MDC-T: Major poll hitches

2013-08-01 00:00

OPPOSITION claims of election rigging in favour of Zanu-PF have marred what was described by observers as a largely peaceful election in Zimbabwe yesterday.

A high turn-out was also reported although final figures were not available at the time of going to press.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said last night it believed the elections were free and fair. Long queues were reported in most of the country’s 10 provinces, but the commission said the polls would remain open until everyone in a queue by the close of polling stations at 7 pm had voted, “even if it takes until midnight”.

Head of the African Union elections observer team, former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo, said the elections had been free and fair according to his team’s provisional observations. He spoke last night shortly after the polls closed.

“From what I saw and from what has been reported so far from our observers who worked out in the field, the conduct of the elections everywhere they went had been peaceful, orderly, free and fair. My hope is that this would be what the report would be from all polling stations throughout the country.”

Election results for constituencies were to be announced as soon as counting was done for each constituency, which could have been overnight, while presidential results are set to be announced in Harare by Monday.

Five hours before the 7 pm close of polling booths last night, Finance Minister and MDC-T secretary Tendai Biti repeated his party’s claims that there had been major irregularities in the run-up to the elections and also on election day.

He said in some places MDC-T supporters were turned away from polling stations where others were allowed to vote, while in an MDC-T stronghold he claimed there was a deliberate go-slow to prevent people from voting in time.

Further, many people returned to the place they voted in the 2008 elections, only to find they were now registered in other wards.

It was impossible for them to check beforehand because the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had not made the voters’ roll available, Biti said.

Asked about the MDC-T’s claims of voters being turned away, Obasanjo said there were clear reasons for this but he was due to meet the organisers again today before making his final findings.

Despite earlier concerns by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that the ZEC would not have the logistics in place in time for yesterday’s elections, only a few areas reported a shortage of ballot papers.

President Robert Mugabe voted around noon in Highfield, the township where he lived before becoming president.

Mugabe (89) arrived at the school that served as a polling station, not in his official black Mercedes Benz limousine but in a Range Rover Vogue, with wife Grace and fellow Zanu-PF leaders. He was escorted by soldiers and police officers. Scores of residents danced and sang at the gate to greet his convoy.

Mugabe repeated his assertion of previous days that the elections would be free and fair. “I’m sure people will vote freely and fairly.”

Casting his ballot in Harare, Tsvangirai said it was an “emotional moment”.

“After all the conflict, the stalemates, the suspicion, the hostility, I think there is a sense of calmness that finally Zimbabwe will be able to move on again,” he said.

Voters in Harare braved chilly and partly overcast conditions and started queuing as early as 5.30 am.

Near Mount Darwin, a rural area about 160 km north-east of Harare, a 45-year-old woman said she wanted the power-sharing government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai to come to an end.

“Ever since the power-sharing government, development has slowed down.

“If Mugabe is in power again, it will be smoother,” she said, adding that Tsvangirai has spent a lot of money on courting women.

Tsvangirai’s chaotic love life has been in the news and Mugabe has used this to campaign against him.

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