Zimbabwe is expected to go to the polls later this year although Zanu PF leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa was yet to proclaim the election dates.
Mnangagwa’s governing party had hoped to use the primary elections as a dry run for this year’s do-or-die polls.
Reports from across the country suggested that the party’s commissariat department headed by national commissar Engelbert Rugeje (pictured) and his team were ill-prepared for the internal polls, which he blamed on a “temporary delay in the printing of ballot papers”.
Rugeje confirmed that the Zanu PF primary elections in some areas had been rolled over to today because of the late delivery of ballot papers in some parts of the country.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the chaos in Zanu PF casts a “dark shadow” over the general elections proper.
“Given the party-State conflation and the fact that the government machinery normally runs Zanu PF activities, this bodes ill for the elections proper. The opposition must prepare for a chaotic poll that will benefit Zanu PF,” Ruhanya said.
“This tells us that there are divisions within the party and there is disintegration of the party machinery. There is internal dis-cohesion as well as no agreement on who should win or lose within the apparatus of the State.”
But University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure offered a different view.
“I am not surprised given the chaotic preparations of the past few weeks. Normally, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is able to deliver a seamless election day as long as there is political will – the administrative machinery and capacity is there. I would de-couple the two, the primary elections are different from the general election and this shows the military machinery which run the ruling party’s elections was not oiled enough for this job,” Masunungure said.
NewsDay reporters who covered the elections from various parts of the country noted an almost similar pattern of irregularities which also included intimidation of voters and candidates, bussing of supporters and large numbers of potential voters turned away for not being on the voters’ roll.
In Harare, Richard Chidza heard that the party’s voters’ roll for Kuwadzana East constituency could not be located, while in other constituencies such as Glen Norah, the process was too slow.
“It’s painfully slow, they initially could not find my name but later I managed to vote. If you want to vote it could take you up to five hours,” a Zanu PF activist at Glen Norah Hall in the constituency, said.
In Harare South, one of the candidates Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya, accused the Zanu PF election directorate of imposing Mnangagwa’s nephew, Tongai to challenge him.
“This guy was rejected at district level, he was rejected by the province and the politburo, but suddenly two days before the elections he appears from nowhere as a candidate. The most disturbing thing is that he is very violent and his supporters are beating up innocent people,” Mahiya said. Another candidate in the constituency Tonderai Nkomo said only 2 000 ballot papers had been delivered.
“We have been advised that only 2 000 ballots have been delivered, but we are expecting more at least by 5 O’clock,” Nkomo said.
ZNLWVA secretary-general Victor Matemadanda told NewsDay from Gokwe Central that ballot papers only arrived in the Midlands town after midday.
War veterans secretary for education Wilbert Sadomba who wants to represent Zanu PF in Mutasa North, Manicaland again painted a gloomy picture.
“There is nothing happening, we have no ballots and the situation is degenerating into chaos. People are hungry and this is a breeding ground for electoral fraud.
Candidates now have to buy the electorate food,” Sadomba said. “I am thinking of walking away.”
In Chitungwiza, according to NewsDay reporter Desmond Chingarande, ballot papers had not been received by 4pm, forcing some potential voters to go back home without exercising their voting rights.
In Mashonaland Central, Everson Mushava and Blessed Mahlanga reported that the delay in the delivery of ballot papers forced the party to postpone the internal polls to today.
Zanu PF commissariat member and team leader in Mashonaland Central, Ethaton Shungu confirmed the move.
“Voting has started and will continue tomorrow. Everything is going on smoothly and will be concluded by end of day Monday (today),” Shungu told NewsDay.
Provincial chairman Kazembe Kazembe also told NewsDay that technical issues had affected the primary elections.
Mazowe West candidate Tafadzwa Musarara claimed his truckload of mealie-meal was intercepted by his rivals and the vehicle had its tyres deflated.
Musarara was cryptically delivering food aid to the constituency on voting day, leading to the alleged skirmishes.
