Heavy Turnout As Polls Begin
The Daily News (Harare)
March 31, 2005
Voters began casting ballots this morning in Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections mainly pitting the ruling party, Zanu PF, and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Reports from around the country indicated that a massive turnout was expected as people started queueing as early as 3.00am to cast their ballots.
President Robert Mugabe voted at Cyril Jennings Hall in Highfield constituency while the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, did so at a school in the capital.
Nearly all the polling stations in Harare opened at 7.00am as scheduled. By 9.00am long queues could be witnessed at most of the stations. There was no sloganeering and clashing of supporters of contesting parties, as seen in previous polls. Voters waited for between 30 minutes and one and half hours to cast their votes.
Most people interviewed by The Daily News Online expressed concern over the one-day period of voting which they said was too short.
Police in Harare confirmed that they had not received any reports of cases of violence in the city by afternoon.
In Bulawayo, reports indicated that there had been a huge turnout in the early hours of the day. MDC secretary general, Welshman Ncube, who is a candidate for Bulawayo North East constituency, said his party was expecting to win the poll
He, however, said although the process had been peaceful in Bulawayo, there were disturbing reports coming from Insiza constituency, where the MDC candidate had gone missing. He was later reported found.
In Tsholotsho constituency, attention was on former Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, who is contesting as an independent candidate.
There was a relatively good turnout with voters saying the real battle was between Moyo and the MDC candidate Mtoliki Sibanda. The Zanu PF candidate, Musa Ncube-Mathema, has failed to make an impact in the constituency, according to Zimbabwean journalists covering the elections in Matebeleland North.
Moyo told journalists earlier today that he was confident of winning the seat. "There is no way I will lose," Moyo declared.
Moyo's campaign song, Phambili Le Tsholotsho, was being blasted from almost every shop at the growth point.
"It will be a close race between the MDC and Moyo," said a Bulawayo-based journalist. "Any of the two will win by not more than 200 votes because it is so close."
In Masvingo Province, voting was said to have started at a slow pace, with expectations of a high turnout in the later part of the day.
In Manicaland Province, a large turnout was recorded in the morning. In Mutare Central constituency, long queues could be seen in Dangamvura, Sakubva and the city centre.
One Zanu PF youth was arrested for violating electoral rules after he joined the voting queue, wearing the ruling party's campaign regalia. Mutare urban constituencies are the bastion of MDC support in Manicaland.
In Mutasa South, where Zanu PF women's league stalwart Oppah Muchinguri was facing MDC's Edwin Mauppa, there were reports that the former governor for Manicaland was using headmen to intimidate MDC supporters.
Mauppa told The Daily News Online that the headmen were threatening MDC supporters with expulsion from their villages if they continued supporting the opposition party. He singled out headman Vumbunu as the main culprit.
"Muchinguri is using headmen to instill fear in villagers who are supporting us," Mauppa said. "They are saying if you continue supporting the MDC, you will not get food aid and you will be chased from your villages."
Muchinguri was not available to comment.
In Mashonaland West's provincial capital, Chinhoyi, about 120 km west of Harare, voting kicked off as scheduled at 7.00am, with election officials reporting a heavy turnout at many polling centres in and around the city. Zanu PF is being represented by Faber Chidarikire, who replaced former Mashonaland West provincial chairman Philip Chiyangwa in the race, and the MDC by Silas Matamisa, loser in the 2000 parliamentary poll.
At the Municipal Hall in the city, over 1 500 people had already queued to vote by the time voting began, and similarly high voter turnout was seen at Chaedza Primary School and Chemagamba Secondary School. Election officials said voters started queuing as early as 3.00am at some polling centres. Voting was proceeding smoothly, and no incidents of violence or violation of election rules had been reported in and around the constituency.
In Mashonaland East, the MDC candidate for Murehwa North, Alois Mudzingwa, complained that his polling agents had been denied access to two polling stations in the constituency as voting began. Mudzingwa alleged that the agents had been denied access to Njedza and Chingwaru polling stations and that ruling ZANU-PF party supporters had intimidated MDC supporters.
But the ZANU-PF secretary for finance, who is also the governor and resident minister for Mashonaland East, David Karimanzira, dismissed the allegations, saying all parties had access to the stations.
"The allegations are baseless and nonsensical because the elections are being run by an independent commission and not by a party," he said.
Karimanzira said voter turnout, which was low when voting started, was expected to improve during the day. He said Zanu PF, which controlled the seat, expected at least 50 000 voters in the constituency to vote by mid-day.
Voting in the constituency started at a slow pace with only 200 people at five polling stations having cast their ballots by 9:00am. David Parirenyatwa, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, is standing for the ruling party in the constituency
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