Huge poll turnout

HARARE - Voter turnout was high at most polling stations through out the country as Zimbabweans cast their votes in the first poll since 1980 not to feature ex-president Robert Mugabe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu PF voted at Sherwood in Kwekwe around mid-morning amid tight security.

Hordes of journalists were camped at the polling station to see the president casting his vote, accompanied by the First Lady, Auxilia.

MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa voted in the high density suburb of Kuwadzana, amid wild cheers from supporters who thronged the polling station to see the youthful presidential candidate making his poll preferences.

Mugabe, who on Sunday endorsed Chamisa, was an unlikely hero at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield, Harare.

Hordes of supporters called out his Gushungo totem as he made his way to his car in the company of his wife, Grace and daughter, Bona.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) deputy chairperson Emmanuel Magade told the Daily News yesterday afternoon:

“The turnout so far has been amazing. It has exceeded my most sanguine expectations. At this rate, our prediction is that we will have 70 percent turnout. I am being conservative and we are half way through.”

The European Union Election Observer Mission said the harmonised elections were a mixed bag as some polling stations were “totally disorganised” while others functioned “very smoothly.”

Chief observer Elmar Brok said that the group was yet to make a conclusion on how the election went.

Said Brok:

“In some cases, it (voting queues) works very smoothly but in others, we see that it is totally disorganised and that people become angry, people leave. We have not found out whether there is coincidence or bad organisation. Some people are saying that at some polling stations the delay is to frustrate some voters to go without voting.”

In Mashonaland West, Mugabe’s home province, rural constituencies registered very high turnouts.

In Mugabe’s Kutama Village, in Zvimba South constituency, long queues had begun forming by 03:00am with both Kutama High Day School and Mapfumo Village Tent, which are located near the the nonagenarian’s luxury home, recording higher turnouts.

The elderly featured heavily in Zvimba West and South where in some wards, people aged between 65 years old and 90 years, were among the voters.

Traditionally these are known Zanu PF strongholds but the profiles of the people who voted made interesting reading as the higher turnouts coincided with Mugabe’s own message against his former party and Mnangagwa who succeeded him last year in November on the back of a military intervention.

Yesterday, there was no telling which way the pendulum was likely to swing as in some parts of Mashonaland West Province such as Chegutu, Kadoma, Chinhoyi and Banket, recorded varying turnouts.

In Waverly, Kadoma, there was a huge turnout which contrasted with some wards in Rimuka and Muzvezve where at some polling stations there were long queues while others recorded short if no queues at all.

Some voters yesterday raised concerns over lighting in the polling booths and Zec pens which they said were different from the normally used indelible ink.

Officials said they were fool proof and contained indelible ink.

There were high cases of assisted voters in some wards due to various reasons and in one ward at Chikambi Primary School, by midday officials had assisted 47 people.

At Kutama High Day School which is next to Mugabe’s doorstep, the Daily News witnessed a huge turnout dominated by the elderly who included a woman born in 1932.

At least 700 people had already cast their ballots by lunch time, the polling station had by that time assisted 11 voters (partial blindness and illiteracy) while 12 had been sent away for having gone to the wrong polling station.

In Norton, by 2pm a total of 17 406 people had cast their votes at 70 polling stations in the constituency out of possible voting population of over 70 000. These consisted 8 692 males and 8 714 males.

A total of 381 had been turned away by 2pm and 103 had been assisted, according to statistics from the Norton command centre.

Constituency elections officer for Norton John Mahaso said voting had gone smoothly even though they had received some complaints particularly on poor lighting.

In Bulawayo, the 2018 Harmonised Election in Bulawayo was characterised by a high voter turnout, slow pace in serving and a generally calm and peaceful atmosphere with no notable cases of violence.

The Daily News crew visited five polling stations in Bulawayo Central  before 8am namely Bradfield shopping tent A and B, Eveline High school, Gifford High School, Pick and Pay tent and Old Bulawayo Polytechnic Central.

There were already long queues at these stations and presiding officers said that people were already at the polling stations by 6am

MDC’s Welshman Ncube said the voting process was smooth and went according to his expectations but was worried by the long queues.

“What is obviously worrying is that you have these long queues. One hopes that as the day progresses they will figure out how to expedite the process so that people do not spend an inordinate amount of time in the queue as you can see there are two polling stations in one. It shouldn’t take long to cast your vote,” Ncube said.

Senator David Coltart concurred with Ncube on the long queues.

“I have got two concerns today; one is that the queue is going at a snail’s pace. I have been here for an hour and my line has moved just 30 metres… it is going to be hard for everyone to cast their vote by end of today at this polling station,” he said.

In Mashonaland West, voting was characterised by long winding queues very early in the morning, even before polling stations opened.

The ballot casting started on a low note particularly in Marondera, Mashonaland East.

Unlike most places in the province, very few people braved the chilly morning with short queues common especially in the Marondera Central constituency when official voting started at 7am.

At Chitepo Secondary School in Rusike suburb whose polling stations were split into A and B there was combined number of 50 people queuing when official voting started.

There was better turnout at Dombotombo Hall.

By the time the Daily News crew reached RG Mugabe Primary School voter turnout had gradually increased at around 8am especially in areas such as Cherutombo and Nyameni.

The queues had a significant number of first time voters.

At Magaya Secondary School in ward 8 in the same constituency only a handful of voters were queuing to cast their votes with officials saying it was because not many people were registered to vote there.

