The 2023 Zimbabwe elections held in Harare brought with them a range of experiences and challenges, reflecting the diverse nature of the voting process in the capital city.
From delays and frustrations to moments of resilience and community support, the day encapsulated the complexities of democratic participation.
Examining the events that unfolded throughout the day provides insights into the realities faced by Zimbabwean citizens and highlights the importance of fair and efficient electoral practices.
Under the scorching morning sun, the Waterfalls constituency witnessed a slow start to the voting process. Lord Malvin and Uplands polling stations experienced delays, leaving many voters frustrated as they waited outside for hours. Similarly, Super Sands and St. Johns Retreat encountered similar issues, with voting commencing behind schedule.
The sight of anxious individuals, some carrying babies and the elderly reflected the impact of these delays on vulnerable members of society.
“It’s frustrating, l came here at 5 a.m., and l left home without cooking for the kids and it’s now 12 o’clock Voting hasn’t started,” said Mary Mugova a Waterfalls resident.
“Voting started at 11 and our plea is that we should have been given our tents as the people with disabilities, we are tired and hungry,” said Samuel Chindenge from Waterfalls Retreat.
“We are tired and hungry but no worries we will wait and vote even after 12 am, we need to exercise our rights,” said Panashe Gomorimwe a Waterfalls resident.
However, amidst these challenges, a ray of hope emerged in the Sunningdale area. Here, the absence of queues and the smooth flow of voters inspired optimism.
A heartwarming moment unfolded as 86-year-old Annah Chingara cast her vote at Sunningdale 2 primary polling station. Chingara’s appreciation for the efficient service provided by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) officials showcased the potential for a positive voting experience.
“l was born in February 1937 and l have been voting since 1980 up to now, l was assisted by the officials and l appreciate it as an elderly who can no longer write and read.l came with my son-in-law who then assisted me to cast my vote and l am so happy,” she said.
The scene shifted dramatically when Warren Park D became the focus. Chaos engulfed the polling station as, by 2 p.m., voting had still not commenced, despite its scheduled start time of 7 a.m. Frustration and weariness were palpable among the crowd, including hungry individuals who faced mounting challenges.
Moving to Mbare, the trend of delayed voting continued. Despite registered voters showing up, they encountered difficulties finding their names on the lists, leading to their rejection by polling officers. This further compounded the frustrations of citizens eager to exercise their democratic rights.
Budiriro 2 primary polling station took these challenges to an extreme, as voting had not commenced until 7 p.m., the supposed cut-off time for the process. However, amidst this setback, the resilience of the community became evident. Residents demonstrated compassion by cooking for one another, particularly for those who had traveled from far distances to vote, encouraging perseverance until the arrival of the long-awaited ballot papers.
“If it means sleeping here, surely we will, since morning we have been sharing food and drinks with those who stay away from the polling stations encouraging them not to go back home without voting,” said Shylet Lipambwa a Budiriro resident.
“People are buying food and sharing here even though they don’t know each other, some have been bringing cooked food from their homes to share with others, especially the elderly and those with babies,” said Shamiso who refused with her surname.
Highfields Mbizi B polling station presented a different picture, with no queues and voters simply walking in to cast their ballots. However, it was noted that voting had also started late at this location, adding to the overall theme of delays experienced throughout the day.
Similarly, at Hupenyu Hutsva Primary Polling Station in Southerton, only one voter was observed, highlighting the complexity and disparities in the voting turnout across Harare.
The events of the 2023 Zimbabwe elections in Harare depict a mixed and multifaceted experience for voters. Delays and frustrations were prevalent, hindering the smooth flow of the democratic process. However, amidst these challenges, acts of resilience and community support prevailed, demonstrating the unwavering commitment of Zimbabwean citizens to participate in shaping their country’s future.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has responded by extending the voting hours to ensure that all eligible citizens have the opportunity to cast their ballots.
ZEC has provided a breakdown of the opening of polling stations in different provinces. In Masvingo, the stations opened at 7 a.m., representing a 100 percent opening rate. Similarly, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces experienced a 100 percent opening rate, indicating that the voting process commenced as scheduled. The Midlands and Mashonaland West provinces also achieved high opening rates, with 99 percent of stations starting on time.
However, the situation was less favorable in other provinces. Mashonaland East saw a 95 percent opening rate, while Manicaland experienced an 85 percent opening rate, indicating significant delays in these areas. The cities of Bulawayo and Harare faced the greatest challenges, with only 75 percent and 23 percent of polling stations opening on time, respectively. These figures illustrate the extent of the delays and the impact they had on the voting process.
In response to the delays, ZEC made the critical decision to extend the voting hours.