By Kylie Kiunguyu
Zimbabwe is holding its first election in almost four decades that does not have the former president, Robert Mugabe, on the ballot. A turn-out of 75 per cent was reported, with thousands of observers monitoring the process for the first time in 16 years
Zimbabwe is in the midst of what many hope will be the country’s first free and fair election since 94-year-old Robert Mugabe was ousted from power. The main contenders for the presidency are Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former deputy president who took over from Mugabe, and Nelson Chamisa, head of the MDC, the main opposition party.
As Zimbabweans turned out in droves to cast their votes, the candidates themselves also made it to the polls. BBC reported that crowds whistled and broke into chants of “Chamisa” when he cast his ballot on the outskirts of Harare. Chamisa told reporters, “We will win this election to the extent that it’s free and fair. It’s a done deal.”
In stark contrast, the current president, Mnangagwa, cast his vote at a quiet polling station at a school in the central city of Kwekwe.
5 635 706 people have re-registered on a new voters’ roll. The opposition still has doubts about its accuracy.
43,5% of registered voters are under 35.
10 985 polling stations are scattered across the country.
16 years have passed since EU and US observers were allowed to monitor an election.
Despite not being the man of the hour for the first time in decades, former President Mugabe could not help but stir the pot. He gave an impromptu news conference in which he snubbed former ally Mnangagwa, saying, “I can’t vote for Zanu-PF. I cannot vote for those who tormented me. I hope the voting choices made tomorrow will thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality.”
Former Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is monitoring the election on behalf of the US-based National Democratic Institute, told the BBC that Zimbabweans seemed enthusiastic about voting, judged by the overwhelming turnout. “I think this is an exciting moment for Zimbabweans to change the course of their country through their votes,” she said.
European Union chief observer Elmar Brok told the AFP that “There are shortcomings that we have to check. We don’t know yet whether it was a pattern or whether it was a question of bad organisation at certain polling stations. Overall (there was) a huge amount of voting — especially young people, mostly in a very good atmosphere, generally peaceful, which is positive.”
Not without theatrics
Freelance video journalist and radio producer Taurai Maduna captured Zimbabwe’s police band on the streets of Harare, entertaining people just before election day.