delays, disappointment

Zimbabwe elections kick off with chaotic voting process, rigging ploys

By Veneranda Langa

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Posted on August 23, 2023 15:34

Voters wait to cast their ballot during the Zimbabwe general elections in Kwekwe, outside Harare. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)
Voters wait to cast their ballot during the Zimbabwe general elections in Kwekwe, outside Harare. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

There were chaotic scenes on Wednesday in Zimbabwe as voting started with most polling stations still waiting for deliveries of indelible ink, and ballot papers by 7am, the official starting time.

In the capital Harare, there were long queues as voters woke up early in the morning to cast their ballot.

The election between incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa, leader of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), promises to be a highly contested one.

Misinformation by FAZ

Voters who spoke to The Africa Report expressed fear of attempts by the ZANU-PF-led government to rig the election after yellow pamphlets with Chamisa’s face were found in different suburbs in Bulawayo and Harare.

According to the leaflets, allegedly distributed by the Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ) — a shadowy ZANU-PF outfit — the CCC leader announced that he would no longer contest the election.

“We woke up in the morning and found pamphlets strewn all over the place with fake information that Chamisa is no longer contesting the elections. We are now tearing them up so that people don’t get misled,” says Farai Macheka, a resident of Mabvuku.

The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute says FAZ members set up a desk at Senzangakhona polling station in Emganwini, Bulawayo, where they were collecting voter details.

Several other parts of the country reported that FAZ had set up such desks in a ploy to intimidate voters.

“After voting, ZANU-PF is taking voters’ details saying they are registering members. They are collecting information like name, surname, identity card number, and residential address. There are various points where the process is being done,” ZDI says.

The alleged tampering with the voting process by FAZ resulted in CCC spokesperson Fadzai Mahere convening an urgent press conference at 10am in Harare.

© A sample of the yellow pamphlets that claimed that opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the CCC party was not going to run.

Mahere told journalists that the pamphlets were fake and meant to mislead urban voters.

Voters’ names missing

In what promises to be the most chaotic election that Zimbabwe has had, several names were missing from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) voters roll.

Ishmael Masoka, 60, could not find his name at the Blakiston Primary School polling station in Harare.

“I was told to go to other nearest polling stations to locate my name, but I could not find it again at [the] Girls High School polling station. This is meant to ensure that we give up on voting, but I want to exercise my right and vote for my preferred candidate,” says Masoka.

I am very pained by what is happening. They [ZEC] cannot deny me the right to vote. I was looking forward to cast a vote for my preferred candidate

“I will not give up today, I am prepared to stay till tomorrow until they find my name,” he says.

Twenty-four-year-old Cuthbert Hamandiwana, a first-time voter, says he was very disappointed after he failed to find his name on the voters’ roll.

“I am very pained by what is happening. They [ZEC] cannot deny me the right to vote. I was looking forward to cast[ing] a vote for my preferred candidate,” he tells The Africa Report.

Missing names in the voters’ roll affected several people in different parts of the country.

A ZEC presiding officer at Blakiston Primary School polling station A, tells The Africa Report that there were only two people who could not find their names on the voters’ roll.

At Kuwadzana West constituency where Chamisa voted at 11am, the presiding officer, Willie Mate says seven people were turned away after their names were not on the voters’ roll.

There were several assisted voters.

Slow voting process

By 12pm several polling stations had not started the voting process in what voters say is a ploy to ensure they get tired and give up on voting. This affected mainly Harare and Bulawayo, which are opposition strongholds.

Several polling stations had no indelible ink, ballot papers, and some ballot papers had serious mistakes to the extent that they had a ZANU- PF candidate with a CCC logo to confuse voters.

At Harare West constituency, voting had not yet started by 1pm. All polling stations are supposed to open at 7am and close at 7pm.

“We woke up around 5am to join the queue for voting, but now it’s 1pm and voting has not yet started. Their aim is that we should give up on voting, and people are almost giving up,” a voter who declined to be named tells The Africa Report.

In a statement, the ZEC admitted that there was delayed voting in Bulawayo where 75% polling stations opened at 8:15am representing 21 out of 29 wards that were affected.

In Harare, 23% of the polling stations opened at 7am, representing 18 wards out of 77.  In rural areas, polling stations opened early.

“Delays in opening have largely been caused by delays in printing of the ballot paper arising from numerous court challenges. This has been the case with the Harare and Bulawayo provinces.

“The public is advised that all polling stations that opened late for reasons beyond the control of the presiding officer will remain open to cater for the period of the delay, keeping in mind that the polling station must remain open for a continuous period of at least 12 hours on polling day,” ZEC said.

The law requires that voters’ rolls should be at polling stations 48 hours before voting.

Stealing the vote

Addressing a large crowd of people that had gathered to witness him casting his vote at Kuwadzana 2 Primary School polling station in Harare, Chamisa said that these are the last kicks of a dying horse.

“Despite [the fact] that the ZEC has disappointed us, a new Zimbabwe is coming. In Harare and Bulawayo, which are our strongholds, ballot papers came late. We are not happy with the voters’ roll, intimidation of people and people failing to find their names on the voters’ roll,” said Chamisa.

“Mnangagwa knows that he is losing, and he is now trying all means to confuse voters,” Chamisa said.

The crowd shouted ‘President Chamisa – we want a young leader’, which angered the ZANU-PF National Assembly candidate for Kuwadzana West, Tauya Mauka who said he will lodge a complaint with the ZEC.

“Chamisa’s supporters disrupted the voting process because they were singing praises to him. This intimidates other voters that might not want to vote for him. I will lodge a complaint with the ZEC,” Mauka tells The Africa Report.

Mnangagwa cast his vote in Kwekwe, Midlands province where he hails from.

The election is hotly contested, and several young people who are first time voters turned up to cast their votes.

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