by Agence France-Presse
Thousands of Zimbabwean opposition supporters took to the streets of Harare on Wednesday demanding fair elections following alleged irregularities in the electoral roll ahead of the July 30 vote.
The electoral register has long been a contentious feature of Zimbabwe’s elections, fueling accusations of vote rigging in previous polls.
A new voters’ roll has been compiled for the upcoming polls, but the main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is alleging that the list is flawed. It also demanding transparency in the printing of ballot papers.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from ousted long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in November, has promised to deliver free, fair and credible polls.
Thousands of supporters sporting the party’s red berets, hats, caps and T-shirts with portrait of its young leader Nelson Chamisa, danced to music at the start of the march to the country’s electoral commission.
Supporters flashed red cards — used by football referees to expel players from the field — and blew whistles as Chamisa handed a petition to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials in downtown Harare.
Many carried placards some of which read “no to vote rigging” and “we demand transparency in the printing of ballot papers”.
“This is a people’s demonstration for a free and fair election. Ours is a just cause,” Douglas Mwonzora, the party’s secretary general, told protesters.
Thirty-year-old unemployed security guard Cosmas Chaparadza, told AFP that “we want electoral reforms for a free and fair election”.
“Mnangagwa said he will give us a free and fair election but at the moment, the election will not be free and fair. There are no reforms that have been done,” added Chaparadza.
“We want a proper voters roll, a free and fair election. We are tired of ZANU-PF machinations,” said Rebecca Amon, 39, a housewife and mother of two.
The list of voters eligible to cast ballots in elections is expected to be a major focus for foreign observers deployed to the country in an effort to ensure the vote’s credibility.
For the first time in 16 years, Zimbabwe has opened its election to be monitored by Western observers notably from the European Union (EU), the Commonwealth and American pro-democracy groups.
Manipulating the voter roll has been one of the strategies used to fix results in past elections under Mugabe who was forced to resign following a brief military takeover eight months ago.
The electoral commission has refuted opposition allegations.