Zimbabwe police said Thursday (Aug. 24) they’d arrested 41 workers for poll monitoring groups and seized their equipment including computers to tabulate the results of vote counting.
Votes are being collated after widespread delays in the southern African nation led to the extension of balloting to Thursday night at dozens of polling stations.
The arrested observers work with two accredited monitoring organizations — the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network and the Election Resource Center — which deployed over 7,500 observers nationwide.
Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi accused the workers of being involved in “subversive and criminal activities” and “coordinating the alleged release of election results by some civic organisations.”
The arrests, made during raids on various locations including a hotel, were criticized by the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which said the workers were carrying out their mandate as accredited election observers.
The spokesperson for the main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change, Charles Kwaramba, slammed a move aimed at barring observers from monitoring and broadcasting the truth about the election”.
For democracy expert Nick Cheeseman, the arrests are intended “to prevent the parallel counting of votes” and the dissemination of “the clearest evidence to date that ZANU-PF thinks it has lost and has started to panick.”
Zimbabwe’s history of disputed elections has left many wary of official results. Nearly half of the respondents in a pre-election survey by Afrobarometer, a prominent research organization, said they feared “that the announced results will not reflect counted results.”