ZEC falters as thousands set to vote deep into the night amid election chaos

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HARARE – Polling stations in the densely populated suburb of Glen Norah in Zimbabwe, were among multiple stations that had not yet opened their doors to the voting public as at 5.30PM today.

At Haig Park Primary School, where voting started at 4PM a presiding officer confirmed an unprecedented extension of voting hours until 4AM tomorrow, a reflection of the turmoil in the process.

The turmoil and confusion surrounding the voting delay debacle stem from a logistical failure in distributing electoral materials by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Utloile Silaigwana, ZEC’s chief elections officer, cited “protracted litigation” as the cause of sluggish ballot paper distribution to Harare and Bulawayo polling stations, resulting in only a meager 23 percent of Harare’s polling stations and 75 percent of Bulawayo’s being operational by the designated 7AM.

While ZEC has extended voting opportunities for those in line by 7 PM, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has raised concerns about the safety of citizens spending prolonged hours at polling stations.

The Forum underscored the potential hindrance to citizens’ active exercise of their voting rights due to the circumstances.

“Zimbabwe’s Election Day has been marred by a series of setbacks including delayed polling station openings, an absence of a verifiable voters’ roll, irregularities in ballot papers, and even cases of voter intimidation,” the Forum said.

Alarming reports have also surfaced, suggesting that Zanu PF may have set up deceptive “exit survey” stations outside polling locations to covertly collect voters personal information.

Addressing the ongoing voting activities, the Forum highlighted multiple instances of polling stations remaining shuttered at midday on Election Day.

The Forum noted that delays predominantly affected urban centers, whereas rural constituencies experienced smoother polling operations, with most stations promptly opening at 7AM. The resulting disparity has fueled growing frustration among urban voters, some of whom have abandoned polling stations without exercising their right to vote.

In Unit J Chitungwiza, voting had not commenced by 10:32AM due to a shortage of local authority ballot papers.

Hatcliffe 1 Primary School in Harare had not yet initiated voting as of midday, causing restlessness among voters doubting the timely arrival of ballot materials.

A polling station in Belgravia Harare opened almost 2,5 hours behind schedule at 10:47AM, and Warren Park 4 Primary School had yet to open to voters as of 10:20 AM.

Voting had not begun at Budiriro 2 Primary School by 11:53AM, with ZEC officials citing a shortage of local authority ballot papers.

At 4.29PM voting was yet to get underway at Warren Park 5 Primary School.

In Glen Norah, at 5.15PM voting was yet to start at multiple polling stations.

These polling stations included Glen Norah Hall, Glen Norah Number 7 Primary and open space tent, opposite AFM.

Opposition CCC official Charlton Hwende said he had visited ZEC offices and had been told that “ballot papers for Kuwadzana East are being printed.”

Amid the chaos, there were also reports regarding inconsistencies within the voters’ roll, leading to voters struggling to locate their names within the system.