Referendum voting around Zim

HARARE - Voting went ahead peacefully in most areas, as crisis weary Zimbabweans coalesced around a draft constitution they hope will be a leap towards a peaceful transition.

The draft constitution, if adopted, would set a maximum two five-year terms for the President, starting with the next election, meaning Mugabe could stay on for 10 more years if he wins elections.

Elections are expected before end of July.

The constitutional changes are seen as important to avoid a repeat of the post-election bloodshed in mid-2008 which saw 200 people being murdered and took the country of about 12 million people to the brink of anarchy.

Most Zimbabweans were expected to vote in favour of the new constitution, according to a snap survey done yesterday.

If the vote fails, Zimbabwe would revert to the current constitution bequeathed by former colonial power, Britain.

A previous attempt to change the constitution through a referendum in 2000 failed after the people returned a “No” vote verdict.

To be adopted, the law requires a majority of 50 percent plus one vote of the ballot cast nationally.

Across the country, people seemed to make a statement that they want a peaceful election.

In Marondera, Richard Chidza reports that voting started slowly but figures began to swell in the afternoon.

At Wenimbi Primary School in Marondera East Constituency, about 200 people had voted two hours after polling stations opened.

As more people came out, a queue about 70 metres long formed outside the school.

There were mixed feelings on whether the parliamentary committee driving the constitution-making process commonly known as Copac’s efforts to popularise the draft had been adequate.

“I understand bits and pieces but they are enough for me to make a decision on the draft. The other thing is our political leaders have given us directions on how to vote,” said a 45-year-old man waiting to cast his vote.

In a sign that political parties might have whipped their supporters into a particular voting pattern, some said they would vote according to instructions from their leaders.

Ageing members of the community as well as apostolic sect members in their regalia took part.

“We have to participate because the country’s future hinges on this constitution. It gives women a lot of rights and I am happy that no woman will ever face the death penalty,” said a woman in all white robes who had just cast her vote at Waltondale.

Mugove Tafirenyika and Tendai Kamhungira report that in Chinhoyi the mood and turnout was low and returning officers were literally sleeping.

Chinhoyi 2 High School popularly known as Chemagamba had the lowest voter turnout. It was almost as though no one came to vote at that station.

By 11 am about 60 people had voted at Chinhoyi Primary School ward 4.

The voter turnout was very low and returning officers could be heard complaining of spending most of their time unoccupied.

At Nemakonde Secondary School, less than 50 people had voted by 11 am.

Students at the Chinhoyi University of Technology showed no interest in the whole process and most of them could be seen going out of the campus or concentrating on personal businesses.

Less than 50 people had voted by 11.30am.

In Banket at Kuwadzana Primary School about 900 people had voted by 2pm with 29 turned away. Voters who were interviewed said they did not have knowledge about what they were voting for and had been encouraged by their leaders to cast “Yes” votes.

The largest number of voters turned away was recorded in Mapinga at Siding Primary School-Zvimba East Constituency ward 20 where 130 people were turned away for being aliens and not having proper identification. 271 people had voted by 3 pm.

In Mashonaland Central, Guthrie Munyuki and Chengetai Zvauya report  that polling was peaceful.

At Stories Golden Trust Primary School — a mining compound in Mazowe — a presiding officer said the turnout was “encouraging”.

At Glendale Sports Club, in Mazowe South, three people were also turned away for being “aliens”.

At Tsungubvi Flee Market, 10 were turned away and at Chitubu 31 were turned away for similar reasons.

Despite a delay caused by rain, Chiunye Primary School recorded more than 500 people by midday.

At Mt Darwin Crèche 480 people had cast their votes by midday while at Mudzengerere Polling Station more than 560 people cast their votes within the first hour of polling.

Pindai Dube reports a low turnout characterised voting in Nyamandlovu and Lupane in Matabeleland North province.

At Lupane Primary School, few people were seen queuing to cast their votes in the morning while at Cross Dete Polling Station about 300 villagers had cast their votes in the morning.

Mvelasi Mnguni a resident of Lupane said: “How can I vote when I have not seen the draft constitution. I just heard it is a booklet but I do not know about it.”

In both Nyamandlovu and Lupane, most voters were the elderly with youths being seen at bottle stores and football grounds.

In Harare Helen Kadirire  reports that aliens and underage teenagers were the majority of people turned away from polling stations.

 “We had to turn away some people who had inappropriate identification like medical aid cards and work identity cards because we do not recognise them with the processes and procedures of voting,” said an official in Glen Norah suburb.

One young man who had a seriously damaged ID pleaded to have his finger dipped in ink after he was denied access to vote. The young man who looked mortified by not being allowed to vote indicated that he would be in trouble with political activists if his finger did not indicate he had voted.

In the second city of Bulawayo, Jeffrey Muvundusi and Nyasha Chingono report that voting dominated public discussion from early in the morning.

People quizzed each other about having cast their vote while the excitement of being first time voters was palpable to some of the city’s youth.

At 7am various polling stations were open with the turnout improving around 8am until towards the cut-off time 7pm.

Most polling stations had reported at least over 500 voters on average by 2pm.

Three hours before polling stations closed, the Large City Hall reported 1 100 ballots cast while another station located on the  smaller section of the same building registered just below 1 000 ballots casts.

Across the city at a polling station adjacent to a supermarket, 1 169 voters had cast their ballots.

Save for incidents when some Zanu PF youths in Bulawayo defied electoral regulations prohibiting the wearing of distinctive party regalia by going into the polling station at Bulawayo City Hall dressed in party colours, voting went ahead without reports of politically motivated violence.

There was apparent voter apathy among youths and women in Bulawayo central business district  as youths  roamed around town, showing no interest in the voting process and exhibiting ignorance as of whether such a process was in motion or not.

However, western suburbs like Njube, Mzilikazi and Entumbane among others had a reasonably high turnout.

There was also a high turnout of the white community in Hillside. - Staff Writers

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