MILLIONS of Zimbabweans trooped to the polls from as early as 3am yesterday to cast their votes in an historic election that observers and candidates said was held in the best atmosphere since the country’s independence from British rule 38 years ago.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
As voting ended yesterday, the agonising wait for results began with returns from the elections expected to start trickling in today.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba told journalists that early indications were of a high voter turnout and smooth flow of the process.
“As of 8am 90% out of the 10 985 polling stations were open. The voter turnout is high. We are confident that by 7pm today (yesterday) we would have completed the voting process since these harmonised elections are polling station specific.
“The maximum threshold per polling station as you would know is 1 000 voters and we are finding that this has made the polling process convenient to both voters and polling officers,” Chigumba said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who cast his vote in Kwekwe along with First Lady Auxilia, said he was confident the peace prevailing would continue.
“Voting today (yesterday) is peaceful, I have no doubt that the whole process will remain peaceful,” Mnangagwa said.
Chamisa was, as usual, upbeat and lashed out at Zec.
“I have no doubt that by end of day today, we should be very clear as to an emphatic voice for change, an emphatic voice for the new, an emphatic voice for the young and I represent that young,” Chamisa said.
“They (Zec) don’t know the law, they will be taught the law. They are just perpetuating their bias. They are doing at the bidding of Mnangagwa who is panicking and scared of a Chamisa victory.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the peaceful environment belied the underhand manoeuvres underway. He, however, paid tribute to Mnangagwa for ensuring a peaceful environment.
“The pre-election environment and the voting day have so far been peaceful, thanks to Mnangagwa’s administration. Voter turnout was very high in Harare.
“However, the election is fundamentally and structurally flawed. It looks like a dress rehearsal. First constituency gerrymandering and last minute changes of polling stations in Harare disadvantaged the voters. Secondly, the BVR (biometric voter registration) hype was a sham as we voted based on manual voter lists,” Saungweme said.
“We were not identified as voters using biometrics, but physical identity cards. This is scandalous.”
Saungweme accused Mnangagwa and Chamisa of breaking the law with reckless abandon.
“Also there have been potential breaches of the electoral law by Chamisa and Mnangagwa as they campaigned 24 hours before voting. Chamisa issued a presser and Mnangagwa a video. These two behaved as if they are above the law and it’s in bad taste,” the academic said.
He predicted that Mnangagwa would win the poll by about 56%.
Harare lawyer and political analyst Sitembile Mpofu said Zec had done a splendid job by splitting polling stations into manageable sizes.
“The election has taken place in vintage Zimbabwean polling day style. Peacefully, with citizens queuing patiently to cast their votes. Compared to previous years, people in the urban areas have generally spent less time in the voting queues,” she said.
National Peace Trust executive director Trust Mamombe said the peace prevailing during the elections was unprecedented.
“Our political maturity as a nation will be largely judged on how we deal with the results. We, therefore, urge all Zimbabweans to accept the poll results whichever way they go.
“Our economic recovery programmes will be a function of how we handle and respect the will of the people. We, therefore, urge in particular the front runners of the presidential race to put Zimbabwe first,” Mamombe said.