ZEC concerned at assisted voting

The body running Zimbabwe’s general election said turnout on Wednesday has been high across the country but expressed concerns that people voting in rural areas and strongholds of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF were being “assisted” in filling out and casting their ballots.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission aofficials said that queues were getting longer in some areas as the day progressed, feeding into widespread concerns that ZANU-PF aims to delay the process and keep voting low.

Rather than violence, the tactics of choice for this election appear to have been intimidation and obfuscation. Civic society groups have raised concerns about interference from ZANU-PF activists as well as bogus polling booths after the discovery of one in rural Matabeleland earlier Wednesday.

“We have noted that in some areas there is quite a high number of assisted voters, we really are trying to find out what are the reasons for the assisted voters,” Joice Kazembe, ZEC deputy chairperson, told a press conference in Harare.

In some rural areas, including diamond-rich Manicaland, ZANU-PF activists have reportedly intimidated voters, telling them they must allow party activists to complete their ballots or risk violence and other consequences.

Civic society groups have raised concerns about the practice, clearly aimed at forcing people to vote for candidates they may not otherwise wish to support.

The head of civic society umbrella group Situation Room told FFZE that a fake polling booth manned by a solo ZANU-PF activist had been discovered in Gwera and had led to an investigation of how widespread they might be.

The head of the ZEC, Justice Rita Makarau, said that voter turnout had been high across the country.

“We have received reports that some queues are actually lengthening as voters turn out at polling stations, particularly in Caledonia in Harare South,” she said.

“Instructions have since gone out to all our provincial elections officers to ensure that notwithstanding the lengthening queues everyone should be served before 7pm.”

FFZE reporters said the long queues were mostly in high-density suburbs.

Ms Makarau said some people had reported being turned away from polling booths despite have the correct documentation.

She urged anyone who had been refused the right to vote and who possessed the correct registration forms to return to the polling booth and insist on their right.

“The commission wishes to advise all the affected persons to go back to the constituencies in which they are registered and vote at any of the polling stations that are in that constituency,” she said.

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