Zimbos must defy voter suppression

It does not need a rocket scientist to see that in Zanu PF strongholds, polling stations opened at 7am compared to the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change’s strongholds, namely Harare and Bulawayo provinces.

ONE can fairly conclude that what happened in Zimbabwe on polling day was an attempt at voter suppression in opposition 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 7am.

The process went 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 — “ama2000’ [those born from 2000] — were not visible in the 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 such as 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 8am.

Before concluding, I quickly drove to parts of Mashonaland East province and all the polling stations I checked had opened at 7am.

Amid my growing worries, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the statutory body managing elections, officially confirmed the opening status of polling stations at 7am as follows: Masvingo (100%); Midlands (99%); Matabeleland North (100%); Matabeleland 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 Zanu PF strongholds, polling stations opened at 7am compared to the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change’s strongholds, namely Harare and Bulawayo provinces. 

According to Zec, this was caused by the delay in the printing of the ballot papers.

Reader, were ballot papers being printed as voting was  taking place? I have never heard of this anywhere in the world.

The political strategy was evidently to frustrate the opposition voters.

Within these machinations, voters should not be passive victims.

The counter strategy was simply to endure and “unrig” the election through staying in the queue until one casts his or her vote. 

How so?

It is important for voters to note that if the polling station opened late, that is after 7am, the constituency officer is supposed to keep the polling station open for 12 hours.

For example, if a polling station opened at 11am, it was supposed to close at 11pm.

The law is also very clear that the presiding officer should permit every voter who, at the time set for closing, was 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 the strategy was to frustrate the urban voters because they easily give up on demanding their rights.

In addition, the ever-growing kiya kiya [informal] economy make some people think of opting out of long winding queues to go and hunt for today’s meal. It is sadly a hand-to-mouth economy. 

However, yesterday was one day in five years where citizens must never give in to  frustration.

Citizens of Zimbabwe had to do everything possible to win an unfree and unfair election.

Part of the strategy, therefore, was for voters to defy the attempt at voter suppression in Harare and Bulawayo by remaining in the queues until they voted for a candidate of their choice.

In the 2002 Presidential election, anti-riot police were deployed after 7pm to intimidate voters. The mature response to such intimidation was to peacefully resist the threats.

On that note, it was important for the media, local and foreign observers to be present at those polling stations as it got darker in Harare and Bulawayo.

Reader, a vote is the modern-day liberation struggle, but it requires only a day of sacrifice and endurance.

That day was yesterday.

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