The two-day special voting exercise by police officers, soldiers and civil servants who will be on duty during the July 31 election got off to a chaotic start in most parts of the country yesterday.
As late as 4pm the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had not delivered materials — from ballot boxes and the voters’ roll to ink — at several polling stations.
Voting at some polling stations started after lunch instead of 7am.
In Harare’s Mt Pleasant suburb, police officers waiting in a queue reportedly pushed each other as their impatience grew at the long delays.
A senior police officer had to be called in to calm down the uniformed officers.
Police could be seen at Bulawayo’s Large City Hall and other polling centres across the city queueing patiently to cast their votes.
At the Large City Hall voting had not started by 11am.
At Ntabazinduna Council Hall in Matabeleland North Province where voting reportedly started at 1pm hundreds of police officers formed two winding queues.
Six buses and three trucks were parked at the polling station
amid indications that most of the voters were recruits from the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Ntabazinduna training depot. But there were reports that voting had not started in many polling stations across the country by 6pm due to late delivery of materials.
ZEC deputy chairperson Joyce Kazembe told journalists that the commission was ill-prepared for the special vote.
“We admit we underestimated the process,” she said. “By next week all ballot papers for July 31 will be ready.”
Kazembe said voting had not started in at least one province by end of day yesterday and helicopters were used to reach inaccessible areas.
“Voting at most polling stations started at a slow pace at most centres. This was mainly due to the fact that we delayed dispatching ballot papers to the centres. I wish to advise that the printing of ballot papers delayed even beyond our expectation. This was due to a number of reasons chief of which was delay in finalising the designing of ballot papers in those wards and constituencies where nomination was under challenge.”
Kazembe said ballot papers had been dispatched as follows: Mat North 1724, Mat South 153, Midlands 1204, Harare 566, Bulawayo 864 while Masvingo was yet to receive ballot papers. Kazembe allayed fears that the vote would be rigged in favour of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.
“Ballot papers are being issued in closed envelopes from Harare to the voting centres and ballot boxes will be closed and locked at the end of the day,” she said.
There were reports of Zanu PF officials campaigning near a polling centre in Hwange.
Suspected members of the National Youth Service, infamously known as Green Bombers, on Saturday allegedly pulled down MDC-T posters near Tatazela Hall in Inyathi, which was being used as a polling station.
MDC-T deputy organising secretary Morgan Komichi claimed at two unnamed polling centres, there were people making their own ballot papers.
However, Kazembe said the ballot papers were difficult to forge since they had serial numbers.
Some police officers were reportedly turned away yesterday as their names did not appear on the voters’ roll.