“We have lost products worth $25 000, this is political violence, you can’t have candidates attacking each other and looting goods meant for the poor. The police must act,” Musarara said.
Violence also reportedly broke out in Kwekwe Central after the Zanu PF cell register went “missing”.
From Masvingo, our correspondent Tatenda Chitagu reported that ballot papers ran out at some polling stations as the chaos and confusion continued unabated.
Voting started at 8am in most wards in Masvingo Urban, serve for Runyararo West where the process was delayed by three hours. In Gutu South, there were incidences of violence at Francis Aphiri Primary School. At Jerera Growth Point in Zaka Central, sitting MP Paradzai Chakona told NewsDay: “Some people have been frustrated by the delays and have left.”
At Gwerima shopping centre in Chiredzi South hordes of party supporters had been turned away. From Bikita to Chivi the situation was the same.
Our reporter Jairos Saunyama in Mashonaland East noted that ballot papers only arrived at most polling stations at around 1pm in Seke constituency under police escort as well as candidates who included Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s mother-in-law Helga Mubaiwa. NewsDay gathered that cars belonging to one candidate Spiwe Mukunyaidze were used to transport ballot papers in Marondera West, leading to a revolt with party supporters refusing to cast ballots. Mukunyaidze is contesting against businessman Foster Gwanzura.
From the Midlands, our correspondent Stephen Chadenga also gathered that disgruntled candidates protested over the delays and alleged stuffing of the party’s voters’ register with names of university students who were being allowed to vote.
“In Zvishavane-Ngezi, students from the Midlands State University were added to the list although they are not from that constituency,” one aspiring candidate who refused to be named, said.
“Given such anomalies it’s difficult to say the results in the constituency (Zvishavane-Ngezi) reflects the true will of the people.”
In Mashonaland West, Nhau Mangirazi and Nunurai Jena heard that ballots meant for Karoi’s Chikangwe wards turned up in Kariba while in Chinhoyi Zanu PF activists besieged the provincial offices demanding to know why the names of some candidates were missing from the ballot papers. In Mhondoro-Ngezi, violence broke out after former MP Bright Matonga went missing on the ballot papers, resulting in postponement of the polls.
Our correspondent in Matabeleland South noted that material for local authority candidates were “forgotten” in Bulawayo altogether.
Provincial chairperson Rabelani Choeni’s name was missing from the ballot papers along with other aspiring candidates resulting in scores of disgruntled Zanu PF supporters leaving urban polling stations without voting.
Scores of ruling party supporters boycotted protesting the absence of their desired candidates on the ballot papers, marring the polls. The candidates’ missing names were later inserted in writing using a pen by the polling officers to enable them to contest against retired soldier Catherine Banhu and incumbent Tambudzani Mohadi for the Beitbridge senate seat.
“These were the worst primary elections ever since. There is plain cheating and we might not be with them for long,” a disgruntled voter said.
In other areas, voting had not started at 6pm with signs it could spill to today.
In Gwanda Central and East, our reporter Nqobani Ndlovu heard that several Zanu PF supporters were turned away at the position stations as their names could not be found or had been transferred to other wards.
Gwanda East district chairperson Johane Ncube said he could not understand why scores of registered party members were not captured in the cell registers.
“We did the cell verification process but what is happening now is that some names are either not on the voters roll or has been transferred to other areas. For example, we find a name that is supposed to be in ward 9 appearing in ward 2, effectively resulting in people not voting. This resulted in this chaos,” Ncube said, adding they were waiting for a directive from Zanu PF’s commissariat department in Harare on how to handle the situation.
Primary elections in Matabeleland North, according to our correspondent Nokuthaba Dlamini were postponed without a ballot being cast.
Team leader Retired Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena confirmed the development, blaming late delivery of resources.
“Yes, I can confirm and we will resume after Umguza and Bubi. I will be in Victoria Falls tomorrow (today) because of the management of the area. You know the geographical set up of Matabeleland North, so we could not do every district at once to manage that elections are held well and everybody is satisfied,” Muchena said.