Zimbabwe arrests election monitors as opposition lashes ‘flawed’ poll

HARARE  -  Police said Thursday they had ar­rested 41 local monitors of Zimba­bwe’s elections as the opposition cried foul over irregularities in a poll forced by delays to stretch into an unprecedented second day. Monitors from Zimbabwe­an pro-democracy and pressure groups were arrested in multi­ple raids on Wednesday night and their computers and mobile phones were seized, police said.

“The equipment was being used to unlawfully tabulate elec­tion voting statistics and results from polling stations,” police said, describing the activity as “subversive and criminal”.

Less than a quarter of polling stations in Harare -- an oppo­sition stronghold -- opened on time on Wednesday, electoral authorities said, blaming delays in printing ballot papers. 

The problems forced President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is seeking a second term, to issue a late-night directive extending the vote by another day. In doz­ens of polling stations, voters braved long waits for ballot pa­pers to be delivered for the triple elections, for the presidency, leg­islature and municipal councils.

The poll is being watched across southern Africa as a test of support for Mnangagwa’s ZA­NU-PF party, whose 43-year rule has been battered by a mori­bund economy and charges of authoritarianism.

The largest opposition Citi­zens Coalition for Change (CCC), which poses the biggest chal­lenge to Mnangagwa, lashed the electoral process as “funda­mentally flawed.” Delays, intim­idation and other irregularities meant the ballot was “unable to produce a free and fair elec­toral outcome,” CCC spokesman Promise Mkwananzi told report­ers. “Nonetheless we knew this beforehand, and we have pre­pared ourselves to win an unfree and unfair election.”

Nelson Chamisa, head of the CCC, earlier slammed the delays as “a clear case of voter suppres­sion, a classic case of Stone Age, antiquated, analog rigging”.

Chamisa, 45, is the main chal­lenger to Mnangagwa, 80, who came to power after a coup that deposed late ruler Robert Mug­abe in 2017. Confident of victory, he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “It’s a decisive win!”.


In Glen Norah, a southwestern suburb of Harare, ballot papers only arrived around 2:00 am (0000 GMT) -- some 17 hours behind schedule. On Thursday morning, voters returned to a school used as a polling station. 

“We waited for the whole day,” said Lawrence Dzukutu, 52, a vendor who returned to cast his ballot, having spent 16 hours outside the school gates on Wednesday. 

Empty water and juice bot­tles were scattered outside the turquoise perimeter wall, rem­nants of the fruitless hours peo­ple had spent queueing there the day before. Still, while frustrat­ed, many were determined the election would still go their way. 

A doctor, Tafadzwa Chipfuva, 43, was confident his vote would matter. “It has to count, that’s why I am here,” he said.

Polling officials had also been holed up inside classrooms for more than 30 hours, with little or no sleep. At 6:00 pm on Thurs­day, voting was “still ongoing” in some areas, electoral commis­sion deputy chairman Rodney Kiwa told AFP. Ballot counting in those areas would only start on Friday, he said. Authorities are confident of announcing the re­sults before the Tuesday dead­line. Analysts described the vote as arguably the most chaotic in Zimbabwe’s history. The confu­sion was “unprecedented”, said Sara Dorman, a specialist at Scot­land’s University of Edinburgh. 

“It is quite hard to under­stand how a country can run elections regularly since inde­pendence and then have such a chaotic election day.”

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