High referendum turnout in Zvishavane

ZVISHAVANE - Zvishavane residents voted in significant numbers in yesterday’s constitutional referendum, in a poll seen as a test for democracy after disputed 2008 elections and one that could reshape politics of the southern African nation’s recovering economy.

At 7am when voting opened, long lines had already formed at a polling station at Mandava Health Centre.

A queue snaked away from a polling station near the bus terminus into the heart of the mining town.

A few hours later it had grown much longer.

At Mandava Health Centre, by 9am, 128 people had voted, while four had been turned away, again because they had brought driver’s licences, according to Lazarus Maremera, the returning officer at that polling station.

Voting was peaceful three hours after polling stations opened.

There were relatively long lines with many elderly women being helped by officials to the front of the queues.

Some voters said they hoped the referendum would usher in a new era of peaceful democracy.

The numbers at Kubatana Community Hall thinned considerably throughout the day after hundreds converged on the centre at the start of the day. But there was a steady trickle of voters, such as businessman John Moyo, who said he wants “a new Zimbabwe”.

Another voter, Josephine Chihwa, a fruit vendor, said she cast a ballot to be “part of history”.

The fruit seller said she closed down her business to come and vote.

“There is no loss because I will get my profit from my vote,” Chihwa told the Daily News.

“For example I was fearful of violence. But if the constitution passes, I’ll never have to be afraid again”.

Polling at the vast majority of the polling stations here started on time, according to Singo Chivasa, a returning officer for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) at the Kubatana Community Hall.

By 9am, he said, 186 people had cast their ballots, while nine were turned away because they had brought driver’s licences. Some shops closed for business yesterday, while others were opened.

Traders and analysts say investors would take great confidence from the peaceful passage of the constitutional changes into law. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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