via Voters heed by-election boycott call – NewsDay June 11, 2015
VOTER apathy and several alleged electoral irregularities characterised yesterday’s 16 by-elections held in various parts of the country.
The main opposition parties, including former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, boycotted the polls, citing an uneven electoral playing field in a move analysts say would open space for Zanu PF in opposition strongholds.
The elections were held amid reports of voter intimidation and an unusual large number of assisted voters at polling stations in Kwekwe, Mutare, Bulawayo, Headlands, Tsholotsho North and Hurungwe West.
Polling agents for some of the independent candidates interviewed by NewsDay claimed that they had been barred from entering the polling stations by the presiding officers.
Others claimed Zanu PF activists were seen taking down names of all voters before entering the polling station as a way of intimidating them to vote for ruling party candidates.
Some independent and opposition candidates in Kwekwe’s Mbizo constituency said voters were given “serial numbers” and ordered to queue in that sequence so that it would be easy to trace serial numbers and verify where each voter would have cast their votes.
Former Zanu PF strongman and now independent candidate Onisimo Zhavairo told NewsDay he was shocked by the levels of intimidation by Zanu PF candidate Vongaishe Mupereri’s campaign teams.
Civil society group Heal Zimbabwe claimed that at Nyadara business centre in Hurungwe West, some village heads grouped villagers and recorded their names before and after voting.
At Vambe polling station, village heads Temba Kachingamire and one Chawasarira rounded up and organised people in groups of seven to go and vote for the Zanu PF candidate, Keith Guzah.
The organisation added that police later intervened and dispersed Zanu PF youths who were allegedly frog-marching voters to the polling stations. Heal Zimbabwe also claimed that about 60 youths believed to be supporters of independent candidate Temba Mliswa were also turned away.
Some polling stations in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare registered less than 100 voters with Oriel Girls High School in Harare recording as low as five voters by 11am. However, the story was different at Chikurubi Support Unit camp where about 410 votes had been recorded by midday.
A voter at Support Unit, which is mainly made up of prison guards, police officers and soldiers, told NewsDay on condition of anonymity that they had been ordered by their superiors to go out and vote for Zanu PF Harare East candidate Terrence Mukupe.
Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere told NewsDay in Dzivaresekwa that his party was confident of reclaiming all contested seats.
“We now need to occupy our space and take back our seats in Harare, Bulawayo and other areas from pretenders,” Kasukuwere said.
“There were unnecessary diversions from other political parties, but the people have rejected them. The people are clear on what they want and are giving the thumbs-up to our policies and now we can freely work.”
But most potential voters in Bulawayo and Tsholotsho North yesterday stayed away from the by-elections, saying there was no genuine reason to vote since the polls would not improve their deteriorating livelihood.
Bulawayo provincial elections officer Innocent Ncube yesterday said as at 2:30pm in five constituencies, only 11 535 people had voted, 4 997 males and 6 538 females.
He said this was against the backdrop of 25 373 registered voters in Lobengula constituency, 28 211 registered voters in Luveve, 28 3228 registered voters in Makokoba, 14 828 registered voters in Pelandaba-Mpopoma and 26 448 registered voters in Pumula constituencies.
The figures place registered voters at over 100 000 and the percentage votes as at 2pm shows that only 11,5% registered voters had cast their ballots, exposing serious voter apathy.
“In the same period, 962 females and 876 males were turned away for going to the wrong wards,” Ncube said.
“The turnout has been very low throughout the day and we cannot tell why people are doing what they are doing. Maybe given the chance since there was no holiday for them to go
and vote that might be the reasons for apathy.”