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Zimbabweans must defy voter suppression in the elections

23 Aug 2023 at 21:41hrs | Views
One can fairly conclude that what is happening here in Zimbabwe on polling day is an attempt at voter suppression in opposition electoral strongholds in the metropolitan provinces.

Reader, let me first state that I went to vote at the open ground, tent C in ward 41, Harare West constituency.

The polling station opened at 7 am. The process went on smoothly for most voters. I voted at 8.19am without any glitches.

While in the queue some people were whispering to whoever cared to listen that they were going to vote for change. Here and there others complained that the young people ‘ama 2000' [those born from 2000] were not visible in the voting queues.

In general, I have no doubt from what I heard, smelt and saw that Harare West will once again resoundingly vote for change.

However, as I drove around some parts of Harare like Warren Park, I witnessed that many polling stations had not yet opened despite long winding queues and the blistering heat.

I wondered whether this was a national logistical nightmare. I got in touch with folks on the ground in Bulawayo province. Most told me that the polling stations had not opened by 8 am. Before concluding, I quickly drove to parts of Mashonaland East province and all the polling stations I checked had opened at 7am.  

Amidst my growing worries, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)-the statutory body managing elections- officially confirmed the opening status of polling stations at as follows: Masvingo (100%); Midlands (99%); Matebeleland North (100%); Matebeleland South (100%); Mashonaland Central (95%); Mashonaland East (95%); Mashonaland West (99%); Manicaland (85%); Harare (23%) and Bulawayo (0%).

It does not need a rocket scientist to see that in ZANUPF's electoral strongholds polling stations opened at 7.a.m compared to the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change's electoral strongholds namely Harare and Bulawayo provinces.  

According to ZEC, this has been caused by the delays in the printing of the ballot papers. Reader, are ballot papers being printed as voting goes on? I have never heard of this anywhere in the world.

The political strategy is evidently to frustrate the opposition voters.

Within these machinations, voters should not be passive victims. The counter strategy is simply to endure and ‘unrig' the election through staying in the queue until one cast his or her vote.  

How so? It is important for voters to note that if the polling station opens late that is after 7am, the constituency officer should still keep the polling station open for 12 continuous hours.

For example, if your polling station opened at 11am it must close at 11pm.

The law is also very clear that the presiding officer should permit every voter who, at the time set for closing, is in the queue, to cast his or her vote before closing the polling station.

The belief is that the opposition supporters are risk averse and have low endurance levels. So frustrate the urban voters and they easily give up on demanding their right to vote. In addition, the ever growing kiya kiya [informal] economy might make some people think of opting out of long winding queues to go hunt for today's meal. It is sadly a hand to mouth economy.  

However, this is one day in five years where citizens must never give in to frustration. Citizens in Zimbabwe must remember that the real challenge is to do everything possible to win an unfree and fair election.

Part of the strategy  therefore is for voters to defy the attempt at voter suppression going on in Harare and Bulawayo by standing in the queues till they vote for a candidate of their choice. Even if the anti-riot police is deployed to intimidate people after 7pm as happened in the 2002 Presidential election, the political response is
to peacefully resist in the queues.

On that note, it is important for the media, the local and foreign observers to be present at those polling stations as it gets darker in Harare and Bulawayo. Reader, a vote is the modern day liberation struggle but requires only a day of sacrifice and endurance. That day is today.

Source - Dr Phillan Zamchiya
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