Zimbabwe Elections: Opposition claims ‘primitive’ vote rigging as ballot papers mysteriously run short


A week before Zimbabwe’s crucial election, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said everything was in place.

Addressing journalists and election observers on 17 August, ZEC chairperson Priscilla Chigumba said: “The commission has procured all essential electoral materials and has delivered 80% of them to provinces under police escort.”

She added: “I would like to assure you that we have everything in place be it legal, social or any other requirement and we are eager to conduct a free, fair and credible election.”

But on Wednesday, ballot papers were missing or misprinted, and some polling stations went as late as 17:00 – for a vote due to end at 19:00 – without ballot papers.

Polling had been due to start at 07:00 but by 10:00 there were reports many voting stations had not yet opened. Those were mostly in areas traditionally considered opposition strongholds.

In a statement, the ZEC said the hiccups were due to numerous court appeals that ate into ballot paper printing time.

The week before, it had no such concerns.

The ZEC added it had printed 7 126 600 presidential ballots, 7 098 750 for parliamentary elections, and 6 861 650 for local authority elections.

That is more ballot papers than the total number of eligible voters.

By 17:00, said the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) presidential elections officer Charles Kwaramba, the party had not yet received a satisfactory answer on what had gone wrong.

‘Don’t go back home’

The CCC’s Chalton Hwende, a candidate for the Kuwadzana East constituency in Harare, said ballot papers there ran out and his team was told by ZEC officials more ballot papers would be printed.

But when voting resumed, the ZEC only supplied “2 900 ballots for the council election instead of the 12 000 shortfall”, he added.

There were many similar incidents across the country.

In some cases, ballot papers did not list CCC candidates.

In an address to the media, CCC presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa said the ZEC was engaged in “primitive” rigging.

It did not make sense that areas remote from Harare, some of which were strongholds of Zanu-PF, had adequate ballot papers while in Harare, where they were printed, some polling stations went without, he added.

Chamisa said Zimbabwe was headed toward a constitutional crisis.

“They have no mandate to run this country, so they have plunged this country into a crisis. Starting from tomorrow, there’s no government in Zimbabwe.”

He added:

Mr Mnangagwa can claim but he’s not the president of this country. Legally and constitutionally.

Voting in some polling stations is due to run into Thursday morning since polling stations should be open for a continuous 12 hours.

Earlier on Wednesday, CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere appealed to the party’s supporters not to despair because of delays.

“Don’t go back home. Apathy is not an option,” she wrote on X the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“Not voting is not an option. Giving up is not an option. Be patient despite any frustration.”

Irregularities and ‘exit polls’

Trouble at voting stations was not limited to CCC supporters: Zanu-PF incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son, Collins, was turned away because he did not appear on the voters’ roll.

At several polling stations an organisation closely aligned with Zanu-PF, the Forever Associate Zimbabwe (FAZ) set up desks 300m from voting booths.

Staff described them as “exit poll survey desks”, and asked people leaving to give their names, and at least one of the desks asked people for their identity numbers.

In parts of the Mkoba constituency in Gweru and in Harare, fake CCC posters declaring Chamisa had called for a boycott of the election were put up overnight.


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