HARARE – The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) visited a selection of polling stations in Banket, Chegutu, Chinhoyi, Karoi, Marondera and Magunje to observe the special voting process on July 14 and 15.
The visits aimed at assessing the state of preparedness of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the capacity, effectiveness and efficiency of the electoral management body as well as the conduciveness of the political environment for free and fair elections.
Phillip Pasirayi, CCDZ director said the findings of this observation are aimed at informing the State authorities and subsidiary duty bearers and other stakeholders on the country’s readiness for credible elections.
Pasirayi said despite high voter turnout in all observed centres, the special voting process which was meant to begin on July 14 country wide failed to begin at most designated polling stations due to various reasons which include but are not limited to logistical challenges such as shortage of ballot boxes, shortage of stationery and Zec’s failure to timeously deliver the Special Voting Certificates required for the voting process.
“Day two of the Special Voting process was similarly characterised by chaos, disorder and confusion which surrounded the whole voting process. While in some areas, some voters voted; in other areas such as Chinhoyi and Marondera, most uniformed forces and civil servants failed to vote because of they were either turned away because their names or voting certificates were not located or that they were simply fed up because of the long queues and slow pace at which they were being served,” he said.
In Banket and Chinhoyi a number of police officers and civil servants were observed loitering outside the Cooksey Hall polling station as late as 16:00 hrs.
CCDZ interviews revealed that only 192 officers cast their vote on day one of the Special Vote at Cooksey Hall polling station in Chinhoyi. On Day two voting at the Cooksey Hall in Chinhoyi voting began as late as 8:15pm and continued late into the night and early hours of morning instead of the stipulated starting time of 7:00am and ending time of 7:00pm.
CCDZ was informed that only 74 officers managed to vote on day two; and that although voting continued late into the night many people failed to vote because their envelopes had not arrived at the polling station.
The challenges faced by Zec officials included the shortage of sensitive voting materials such as indelible ink, Zec stamps, approved voters’ lists, ballot papers and ballot boxes.
By 4:49pm at Dudley School in Norton, only 31 of the 271 voters present had been served.
The situation was even worse at Suri Suri Base in Chegutu where the polling agents were observed sleeping because there was no activity at all.
The Presiding Officer explained that the soldiers had come in their numbers but unfortunately Zec did not supply the material in order for the voting process to take place.
At Hartley 1 Primary School polling station in Chegutu, CCDZ was informed that this polling station had received 225 ballot papers only at the time of the observation; and it was unclear whether additional ballot papers would be availed on time.
There were chaotic scenes at the Farmers Market in Marondera and due to frustration most police and prison officers on the queue were seen pushing and shoving.
Senior police officers tried in vain to stop the rowdy officers.
“The chaos that prevailed during the special voting process serves as a telling and worrying indicator that could repeat itself on July 31. These observations cast serious doubt on Zec’s capacity and preparedness to deliver a credible harmonised election targeting three million plus voters over a single day, given Zec’s failure to ensure that 90 000 voters cast their votes during a two day voting period,” said Pasirayi.
He added: “We reiterate our calls that Zec is not prepared for the elections. We implore Cabinet to convene an urgent meeting and try to find common ground to salvage what is left of the 2013 harmonised elections. There is urgent need for government to avail funds to Zec and strengthen the electoral management body and build technical capacity of this institution to preserve the country’s democratic processes.”