Still in Mashonaland East, Uzumba – a traditional bedrock of Zanu PF support – hundreds of people, including a former MDC councillor were assisted to vote yesterday while truckloads ferried people to polling stations under the watchful eye of known Zanu PF officials.

MDC Alliance candidate Pearson Kazingizi raised concern at the high number of assisted voters especially in remote pockets of Uzumba, an area which until now was sealed from the media by Zanu PF activists.

The nervous presiding officer in ward 9 Kingston Chiwora refused to release information about the number of assisted voters after a long conversation with people he said were from the headquarters.

“We are not supposed to release information please contact the head office,” he said timidly.

A former councillor Bhuka Pfupa who won on the MDC ticket in 2013 was assisted to vote at Chipfunde primary School by a Zanu PF ward chairperson. Chipfunde refused to comment to the Daily News.

Most people who were assisted to vote were not accompanied by relatives but by known Zanu PF activists, the MDC Alliance candidate claimed.

At Mapfeka business centre village heads also assisted people to vote and took down names of all the people who came to vote.

According to Kazingizi the practice was spread across the remote area where people still have the scars of the 2008 violence.

“People were told that if you vote for the MDC Alliance there is going to be a run-off and you will suffer the consequences. I have never seen such intimidation and I made reports to the presiding officers. I have concerns they are a lot of people who are being intimidated. Even today people were campaigning close to polling stations. Village heads were asking people to vote using a certain pattern.

“At Katiyo I called the police because they was someone who was directing the people to stand in a particular order,” said Kazingizi.

However, Zanu PF candidate Simbaneuta Mudarikwa said the process was peaceful and dismissed allegations of voter manipulation.

“It was a peaceful process and may the winner take it. We are happy because our people were able to cast their votes in a peaceful environment. Some people could have been turned away but this was due to technical issues. On the whole it was a peaceful process,” said Mudarikwa.

As was the case in most parts of the country, long queues characterised voting in Masvingo yesterday as people woke up early to cast their votes.

During the morning the Masvingo Central Business District was not busy largely because vendors and touts had abandoned their business to go and vote.

Some of the polling stations visited by the Daily News had a number of assisted voters, an example being Gonye Primary School in Gutu South almost 30 people had been assisted by midday.

In Bikita East and In Gutu East the voting process fairly went well with most voters able to cast their votes.

Jerera Growth Point, the scene of one of the worst atrocities when several MDC supporters were petrol-bombed in a safe house in the June 2008 presidential run-off – voters queued from as early as 5am.

The polling stations attracted a very high turnout.

In Zvishavane-Ngezi constituency, voters complained about poor lighting system in polling booths, which created difficulties for them to identify their preferred candidates.

While the voting process started on time in most polling stations visited by the Daily News in Zvishavane-Ngezi and Mberengwa constituencies, poor lighting complaints marred what could have been a smooth process.

The voting process in most of the polling stations visited by the Daily News started at 7:am, even though voters had started trickling in as early as 3:30am. The elderly were given an opportunity to vote first.

In most of the polling stations in Zvishavane-Ngezi Constituency, the voting process started on a low note, as short queues of less than 30 people were witnessed.

At Kubatana Community Hall and District Administration offices, there was a low voter turnout when the voting process started, but the situation improved as the day progressed.

In Makoni Central, Patrick Chinamasa, who is seeking tenure as a parliamentarian, told the Daily News that the ruling party was poised for a stunning victory.

In Rusape’s high density suburb of Vhengere, most polling started on a slow pace.

Registered voters came in dribs and drabs.

Thirty voters asked to be assisted to vote at Nyahukwe Primary School in Rusape.

One was blind and 29 said “they had problems with their eyes but some shocked observers as they ended up helping themselves,” said presiding officer Beauty Nerwande.

Voting went on fairly well in Manicaland where candidates across the political divide were generally satisfied with the way the polling went.

MDC Alliance council candidate in Chipinge South Patrick Dhliwayo expressed concern that hundreds of Green Fuel employees were potentially  disenfranchised by the company’s decision to operate on polling day despite it being a holiday.

In Lupane East, most polling stations attracted fairly long queues which were mostly made up of the elderly.

Most voters in the area travelled long distances to make it to the polling stations with some coming in scotch-carts.

In Harare, another rigging scare was reported in Budiriro, where a voter alleged that she was given a pre-marked presidential ballot at Budiriro Open Space Polling Station.

The female voter reportedly alerted the authorities at the polling station who responded by giving her another ballot paper.

The presiding officer Ayan Kachepa confirmed the incident to the Daily News.

“Yes we had a case where a female voter claimed to have been given a pre-marked ballot paper. She said it was voted in favour of Thokozani Khupe.

“We did not immediately verify the ballot paper at that moment. We just took it aside and we shall verify it after we are done with the election process,” said Kachepa.

In Chitungwiza, reports are that thousands of voters made their way to the various polling stations across the five constituencies – Zengeza West, Zengeza East, St Mary’s, Chitungwiza South and Chitungwiza North.

At some polling stations, there were relatively small queues as voters went about their business without any hurdles.

But there were some instances at some polling station where voters had to wait for over an hour before casting their votes.

By 2pm, at least 227 females had cast their vote compared to the 221 at Seke 3 B High School polling station.

According to Zec, there were at least 652 registered voters at this polling station.

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