Voting is done – now where?

30 07 2018

Voting Zimbabwe style

I got the text message on Wednesday last week instructing me to go to a local elementary school to cast my vote in the general election. It even had the queue number to join and it came from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

One of the few advantages of being physically disabled is that I don’t have to join queues so having located the hall where I needed to cast my vote I simply walked up to the door and the policewoman there waved me to the desk inside to start the process. It was all very orderly if a little slow. My ID was checked against the register and my name and photograph crossed out. The little finger on my left hand was fastidiously marked with a black felt tip pen all around the nail (a friend said he washed his off very easily later) and the three forms, colour coded and different sizes were explained. I went off to the cardboard booth, marked my choices and posted them in the relevant boxes. Then I waved to an observer whom I knew and walked outside. That was it.

The last election was held in 2013 and was much less organized and less well attended. One could vote anywhere and it was simply necessary to drive around and find the polling station with the fewest cars parked outside. The queues where I voted were long and everyone was standing around and talking, some had bought chairs and cooler boxes of refreshments. I got the impression that most people were young and quietly determined to have their say. Whilst the urban votes are expected to go to the offical opposition MDC coalition, the rural votes are expected to go to the ruling ZANU-PF and most people live in the countryside. We will have to wait until Friday to find out just how close the result will be. All the indicators are that the presidential vote will be close – if there is not a clear winner (neither gets more than 50%) a runoff vote for the presidency will have to be held.

News reports at this stage agree that the voting process was peaceful but in some cases badly disorganised. The EU observer mission was more critical than the regional SADCC observers. The counting has started so now we wait.





The election part 1 – all calm

31 07 2013
All is calm above World's View in Nyanga

All is calm above World’s View in Nyanga

I resolved as I climbed the steps into the Nyanga Police Station not to ask if we could paraglide but simply to state that that’s what we’d come to do.

The female constable was clearly uncertain about this paragliding thing even after I’d shown her a photo on my cellphone. “I have to call my boss” she replied. Her boss, the duty sergeant, was completely uninterested. Clearly, with an impending general election, he had more important things on his mind. Anyway, he knew about paragliding and that we’d been coming to this premier site at World’s View for as long as he’d been at Nyanga.

The flight was uneventful, and not the best conditions that this area can deliver, but after a long break from thermic flying I wasn’t complaining and I got in a nice hour in punchy, small thermals that still managed to lift me 400m above takeoff before high cloud stopped play.

I got chatting to a couple of well-spoken youngsters on the landing field.

“Where is your Robert cap” I asked one, referring to the profusion of the yellow caps in the area with a picture of Robert Mugabe on them.

“In my house” he waved vaguely in a northerly direction. “Anyway, you don’t have to wear them”.

“Are you going to vote?” his friend asked me.

“Of course, but it’s my secret who for”.

“That is obvious” he countered.

“No it’s not, I might decide Robert is my friend”.

They found this hugely funny.

We’d been in the area a few days and I’d been concerned about a paragliding trip this close to the election on the 31st July. The last election in 2008 had been marked by a lot of violence but this time around all seemed quiet. I’d seen a number of ZANU-PF (Mugabe’s party) vehicles giving out caps and T-shirts and putting up posters and even a few vehicles from the opposition MDC (Move for Democratic Change). The visit to the police station was merely a courtesy to cover ourselves just in case someone accused us of spying (seriously!). In the past they did ask us not to fly over the police station and of course I ended up in a thermal for some 10 minutes directly over it but high enough to escape notice.

Today was voting day. I was in no rush as I rather thought I’d avoid those who thought that it would be necessary to get to the polling stations early. Leaving the house just after 11 I visited the first polling station in my area only to find that I was registered for another ward. There wasn’t even a queue. At the correct polling station there were 2 queues of some 30 people each. Policemen and observers lounged in the sun and one waved me to the front of the queue. 5 minutes later I was out my duty done and I was back home by 12.

Duty done!

Duty done!

So whom did I vote for? Well, that’s my secret but as I was at school for one of the councillors, it wasn’t just a vote for president, he got my X. Now it’s time to get on with this day off and hang out the washing and start pruning the roses.