Enthusiastic voters in Matebeleland

Enthusiastic Voters in Matebeleland

BULAWAYO, (Zimbabwe) - VOTERS in Zimbabwe's second largest city braved nippy morning temperatures to head for the polling station scattered in various suburbs of the city and vote in landmark harmonised elections today (Saturday).

Scores of enthusiastic Bulawayo residents were at polling stations where winding queues averaging 200 to 300 people had formed two hours before polling started as voters feared being closed out when the 12-hour voting exercise ends at 7pm today.The key poll pitying President Mugabe’s Zanu PF – in power since independence from Britain 28 years ago, against a resurgent but divided opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Independents contesting under the auspices “Mavambo/New Beginning” led by former finance minister, Simba Makoni – has generated renewed enthusiasm from a population bedeviled by enduring economic hardships. Makoni turned his back on Zanu PF early last month to join the presidential fray.MDC (Tsvangirai) polling agents for the predominantly mixed race suburb of Barham Green were denied access into polling stations because the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) alleged that their names did not appear on their lists.In Lobengula West, a queue for people fetching water from a municipal borehole was longer than the one at the polling station. Some suburbs in Bulawayo have gone for a week without water, after council authorities grounded most of its fleet owing to non-delivery of fuel from the quasi-governmental National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM).”We will go to vote after securing water for household use. Otherwise our families will go hungry without water for cooking purposes,” housewife Emelda Sibanda said.”I cannot miss the opportunity to change this type of life where we fetch water from boreholes when we should have running water indoors,” Shylene Bachisi, another housewife said.At Woodville primary school a large number of voters started streaming in after 8am after being  turned away from Umguza polling station nearer their homes because the area was delimitated into a adjoining ward. Voters had to make last minute transport arrangements to a polling station about 5km away. Since Thursday, aspiring candidates for council, senatorial and parliamentary seats were busy putting last minute touches to campaigns that have been generally violence-free. The city commercial centre and some of the suburbs were awash with cars bedecked with posters while other campaigners mounted amplifiers and hailers on the vehicles bidding to woo undecided voters to their side.Supporters of various contesting parties and candidate clad in party regalia and T-shirts criss-crossed the streets parading large campaign posters.Reports from the Plumtree border town say residents were subjected to boisterous singing all night long from Zanu PF supporters who sang and toyi-toyied along the town’s unpaved streets drumming up support for their party.On the eve of the elections, voters in bus queues at the Egodini terminus that caters for commuters to high-density suburbs were openly expressing their political preferences with a running theme that “things had gone to far and change was necessary for a better future.””If things remain as the same after the vote, I will be the first to leave,” pledged Elifas Ncube (50) who was boarding a commuter omnibus to Lobengula West. “Who in his right senses would vote for a continuation of this suffering?” questioned a youthful commuter omnibus conductor. “Vote wisely and end these fare increases that you gripe about everyday.”At a polling station in Bulawayo’s oldest working class suburb of Makokoba the elderly trudged to the polling stations in the suburbs while the police who have promised to deal ruthlessly with any perpetrators or instigators of political violence before, during or after the elections kept a close watch. Enthusiastic voters for Matabeleland region.At most stations, voters retreated from the polling stations after Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri, Defence Forces Commander Valerio Sibanda, Central Intelligence Organisation Director Happyton Bonyongwe, Prison Chief, Paradzai Zimondi and Army Commander, Constatine Chiwenga alongside Airforce Commander, Perence Shiri warned voters on the eve of elections to go home and await the official announcements of poll results.In a joint statement, the security chiefs countermanded instructions by opposition leaders for their supporters to remain at the polling station and guard their votes against electoral fraud.An independent observer in Tsholotsho, Pastor Dube said the polling station at Thabisa witnessed confusion among voters most of whom appeared ignorant of how they were supposed to vote.”It takes an average of two minutes for a person to vote and the majority of voters in the queue here are female,” Pastor Dube said.Reports from rural Lupane East indicate that although polling stations opened on time, voter turnout was quite low with less than 50 people, mostly the elderly in the queues.

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