BY STAFF REPORTERS
ZANU PF held elections across the country to choose members of its provincial executives, but the polls were marred by chaos amid claims of rampant rigging and vote-buying.
Voting started much later than advertised at most polling stations as ballot papers were delivered late.
In some provinces, riot police had to be called in as tempers boiled over rigging fears.
In some parts of Harare and Mashonaland Central, voting had not begun by midday. Zanu PF had said voting would take place between 8am and 5pm.
Tensions were high in Harare as party supporters haggled over the validity of ballot papers for over two hours amid allegations of attempted rigging.
In Mashonaland Central, where Kazembe Kazembe is tipped to retain his post as chairperson, ballot papers were delivered late. At Blue Ridge voting centre, ballot papers were yet to be delivered by 5pm.
Zanu PF political commissar Mike Bimha on Monday promised a flawless election but chaos was the order of the day.
In Masvingo, indications were that Zanu PF Masvingo provincial chair Ezra Chadzamira would retain his position against his main challenger, Robson Mavhenyengwa.
Masvingo is among the areas where factional fights pitting supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and those of his deputy Constantino Chiwenga are playing out. Chadzimra is said to be fighting in Mnagwagwa’s corner while Mavhenyengwa is linked to the Chiwenga camp.
Several attempts were made to bar party members linked to Chadzamira from voting because of lack of national identification documents.
Concerns were raised by some members over delayed disbursement of ballot boxes and voting material. By 2pm, voting material was still being deployed for Masvingo urban.
In Bulawayo, voting also started late. When the NewsDay crew visited Davis Hall command centre at around 11:30am presiding officers were still taking the ballot boxes to various polling stations in the city.
The ruling party set up 61 polling stations for Bulawayo. Former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, former Mpopoma Pelandaba legislator Joseph Tshuma, Bulawayo war veterans chairman Cephas Ncube and incumbent Obert Msindo were contesting for the chairmanship of the province.
Bulawayo provincial elections overseer, Kenneth Musanhi told party members at Davis Hall that Zanu PF was seeking candidates that would lead the party to an election victory in 2023.
Zanu PF has been losing elections to the opposition in Bulawayo since the turn of the millennium.
In Midlands, there were reports at Chana Primary School that some aspiring candidates dished out maize meal and US$10 to voters ahead of polls. In Gweru, there were reports of vote-buying and bussing of supporters to polling stations.
In Mashonaland West, there were reports that election results would be delayed due to “logistical” problems.
“We are expecting results around 8pm because we had logistical challenges especially in reaching some areas. We will be expecting communication from the head office on when polling will be concluded,” Zanu PF secretary for security Lovemore Matuke told NewsDay.
Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, Kindness Paradza and Vengai Musengi are vying for the post of Mashonaland West provincial chairperson. The other candidate, Abia Mujeri withdrew his candidature last night. Mliswa-Chikoka was said to be headed for victory.
In Mashonaland Central, chairperson Kazembe looked set to retain his post. But in Muzarabani ballot boxes were allegedly stolen by one commissariat director identified as Mharadzano, who was spotted disembarking from Kazembe’s car.
Nzvimbo John Nhamburo, a central committee member who is alleged to be one of Kazembe’s lieutenants was allegedly spotted trying to steal a ballot box, prompting, politburo members to secure them at the Bindura command centre.
In Mutare, voters in several wards left polling stations before ballot papers had arrived after waiting in vain for several hours. Provincial elections overseer Martin Dinha pleaded with supporters at ward 12A poling station not to leave without voting. Riot police were called in at ward 11 polling station where some party members, who were not allowed to vote, threatened violence.
In Gwanda, there was reportedly less chaos at Zanu PF Matabeleland South provincial offices. But in Beitbridge, voting only started after midday. Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu was one of the candidates.