Poll went well, but will it bring vim back to Zim?
Some scattered complaints registered as MDC says it's sure it will win
Polling closed at 7pm in Zimbabwe on Monday, bringing to an end the country’s first election without former president Robert Mugabe standing as one of the candidates vying for the country’s top job.
In total on Monday, 23 presidential hopefuls stood for the top job.
Counting of the ballots cast for president, members of parliament and representatives in local government began immediately in line with the country’s Electoral Act.
At least 5.6 million people were registered to vote, according to the final tally provided by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The results of the much-awaited presidential election are expected on Saturday, August 4.Ordinary Zimbabweans are hopeful that the next crop of leaders, especially the next president, will deliver the economic relief that the country so desperately needs after years of ruin under Mugabe.
The country is burdened by $10.2-billion in external debt owed to multi-lateral financial institutions, and is further weighed down by a severe liquidity crisis.
“We are entering a new dispensation. This election will help us to get a new Zimbabwe. The person that is coming in must be able to fix the economy and the livelihoods of ordinary people,” said Tendai Pedro, 33, an administrator from the country’s second city, Bulawayo.
The electoral commission’s chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba, told a press briefing in Harare that she was pleased with the conduct of the poll. She said that 90% of polling stations had opened on time on Monday morning and there were 10,985 polling stations across the country to cater for the votes.The head of the EU observer mission to Harare, Elmar Brock, said the election was a mixed bag – “very smooth” in some cases, and “totally disorganised” in others.
Hundreds of people were turned away from voting for either not having their names on the voters roll, being at the wrong voting booth, or for not carrying all the required documentation.
Tendai Biti, the co-leader of the MDC Alliance, is understood to have been unable to cast his vote after his name was not on the voters’ roll. Biti did not answer his cellphone for comment on what legal recourse he had sought to allow him to cast his vote.
About 50 people were also turned away in Karoi’s ward 3, which falls under the Hurungwe Central constituency, over alleged double voter registration by the commission.Those turned away included the candidate for the MDC Alliance, Modester Manjinjiwa, and Ephnafia Chihoboya of the Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity.
Jessie Majome, an independent candidate for Harare West, said the voting process had gone well and there had been a huge turn-out in the constituency.
“I have been to various polling stations and all is in order. I have not received any news of intimidation or abuse from our polling agents. The only problem we experienced is a shift of the polling station from the open space which was gazetted to a nearby farm house. This slowed the process a bit but I am confident of victory,” she said.
The main political contestants cast their ballots in different parts of the country, almost all of them doing so in the morning.
The expected main challenger to Zanu-PF, Nelson Chamisa, who leads the MDC Alliance, said he was confident of victory. He cast his ballot in Kuwadzana early on Monday.“I know that we are winning. We have won this election,” said Chamisa.
His supporters responded: “We are already celebrating. We are ready for this new democracy.”
In Gwabalanda, a high-density township in Bulawayo, voters drank and discussed politics without incident.
“I voted for Chamisa, but I assure you if Zapu had a candidate, my vote was going to go there. Not because that the party would win but I would give it energy to build for the next election,” said Farai Shamuyarira, referring to the Zimbabwe African People’s Union.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa cast his vote in Kwekwe and wished all voters well and urged for peace to be maintained.
His predecessor, Mugabe, who on election eve said he would not vote for his tormentors, voted at Mhofu primary school in Highfiield. The 94-year-old was accompanied by his wife, Grace, and daughter, Bona.While there was no violence or intimidation, the MDC’s David Coltart said he suspected that the voting process was deliberately being delayed in urban areas, while speeded up in the rural areas — traditionally Zanu PF strongholds.
“The queues are not going this slow in rural areas as that’s Zanu-PF strongholds,” Coltart said.
The slow pace of the queues was something that was also observed by Elton Mangoma, president of the Coalition of Democrats. But he said he was nonetheless hopeful that the election would announce that Zanu-PF’s time was up.“Zanu-PF removed Mugabe from power, now the people will remove Zanu PF from power,” Mangoma said.
In Masvingo, Maxwell Mukuwe, a sculptor outside the Great Zimbabwe Hotel, said he had taken turns with his workmates so that he could also go and cast his vote.
With a largely informal economy, most Zimbabweans cannot afford to have a day without conducting trade — as their families depend on this as their source of livelihood.
Vendors and other informal traders have said they are fearful that the next government, if it is Zanu PF, would crackdown on their livelihood.
The first batch of results are expected to be displayed outside polling stations by mid-morning on Tuesday.