Tanzanians take part in a rigged election

From the JNIA: Tundu Lissu and his wife Alicia Magabe - prior to boarding a flight from Dar to Dodoma on their way to Ikungi, Singida, where they are expected to cast their votes.

WITH widespread irregularities, the election is already rigged, but Tanzanians are taking part as a sign of protest against a dictatorship they are bent on defeating, anyway.

The most immediate acts of rigging included the kidnapping and prevention of polling agents from accessing the polling stations. It also involved physical violence against the opposition candidates in many parts of the country.

Early morning on the polling day, a parliamentary candidate for Kawe in Dar es Salaam, Halima Mdee, was arrested by police at Kunduchi polling station. The arrest followed an incident in which the bags of the election officials at the station were found to contain over 10,000 ticked ballots.

When Halima and the people questioned the officials, the latter called police. Halima and some supporters, including her polling agents, were arrested. Reports say she was released later – too late to prevent the mess.

See this video of Halima questioning the election official shortly before she was arrested. In another video, Halima is seen surrounded by police as she and her supporters seek explanation on the presence of the ticked ballots at the polling station.

Angry youths snatched the “fake votes” and set them ablaze. They were all ticked in favour of incumbent President John Magufuli and his parliamentary candidate for CCM, Josephat Gwajima.

Similar incidents of vote-rigging were reported in many constituencies. In Bunda Urban Constituency, the opposition candidate, Esther Bulaya said: “At Bunda Town and Nyasura stations, the result forms have already been filled in even before the voting takes place.

In Tarime Rural Constituency, 95 opposition candidate John Heche said his polling agents were denied entry into the polling station.

In Hai Constituency, police raided the residence of the opposition candidate, Freeman Mbowe, injured and took his guards by force shortly after midnight. He tweeted:

“Tonite @ 2.30 am and in the eve of an election day in Tz, heavily armed gangsters believed to be the notorious operators of Hai DC, ole Sabaya and protected by Hai police OCD, have raided our hotel kidnapped and disappeared with two of our armed security guards. My life is in danger.”

Describing the incident further, one source wrote:

At 02:30 AM a group of people (around 20 in number with four vehicles) in balaclavas armed with machetes, pistols and sub-machine guns stormed into Aishi Machame Hotel and kidnapped two guards (one being our employee and the second the employee of SGA security company from Moshi).

The attackers were led by Lengai Ole Sabaya, the commissioner for Hai District. After forcibly hurling out our guards to the cars, the attackers accused the guards of supporting the opposition and promised to kill for that.

Though we have always been a peaceful hotel with no political sympathies,   Lengai Sabaya was personally threatening the guards to kill them. Then, while the cars were on the way, the victims were brutally beaten to blood and later thrown out of the vehicles. The guards are badly beaten and have multiple injuries.

The copy of CCTV footage of the incident was provided to the police of Moshi and the Embassy of the Russian Federation. The police opened a case with number MOS/RB/8437/20.”

In the morning at about 8 am, some army officers were working as polling agents for the ruling party, four of them at Kambi ya Raha station in the same constituency.

In Muheza Constituency, an election official used his teeth to bite and injure an opposition candidate, Josepha Komba, as she insisted to inspect his bag, which she suspected of containing fake votes. In Tanga Municipality, all polling agents were removed by force, leaving the entire process at the mercy of CCM and election officers. The same trend was reported in several constituencies.

Some stations in several constituencies ran out of presidential ballot papers before midday, a queer occurrence in elections. Observers said this is an indication that the presidential votes had been discreetly cast head of time.

Bakari Mwago, an opposition provincial leader said in all 10 constituencies within his area, Pwani Province, were marred with electoral irregularities, particularly the removal of polling agents. The same was reported in many constituencies of the Victoria Province, particularly Geita, Magu, Misungwi, Nkenge and Ngara.

In some areas, the people resisted violently against outright oppression. In Moshi Urban Constituency, where 45 polling agents had been disqualified, a group of fierce supporters of the opposition ganged up against the election officials and police to have their agents reinstated.

John Shibuda, a ceremonial presidential candidate representing ADA-TADEA party refused to vote at his polling station in Maswa because his polling agent was prevented.

In Ubungo, several ballots were seized from election officials before they inserted them in the ballot box. All the ballots were ticked and marked with the National Electoral Commission’s stamp.

The opposition’s presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu, gave a warning: “Voting reports indicate widespread irregularities in the form of preventing our polling agents from accessing polling stations. Stuffed ballot boxes have been seized in Kawe. If this continues, mass democratic action will be the only option to protect the integrity of the election.

In Kigoma, Zitto Kabwe of ACT-Wazalendo and his supporters seized several ballots hidden in a plastic bag at a polling station. See this video to witness the drama.

It was a similar scenario in Zanzibar. Some ballots, already ticked, were being distributed to the voters even before they reached the polling stations. This video records one of the pieces of evidence. ACT-Wazalendo chairman and presidential candidate for Zanzibar Seif Sharif Hamad spoke to the media about the attempts of security forces to arrest his colleagues to prevent them from taking part in counting the votes.

Of course, the irregularities did not start on the polling day. This was a culmination of the systemic and strategic malpractice by the partisan electoral commission. The opposition went to the polls with over 60 parliamentary candidates unjustly disqualified by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

More than 700 candidates for district and municipal councils were also barred from taking vying, in an attempt by the electoral body to pave a way for the ruling party.

Throughout the two-month campaign period and on the polling day, scores of opposition leaders and supporters – including candidates and polling agents – suffered harassment and police arrests. On the eve of the polling day, several opposition agents were kidnapped by security forces in order to make sure they do not turn up at the stations.