International observers hail peaceful polls

HARARE - As the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) began counting and releasing results for the  National Assembly from Monday’s historic national harmonised elections, our teams in the provinces were reporting how observers and civic society groups were praising the peaceful environment which characterised the just-ended polls.

This came as the MDC Alliance threatened to announce the results of the crucial elections — ahead of Zec which yesterday warned that it would be violation of the law –as it was the only body mandated to release the results.

Vote counting had been completed and Zec was announcing the results as they came in, the national elections management body said.

The landmark elections attracted a huge national turnout as Zimbabweans voted on Monday in first elections, since the country’s gaining of independence from Britain in 1980, which did not feature ousted former president Robert Mugabe.

They also for the first time in almost two decades did not feature the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai who lost his valiant battle with cancer of the colon on Valentine’s Day this year.

In Bulawayo, international and local observers commended Zimbabweans for holding peaceful and “transparent” elections.

Yanina Shkurapat, an observer from Belarus African Observer Mission said the election was 100 percent transparent and they didn’t note any irregularities with the voting process.

“The Zimbabwe 2018 harmonised election was unexpectedly organised and transparent, people were getting instructions on how to vote and the poling officers were very kind and patient.

“The ballot boxes were clearly indicated and transparent so it made it easy for us to observe what the voters were putting in the ballot boxes.

“We noted that the number of party agents in most polling stations exceeded 15, which is an indication that they were apprehensive of votes being tempered with. With this kind of environment however, I do not think there is any room for rigging,” said Shkurapat.

Erness Mchunu of the African Observer Mission said they were pleased with the high voter turnout.

“Everything is flowing smoothly, communities are happy, there is no voter intimidation, no tempering with votes and we are convinced that nothing will go wrong.

“As the International community we are proud of Zimbabweans, this is how elections should be done world-wide,” he said.

Chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust, Dumisani Nkomo, gave Zec “rare” praise by singling out the national elections management for being “professional and holding  a “transparent” process.

“Zimbabweans must be congratulated for their political maturity and tolerance in the polls. There were many challenges including institutional issues around Zec. But to its credit during the polls most Zec personnel were professional,” Nkomo said.

At Lupane Business Centre, business was returning to normal after Monday’s voting.

Matabeleland North provincial election officer (PEO) Mark Ndlovu told the Daily News that voting has largely remained peaceful in the province save for one incident in Hwange where a yet to be identified voter was arrested for disturbing the voting process.

“I have received an update from the Dispol indicating that someone has been arrested for trying to prevent others from voting. But generally the atmosphere has been peaceful,” Ndlovu said

In Shurugwi the small mining town was a hive of activity.

In Manicaland, there was an unusually high number of assisted voters.

In Mashonaland Central province counting was underway as our news crew wound up its reportage.

In Chikomba, Mashonaland East, counting was also underway at the central polling stations.

Deputy Constituency election officer Monica Mutsimba said they were compiling the final number of voters.

The majority of polling stations recorded more than 50 percent voter turnout.

Meanwhile, the MDC Alliance yesterday threatened to announce the election results ahead of Zec which, according to the law, should complete releasing the results at the end of five days.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti claimed they would be within the confines of the law by announcing the result although he said going to court was another way of forcing Zec to announce the results.

Biti held the press conference moments before Zec was due to start announcing the results.

“The fear is that people are going to be disgruntled to the point where they go onto the streets and then there is a worry what the response will be from the security forces in the country.

“Our peaceful environment before and during the voting process might be marred by violence after the announcement of the results.” said Andrew Makoni, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) which deployed 6 500 monitors during the vote.

Police deployed water cannons in the wake of Biti’s threats although they did not interfere with the free movement of ordinary people.

Outside the MDC headquarters, jubilant opposition supporters gathered to celebrate what they claimed was victory for their candidate, Nelson Chamisa, who had earlier posted on social media that he had swept the board.

Chamisa’s rival, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was equally upbeat.

“The information from our reps on the ground is extremely positive! Waiting patiently for official results as per the constitution,” said the Zanu PF leader.

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