The contest for aspiring candidates seeking to represent Zanu-PF in the forthcoming harmonised elections will continue today after most voting centres opened late due to logistical bottlenecks, which the ruling party’s national elections commission (NEC) attributed to a breakdown experienced by the company that was printing the ballot papers.
Though voting went on smoothly in areas where material arrived on time, in others people that turned up for the internal polls went back home as voting was moved to today.
In an interview at Stodart Hall in Mbare yesterday, Zanu-PF’s NEC chairperson Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje (Retired) said an unanticipated breakdown at Jongwe Printers last Friday caused the glitch that spilled into yesterday’s primary elections.
He, however, hailed Zanu-PF supporters for voting peacefully.
Though tempers flared in some constituencies, the contests, which in some cases are pitting the revolutionary party’s bigwigs, were predominantly civil and violence-free.
“We had been assured by Jongwe Printers that they would be through with printing by Friday. They eventually had technical problems with their machines, which broke down, but they took long to inform us hoping that they would be fixed on time. The problems have since been dealt with,” said Lt-Gen Rugeje.
He said logistical challenges that plagued the preparations were expected given the high number of people who have expressed an interest to represent the party.
“This election attracted interest from a lot of people and these problems are expected. Some of the problems were related to people whose names could not be found in the register. This is why we urge people to go and verify and inspect the register to avoid these problems,” he said.
The NEC, he said, had sent out a 600-member team to verify the party’s Electoral College, hence, the party did not anticipate challenges with verification of cell members.
He said voting will continue today until every eligible member who intends to vote has done so.
Lt-Gen Rugeje confirmed the disqualification of Cdes James Makamba (Mount Darwin South) and Flora Boka (Gokwe Nembudziya).
In Harare West, voting started early in the morning at all polling stations. Cdes George Mashavave, Timothy Njekete , Lewis Chidzambwa, Tendai Zindoga and Akiva Makasa are vying for the seat.
Similarly, voting also began early in Warren Park, where former ENG executive Cde Gilbert Muponda is facing Cdes Mian Sohal, Regina Mudarikwa, Shingai Chitaka and Controla.
Conversely, in Kuwadzana voting materials arrived late and voting began late in the afternoon.
However, elections failed to kick-off in Harare South, where Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWA) spokesperson Cde Douglas Mahiya headlines a cast of 10 other aspiring candidates for the House of Assembly seat.
Voting in Mashonaland West province failed to start at 7am as scheduled and by late afternoon, voting had only begun at few polling stations, especially in urban and peri-urban constituencies.
At least 364 polling stations have been identified across the province where 120 candidates are vying for the 22 House of Assembly seats.
Ballot material arrived at the provincial party offices in Chinhoyi at around 9am and distribution followed thereafter to the seven administrative districts, starting with Kariba and Hurungwe.
Voters failed to cast their votes in five of the contested wards in Kariba Urban and the exercise was subsequently rolled over to today.
Some party members demonstrated at the party’s provincial offices against allegations of manipulation of cell structures by some candidates.
Furthermore, some candidates reportedly failed to find their names on the ballot paper.
For some constituencies close to the national party headquarters, the ballot paper was recalled and corrected ones were dispatched to the affected constituencies.
In Norton, where Politburo member Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa is facing Cde Lameck Mutendereki, tempers flared as the aspiring candidates debated on whether to proceed with the elections or not, as the voting material had arrived a few minutes before closing time.
Ambassador Mutsvangwa said the challenges needed to be resolved urgently.
“Things should not go on like this. We hope things can be sorted out. It’s too late to have election here, there are no lights. It’s already dark,” he said.
It is estimated that Norton has more than 30 000 people, with 15 polling stations in urban constituencies.
In Masvingo voting centres were swarmed by a sea of voters but a shortage of voting materials and missing names for aspiring candidates proved to be a damper to the voting process.
Zanu-PF Politburo member Cde Lovemore Matuke conceded that the voting exercise was fraught with hitches, particularly in Gutu district.
‘’Voting material only started being dispatched this morning(yesterday) and this meant that in some far-flung areas, people started voting very late and this means there might be need to extend the exercise to enable everyone to vote,’’ he said.
‘’We also had problems here in Gutu, where some names of aspiring councillors were missing from ballot papers, maybe because of typographical errors, but we tried to run around and rectify the problem for the exercise to continue.’’
Cde Matuke said the exercise had largely been peaceful with no incidence of violence.
There was also a mix up of ballot papers in Gutu district, as some of the ballot papers were for Bikita.
Turnout was very high at most polling stations across Masvingo, particularly in Masvingo North, Gutu South and Central and Mwenezi East.
Long queues had started forming outside polling centres by 7am.
At some polling stations such as Chingwizi in Mwenezi East, voting kicked-off late, with people complaining of having walked for close to 20km to the polling centre.
The situation was also the same at centres such as Musvovi in Masvingo South,Makwarivindi and Majada in Gutu South, where voting kicked-off late forcing some to go back home citing hunger.
In Mashonaland West voting failed to take place in Mt Darwin, Mbire and Guruve.
Provincial elections coordinator Brigadier-General Etherton Shungu (Retired) confirmed the late arrival of the ballot papers and the postponement of the elections.
“The elections were affected by the late arrival of ballot papers from Harare, but the reports we got showed that everything was going on well in most areas,” he said.
Cde Makamba, who has been reportedly disqualified was at the district command centre at Mt Darwin Government Complex.
“I can only comment after seeing the ballot paper to ascertain whether my name is there or not,” he said.
Mt Darwin South had a record 20 candidates, including Cde Makamba, who are vying for the seat.
Voting in Shamva North and South is expected to begin today.
The Zanu-PF Midlands provincial executive postponed the primary elections for Mberengwa East, West, South and North constituencies to today due to the delay in the distribution of ballot papers. According to Midlands provincial chairperson Engineer Daniel McKenzie Ncube, the party also resolved to postpone elections for Gokwe North and Gokwe South.
Similarly, in Zvishavane, voting was moved to today in some wards after voters protested against the delay in the delivery of the ballot papers which, in turn, slowed the voting exercise.
“We have resolved to postpone to tomorrow primaries in Mberengwa and Gokwe. This is because we encountered some logistical challenges in the distribution of the ballot papers. The exercise will start at 7am tomorrow. However, in some parts of the province, voting went on well and we did not have any reports of violence. Also the campaigns were peaceful, which shows that the candidates took heed of the President’s call for peaceful elections,” he said.
In Mashonaland East thousands of people had thronged polling stations in the morning when voting was expected to start but dispersed in the afternoon.
The Herald news crew visited Murehwa North and South, Goromonzi and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe where voting failed to take off. Ballots and other voting material arrived around 4pm.
Mashonaland East provincial chairperson Cde Biggie Matiza, however, said voting will begin today.
“Voting will commence tomorrow morning and end at 1pm in the province. We believe tomorrow we would have sorted voting material distribution,” he said.