Paul Nyathi|The SADC Head of Election Monitoring team in Mozambique, Zimbabwean Minister of Defence Oppah Muchinguri has hurriedly issued a statement indicating that the chaotic elections held in that country on Tuesday were free and fair.
While Muchinguri makes the shocking declaration, Independent Civil Society Organisations monitoring the elections held on Tuesday have declared massive rigging especially by ruling party Frelimo.
The latest issue of the “Mozambique Political Process Bulletin”, published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) outlined several rigging methods that the ruling party used which somehow Muchinguri failed to take note of.
The by now declared traditional, form of fraud highlighted in the report is to invalidate a ballot paper by adding an ink mark, thus making it seem as if the voter concerned has tried to vote for two or more candidates.
In past elections, the electoral bodies have vigorously criticised this dishonest behaviour by polling station staff, but nobody has ever been arrested for it.
Measures now in force include removing all inky objects from the polling station table before the count begins, and obliging staff with dirty hands to wash them. Nonetheless, there are still cases reported of this type of fraud, and occasionally dishonest staff are caught in the act.
In one polling station in the Zambezia district of Chinde, the polling station chairperson, Angelo Moniz, was detained after he was caught adding fingerprints to Renamo votes. He had dyed his hair and had transferred the dye to his finger to make the extra marks. The police detained him, but later released him.
This type of fraud can be readily detected because it results in abnormally high numbers of invalid votes. It is normal for there to be a few invalid votes at any polling station (these include ballot papers where the voter really has tried to vote for more than one candidate, where he has added slogans or insults, or where he has signed his name).
But when invalid votes are more than three per cent of the total, suspicion is in order, and when the number goes to more than five per cent, those votes are almost certainly fraudulent. But the Bulletin notes cases in this election of polling stations reporting more than 10 per cent invalid votes, and in one even 32 per cent and all shockingly disadvantaging the opposition.
A new form of fraud, reported by the Bulletin, is that observers aligned with the ruling Frelimo Party are alleged to have voted several times. A provision in the law allows observers (like journalists and policemen) to vote at any polling station they are working in.
The Bulletin claims the observers from the National Youth Council (CNJ) abused this right to a “special vote” to vote at several different polling stations in Mopeia and Inhassunge districts, in Zambezia.
But for this to work, polling station staff must ignore the basic safeguards of the indelible ink applied to the index finger of every voter after casting his or her ballot. Before receiving a ballot paper, the voter must show his or her hands so that staff can check there is no ink on them, and that he or she has not voted already.
This story strains belief because it suggests that literally dozens of polling station staff failed to apply the ink, or failed to check the hands of several hundred CNJ observers.