Tanzania’s electoral commission accused of manipulating voters’ register, polling centres

Justice Semistocles Kaijage, chairman of the National Electoral Commission - file photo

There is every indication that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in Tanzania is conspiring with the ruling party (CCM) to rig the election in favour of the incumbent, John Magufuli who is facing a strong challenge from Tundu Lissu of CHADEMA, the main opposition party.

For most Tanzanians, there is no fundamental difference between the Electoral Commission and the ruling party, based on the composition of the commission and its conduct. Even as the campaigns proceed, the opposition parties see themselves as competing with the commission rather than the ruling party.

There are reports of the commission printing ballot papers on unscrupulous grounds. While the commission claims to have printed ballot papers in South Africa, investigative reports indicate that there are others printed in Tanzania by the government-owned Tanzania Printing Services (TPS).

The operation was carried out by a special team of people, as workers at the factory, located in Dar es Salaam, Chang’ombe area, Dakawa Road, were suddenly given a one-week holiday, leaving the factory management in the hands of government officials suspected to be the staff of the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS).

According to reports, the workers were told that the holiday was due to “major repairs” taking place at the factory. The commission has distanced itself from the allegations.

The opposition initially claimed the papers were being printed by a privately owned printing press, Jamana, but our sources said it was not responsible for printing them.

One of Jamana directors, Mehbooob Kasum, said his factory did not accept the offer from the government because they wanted to protect their business integrity. But he confirmed that the government’s efforts to get the papers printed were in place.

“We rejected this job, as we did not want to bear blames. We refused, even though we were persuaded. After all, we did not take part in any tender for the job,” he said.

For the first time in Tanzania’s electoral history, the commission has said it will allow voters who change their mind after casting a vote to be given another ballot paper to choose who they want. To many observers, this means the commission has a reserve number of ballot papers that may be abused in this process.

In many areas, citizens have already noticed that some voters’ names do not belong to any person in their neighbourhood. And the number of voters has been much higher than in the actual voters’ register. Suspicious polling centres have also been identified in many places.

The Opposition Presidential Candidate in Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad, says his party has spotted names of about ghost 117,000 voters. Similar allegations are rife in various regions including Arusha, Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, and Kilimanjaro.

In Arusha constituency, the opposition parliamentary candidate, Godbless Lema says the permanent register in Arusha Urban Constituency has 240,000 voters, but he and his party, yesterday were shocked to see 370,110 voters, an increase of more than 100,000 ghost voters.

Freeman Mbowe, the leader of CHADEMA, the main opposition party shares his remarks on a Tweet: “There is massive BVR manipulation. Millions of ghost voters and polling stations.; misplaced and, or, missing voters! NEC must come out with an explanation and mitigating strategy. Anything short will electrify this country and render the election impossible ab initio.

Coupled with systemic violence against the opposition, these irregularities are a bad sign of the electoral commission attempting to rig an election in favour of the person that appointed them- the incumbent.