS software used by Zec for reduplication.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Priscilla Chigumba yesterday dismissed the findings as “fictitious”.

“Several techniques were used to sift/dig through all the 5 683 936 records in the voters’ roll. The key goal is to establish the level of credibility that could be ascribed to the voters roll,” the BVR experts said in a report.

“One of the key concerns that have emerged is the existence of both double registrants and the high possibility of ghost voters in the roll.

Both scenarios were, ordinarily, not expected given that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission used the most sophisticated BVR system to capture voters data.

At the time of writing, the number of red-flagged entries basing on all techniques used stood at 250 000,” read part of the findings.

The high number of irregularities unearthed showed duplication of identity numbers with different names, or slight changes to spellings, similar ID numbers and in some instances, the same person registered at different polling stations in the same constituency.

According to the experts, given that the system used by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission does not allow for duplication of identity numbers, the Registrar-General’s involvement could have been sought to deal with this issue alone.

“The next 6/7 digits are a unique serial digit generated for each registrant at the district ID registration centre.

These are then followed by a check letter which can be any of the 23 alphabetic letters, except for IO and U, based on the MOD23 calculation mechanism.

The last part is simply the district code of one’s ethnic home and is not at all used in the MOD23 checking mechanism, making it impervious to duplications,” the report read in part.

They added that the easiest to detect were individuals with the same credentials, different address, different polling station, but geographically close constituencies.

The report cited the case of one Chikondowa Varaidzo (07-143353-N07), who registered to vote at Mutare Junior School, Mutasa South in Manicaland, but also appeared as Chikondowa Varaidzo (07-143353-N07) registered to vote at Chirovakamwe A Primary School Dangamvura/Chikanga, Mutare, Manicaland.

“The above scenario is a serious threat to (the) electoral process because the elections shall be polling-station based, and any person registered on two different polling stations will be able to vote twice,” the report read.

In another scenario one Gondo Miria 04-036321-E21, (of) Madzivanyika Village, Masvingo, registered to vote at Chikuku Primary School but also registered as Gondo Miria with a slightly different ID number at the end (04-036321-E04) to vote at Boora Primary School in Bikita, Masvingo.

NewsDay

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BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

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Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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NEWS

Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom

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Chinamasa

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

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Perrence-Shiri-Dead

Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

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