The general election in Zimbabwe, which took place on Wednesday, was marred by delays and issues with the distribution of voting materials. As a result, voting has been extended until Thursday morning in some areas, including the capital Harare.
This delay has raised concerns about the credibility and fairness of the election process.
Zimbabweans flocked to the polls on Wednesday, marking the second election since the 2017 coup that removed long-time President Robert Mugabe from power. Incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is seeking his second term, is facing off against main opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party, along with several other opposition candidates. The outcome of this election is of critical importance, as it will determine the direction of the country for the foreseeable future.
While the election is not without its flaws and controversies, the lack of voting materials has been a major source of concern. Many polling stations in Harare experienced delays due to shortages of indelible ink and council ballot papers. This has led to accusations that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is favoring the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), and undermining the integrity of the election.
The election results will not only determine the country’s next president but also the composition of the 350-seat parliament and more than 1,900 local council positions. The outcome of these races is crucial for the future of Zimbabwe and its people. Therefore, any issues with the voting process can have serious implications for the country’s stability and democratic progress.
Citizens have expressed their frustration and disappointment over the delays and lack of transparency in the election process. Nelson Chamisa, after casting his own ballot, addressed the media and accused the ZEC of bias in favor of the ruling party. He referred to the election as a sham and called for fair and transparent procedures to be followed.
As the voting process extends into Thursday, it is imperative that the ZEC takes prompt action to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights. Transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of a successful election, and it is crucial that the electoral authorities uphold these principles.
According to Mr. Chamisa, the leader of the opposition party, ZEC’s performance in the election has been disappointing. Despite a significant turnout of voters, he argues that their efforts have been mainly focused on urban areas. However, he remains confident in his party’s victory as they enjoy widespread support both in cities and rural regions.
Furthermore, Mr. Chamisa claims that by 4 pm, many polling stations in Harare had not yet received the necessary voting materials for local authorities. As an example, he pointed out that voting at Westlea Primary School commenced at 4:20 pm instead of the constitutionally mandated time of 7 am.
Ndoro Masimba, a presiding officer at the polling station, admitted the problems and apologised to the voters who were waiting to vote.
“We apologise for the delay in beginning the voting process. To compensate for the time lost while you waited, we will begin now at 4:20pm and end the following morning at 4:20 am,” Masimba said.
Voters continue to queue at the polling station, with the majority vowing to vote at all costs.
In a press statement, ZEC admitted the delays that rocked the voting processes in several polling stations in towns and cities.
“Regrettably, the delays in the distribution of the voting materials are a result of legal contestations that have occurred throughout the province (Harare).
However, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission assures the public that every effort is being made to swiftly resolve these challenges and expedite the distribution process,” ZEC said.
But analysts said that, as in previous Zimbabwean elections, ZANU-PF, which has been in power for 43 years, had been using state institutions to ensure it would stay in power.
“The electoral playing field is heavily skewed in favor of the ruling party,” said privat e firm Africa Risk Consulting.
In townships like Kuwadzana, Glen View, Dzivarasekwa, and Budiriro, long and winding queues of patient voters were seen, with officials making sure that the voting material was going to be delivered.
“I was looking forward to this day,” she said. “I hope my vote will count.”