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Voting extended in Zimbabwe's 2023 general elections Picture Credit: Africa News


Voting delays didn’t ruin turnout: Zec



The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) says its shambolic handling of the 23 August general elections which caused massive delays in voting at some polling stations in Harare and Bulawayo had no impact on voter turnout.

In a 90-page document tabled before Parliament, Zec said there was not much of a difference in the number of people who voted on 23 August without delays and those who voted during extended polling on the 24th.

“Ordinary polling took place at 12 374 polling stations on the 23rd and 24th of August 2023, commencing at 0700 hours and ending at 1900hrs. Polling stations affected by delays in ballot paper delivery started and ended their voting at different times but were kept open for a continuous period of at least 12 hours in line with the provisions of section 53(1) of the Electoral Act. Statistical analysis of voter turnout did not show any significant differences between polling stations where voting was done on the 23rd and those where voting was done on the 24th August 2023,” reads the report.

Zec’s latest claims are coming after widespread condemnation of how it conducted the elections. The electoral commission was widely accused of suppressing voters in urban areas known to be opposition strongholds through the surprising unavailability of ballot papers.

In Harare’s Warren Park D suburb, a lot of people were turned away in the morning after the 23 August polls because they were not at the polling station by 8pm. Voting had commenced at 8pm.

The NewsHawks interviewed elderly people who had left the queue at around 5pm after spending the whole day waiting without answers as to when the voting would begin.

Zec says the unavailability of ballot paper was due to incessant court challenges, although not a single council candidate in the worst affected areas ever took the commission to court.
Ballot papers that were not available in time for voting were those of local government elections.

“The Commission faced challenges in the production and distribution of ballot papers. These challenges emanated largely from what has now come to be called ‘lawfare’ against the Commission. The Commission faced an unprecedented number of court challenges (more than 100 applications) arising from the outcome of the nomination courts. These court challenges derailed its preparations and roadmap as it sought to attend to the court challenges and to meet the proclaimed electoral timeline,” read the report.

Litigation by National Assembly and presidential candidates took place in Harare and Bulawayo.

Zec adds that Harare was worst affected because the commission prioritised the distribution of ballot papers to remote areas, given the little time available to distribute the ballots ahead of the 23 August polls.

Zec also revealed that there were mistakes on some ballot paper in Bulawayo, hence they had to reprint some of the material.

“The production and distribution strategy adopted by the Commission prioritised the remote and more distant provinces to ease distribution challenges against limited time frames. Thus it should be noted that delays were largely experienced in Harare because the printing and distribution was done last due to the province’s proximity to the printer. In a few reported cases of Bulawayo and other areas, delays were occasioned by the need to reprint ballots after it had been observed that there were errors on the ballots that had been sent to the affected polling stations,” Zec said.

It is against this chaos that most observer missions condemned Zec for failing to run the elections properly.

The European Union Observer Mission (EUOM) said that the electoral commission had not been entirely honest about its state of preparedness to conduct the elections. — STAFF WRITER.

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