Chaos mars special voting countrywide

Special voting for about 90,000 government workers, who will be on duty during the elections on July 31st, has been marred by chaotic scenes after voting material failed to arrive in many areas.

The voting began on Sunday with some provinces in the South of the country only receiving their voting material after midday. Scores of police officers could be seen milling around the polling stations Monday still eager to exercise their right to cast their votes.

This is a major blow to hopes of a break with a history of rigged elections in a country that has only known one leader since independence in 1980.

MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti, who has been on a crusade to remind President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party that the country was not yet ready for elections, described the special vote as ‘the mother of all disasters.’

The special voters had trooped early to the 209 polling stations, eager for a ballot not tainted by fraud and intimidation, but hope soon turned to bitter disappointment.

The exercise had been seen as a litmus test ahead of the elections in 16 days’ time, as this was going to be the first time police officers and soldiers were going to cast their ballots away from their police camps and military barracks.

Confusion added to the frustration as most of the police officers were turned away because their names did not appear on the voters roll, despite strenuous efforts by their commanders to ensure they were able to register and vote.

In other areas, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) brought handwritten voters’ roll for the special vote, in direct contravention of the electoral act.

Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us it was clear it was gross incompetence by ZEC after the electoral body failed to account for the number of ballots printed for the special vote.

‘I think if ZEC must do something, it is better to delay it and do it well,’ said Muchemwa. He said ZEC deputy chair Joyce Kazembe blamed the delay on the failure of the suppliers to get materials dispatched on time.

‘They have been saying they are ready for the elections for the past few months and yet they can’t even get ballot papers printed on time. ZEC has created a national fiasco of monumental significance,’ Muchemwa added.

As of Sunday night ZEC said it has shipped out 1,724 ballot to Matebeleland North, 153 to Matebeleland South, 450 Mashonaland Central, 127 Manicaland, 569 Mashonaland East, 435 Mashonaland West, 1204 Midlands, 566 Harare, 864 Bulawayo and no ballots to Masvingo, though in some areas ballots arrived after 12 midday.

Lionel Saungweme said a lot of questions are being asked about the staffing of the police force after it emerged that less than 10,000 officers from the force will vote in the two days allocated to the special voting.

‘We know the police said they had close to 70,000 members to take part but it appears most of them did not even bother to fill in their applications and send them back to ZEC. It’s actually a big blow for the Commissioner –General who had thought that Mugabe would get votes from the inflated figures he supplied to ZEC,’ Saungweme said. – SW Radio Africa News

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