BY BLESSED MHLANGA
INDEPENDENT elections watchdog, the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) has urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to step up voter education campaigns in view of the high number of voters who were turned away in the three council by-elections conducted over the weekend.
Zesn, which deployed observers in Chitungwiza, Matobo North and Beitbridge, said there was a significant number of voters who were turned away, raising the need for massive voter education ahead of each election cycle.
“Zesn noted a significant number of turned away voters at polling stations for various reasons, including turning up at the wrong polling stations, not being registered to vote in the ward and having improper identification,” the Zesn report read.
In Chitungwiza, which was won by the MDC Alliance’s Yotam Chagwada, who polled 1 059 against Zanu PF’s Mercy Guvamombe’s 993, a total of 54 voters turned up at wrong polling stations.
“Voters, who turned up at wrong polling stations, were redirected to their appropriate stations. For instance, in Chitungwiza at St Aidain’s AA polling station, 54 voters had been redirected to other polling stations, at Seke 3 BB 86 people had been redirected to other polling stations and five turned away,” the report read.
Zimbabwe moved its voting from ward-based voting to polling station voting meaning that voters can now only vote at a specific polling station where their name is on the voters‘ roll.
Without giving the overall figures, Zesn noted that the situation was similar in Matobo North ward 25, which was won by Zanu PF’s Sibonginkosi Dube, who polled 483 against MDC Alliance’s, Elkanah Sibanda, who polled 121 votes.
“There is need for continuous civic and voter education in between elections by Zec and civil society organisations in order to reduce numbers of turned away voters. Zec should devise mechanisms of clearly marking out polling stations to reduce the number of redirected voters,” Zesn said.
There were no incidences of violence in all three council by-elections, with Zesn saying that there were general claims of violence, save for one near explosive encounter in Chitungwiza.
“Zesn observed that the political environment on election day was largely calm. However, an incident was reported at Unit M Crèche in Chitungwiza where it was alleged that supporters of Zanu PF and MDC Alliance argued over suspicions of vote-buying close to the polling station. The situation was diffused by the riot police before any violent clashes transpired,” the statement read.