Not much has been done on voter education, as evidenced by the number of people who were turned away from various polling stations in Bulawayo during the March 26 by-elections.
Most people were turned away for carrying photocopies of their national Identity Cards (IDs), others had brought along drivers’ licences, while some were not even appearing on the voters’ roll.
Another resident in Pumula had actually brought in their war veterans’ card while at Magwegwe Youth Centre polling station an elderly woman was turned away after she was informed she was registered in Lupane.
This pointed to the failure on the part of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), political parties and civic organisations to conduct voter education campaigns effectively to reduce numbers of people turned away for not carrying proper identification.
At McDonald Polling Station A in Mzilikazi by 12 noon, 11 people were turned away for using photocopied IDs and some were not on the current voters’ roll.
Another 12 at the same polling station were redirected to another polling station.
At Ingwegwe Primary School in Pumula an elderly man brought along his 13-year-old niece to assist him cast his vote but was informed by the presiding officer, Herbet Siziba that according to the country’s electoral laws, a person under 18 years of age was not allowed in a polling station.
The man was advised that election officers would assist him in the presence of a police officer.
At Mhlali Primary School in Magwegwe Presiding Officer Nokuthula Sibanda was seen assisting a 90-year-old male voter.
Sibanda explained to the press that during this process, a voter will say their preferred candidate and the Presiding Officer will cast a vote on the voter’s behalf while a police officer stands as a witness to see that the voter’s choice is carried out.
Election officers were also redirecting a number of people whose names were appearing in other polling stations within the same vicinity as the voters’ roll was divided by alphabetic orders of people’s surnames.
This redirection of voters was criticised by MDC Alliance Pumula Constituency candidate Albert Mhlanga who said this “illustrated the illegal movement of voters across wards on the voters roll by ZEC.”
Quite a good number of residents had also registered after the closure of the current voter’s roll so could not participate in the by-elections.
Observers participating in a CITE Twitter Space, said these reasons indicate that voter education is lacking, showing the need to do more civic education in communities so that people know the requirements needed to enable one to vote.
They said the commission should stop waiting until the last moment to launch a voter education campaign and must conduct it regularly as part of civic education, especially since the country heads for national elections in 2023.
As for Covid-19 protocols, some polling stations had no sanitisers and at Msitheli High, one of the election officers was heard complaining that he had been handling a number of people’s ID cards without sanitising.
The presiding officer Nobuhle Ncube said they were still waiting for sanitizers from ZEC offices.
Another challenge that was witnessed at various polling stations was poor lighting while some voters complained that the ballot papers were not clear.
At Mzilikazi primary school, Polling A station, some voters were going out of voting booths to use natural light to check the names of candidates clearly before casting their votes.
The presiding officer, Abner Ncube, said they had one gas lamp but were still waiting for more lights having made a request to ZEC.