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Low turnout mars referendum hype

Counting of the ballots for yesterday’s constitutional referendum began last night amid reports of a poor turnout as most people ignored the plebiscite, preferring to go about their normal business.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that results should be expected within five days.

Newly appointed ZEC chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau said counting at most centres started  at 7pm but could be delayed in areas where voting had started late.

She said there was a polling station in Caledonia that opened at 10.30am because a tent had not been pitched.

This centre was expected to remain open until 10.30pm last night.

“As the law says, polling stations should remain open for 12 hours, so we have directed that a generator be provided, as those who know Caledonia know that there is no electricity,” Makarau told a press conference yesterday evening.

She said voting had proceeded smoothly in most areas, although there were minor glitches.

The ZEC chairperson said they had experienced fuel shortages and communication breakdown in some parts of the country.

“Most polling stations opened on time with minor glitches,” she said. “All communication lines in Mashonaland Central are down due to heavy rains, while in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo ballots were delayed because of fuel shortages.”

Makarau said the stream of voters increased at mid-morning although she could not provide an indication of voting trends.

She said in Bulawayo, as of 10am, 22 427 people had voted, while 945 had been turned away.

However, turnout was poor in most parts of the country.

In Harare there was a poor turnout save for Mbare where there were long and winding queues as early as 6am.

The Standard crew established that most residents were voting in fear of victimisation. Residents who had voted could be seen queuing at areas such as Block 1, Nenyere flats and Matute business centres where Zanu PF youths would record their names on registers.

At David Livingstone primary school near the City Centre, hundreds of Police officers and recruits with shaven heads turned out in large numbers to vote.
The uniformed officers and civilians had different queues. 

At Haig park primary school in Mabelreign 572 people had voted by 3pm. 

A total of 21 were had been turned away for bringing drivers licence, expired passports and refusal to remove cutex from fingers.

In Mabvuku/Tafara there was voter apathy, with no queues at all. Several people were being turned away because they were aliens, mostly of Malawian origin and these were the larger number of voters.

At Chikurubi Support Unit there was a fairly long queue and the voting process moved at a slow pace there.

In Bulawayo, most polling stations continued to witness a low voter turnout throughout the day.  The situation was worse after lunch with polling stations were totally deserted.

Most polling centres registered an average of 200 voters, according to statistics from the polling agents.

Some police officers and referendum officials and agents could be seen dozing off.

Polling stations that registered a significant voter turnout were those close to police stations as cops turned out in their numbers to vote.

For example, more than 600 people had voted at Robert Tredgold Primary School which is a stone throw away from the police Ross Camp.

A number of residents were also turned away for not having the correct documents.  Residents who were turned away had drivers’ licences, torn paper birth certificates and I.D’s. Others were turned away on the basis they were aliens.

In Nyamandlovu, about 40 km away from the city centre, the situation was generally the same. In both Nyamandlovu and Bulawayo, most voters were the elderly with youths being seen at bottle stores and football grounds.

“What we want is an election because this referendum thing will not change anything,” said Themba Ndlovu from Mpopoma who was drinking beer at a bottle store.

In Matabeleland south, provincial elections officer Jotham Nyathi said over 50 000 people had voted by 5pm.  He was hopeful that by close of polling the figure could have swelled to 200 000. 

The polling station at Plumtree border post was however a hive of activity as Zimbabweans coming from Botswana were taking time to cast their vote.

There was low turnout at polling stations in Mutare urban and surrounding areas, with most people concentrating on their business. They said they were fed up with politics and wanted to focus on working for their families.

Some professed ignorance about the contents of the draft.

Manicaland elections officer Moffatt Masabeya confirmed there was a low turnout.  He said a number of people were turned away because they did not have the rightful documents or were aliens. In Mashonaland west the voter turnout was very low in most areas such as Norton, Chegutu, Kadoma and Muzvezve.

In Binga there was a low turnout with some polling stations recording less than 100 voters by midday. Polling stations such as Kamativi village 21 and Manzasiya looked virtually deserted as early as 8:30 am. Police and polling officers could be seen busy making tea for themselves.

Voter apathy characterized the referendum yesterday as few people thronged polling stations in Lupane, Hwange and Victoria falls.

The situation was calm with no major incidents reported.

In Hwange most of the polling stations also recorded a poor turnout as people were busy with their own businesses.

The situation was the same in Victoria Falls with most polling stations looking deserted.

In Midlands province voter turnout was low with most polling stations reporting figures below 100 mid- day in the densely populated suburbs such as Kwekwe’s  Mbizo and Amaveni.

Only Tasungana polling station had recorded a total of 115 votes by midday with seven having been turned away for various reasons mostly for bringing defaced Identity cards.

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