Tuesday, March 19, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Thousands decide on constitution

Thousands decide on constitution
Saturday, 16 March 2013 22:03
Sunday Mail Reporters

Thousands of Zimbabweans voted in a peaceful constitutional referendum yesterday with President Mugabe reiterating that all stakeholders were consulted during the crafting of the Draft Constitution.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) could not readily give national statistics by last night, but information gathered countrywide shows that most polling stations recorded high voter turnouts in the morning and towards the close of polls.

A few polling stations opened way after the scheduled 7am owing to the late delivery of voting material, among other reasons. Dual citizenship holders and Zimbabweans below the age of 18 were turned away while no cases of violence were reported.

Three voting centres at Murambinda Growth Point ran out of ballot papers and had to request additional supplies. ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told journalists in Harare yesterday that vote counting would begin soon after polling stations closed last night.

Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe drew huge voter volumes, prompting ZEC to deploy additional manpower to the busiest polling centres such as Katiyo and Chimhodzi.

More than 1 000 ballots had been cast at Mashambanhaka centre in Uzumba by midday. In the Midlands, Gokwe recorded 16 000 voters and Zhombe 9 769 at the close of voting.

In Mutare, 28 497 people had cast their votes by 6pm. Of this figure, 12 943 were drawn from Mutare Central and the remainder from Chikanga-Dangamvura. In Nyanga, 22 465 voters had cast their ballots by 4pm while Chipinge saw more than 30 000 others having voted by noon. Many others were also turned away after failing to produce the requisite documents.

About 15 000 people had voted in Buhera by mid-morning with close to 500 having been denied access to the voting booth.
Speaking to journalists soon after casting his ballot at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield, Harare, President Mugabe said he was confident a majority of voters would endorse the proposed new constitution.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces - who was accompanied by First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe - added that a new Supreme law would fulfill the wishes of a large percentage of the population.

“It is the people who made the constitution. We went round asking the people questions: what sort of Parliament do you want? What sort of President do you want? How many terms?

“People were giving their answer and when we put the Draft together, we invited what were called stakeholders to discuss all parts of the constitution.

“The stakeholders said, ‘Yes, this is what we said and no this is not what we said’, and adjustments were made and corrections were made.”
Responding to concerns that the electorate was not accorded sufficient time to scrutinise the Draft, Cde Mugabe said the views captured in the document originated from the public.

“But, of course, at end of the day, perhaps more time was needed for the people to read the final document. But the views came from the people; the ideas came from the people and, so, we cannot be blamed for having ignored the people.

“From the beginning, we said the exercise was going to be a people-driven exercise and that is what it has been . . . This is a day when we call upon all Zimbabweans to decide our destiny. If we vote ‘yes’ in this referendum, it means our new constitution will have been made.”

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also cast his vote at Chaminuka Primary School in St Mary’s, Chitungwiza.

He told journalists that the referendum afforded Zimbabweans the opportunity to choose a home-made constitution.

“What is significant for the country is that the people of Zimbabwe are not outsourcing their destiny to anybody else. We have defined this for ourselves,” he said.

In Mutoko, voting kicked off well despite being marred by low voter turnout. Officials at some polling stations in the district distributed voter education materials to those waiting to cast their ballots.

The officials said they received the material late, leaving them without an option, but to distribute it on referendum day.
In Mt Darwin, a heavy downpour in most parts of the district in the morning kept many voters away. The numbers, however, later improved with more voters turning up from mid-morning.

Over 200 people had lined up to vote at Kandeya and Madondo polling stations by 6am while Kamutsenzere and Chiunye saw more than 265 people casting their ballots by 7am.

In Muzarabani, 6 202 voters had exercised their constitutional right by noon.

The voter turnout in Chikomba was low in the morning, averaging 20 people per polling station. The figures only increased as the day progressed. The highest turnout was recorded at Murambinda district office where over 700 people had voted by mid morning.

Officials said the 47 polling stations in the constituency had recorded over 100 voters each by 10am.

In Marondera, urban polling stations witnessed high turnouts while rural centres recorded low numbers. An average of 20 people reported at urban centres every hour.

In Zhombe, there was no activity at Bertha Mine polling station by 7am. Only polling officers were ready to cast their vote while waiting for the general electorate to pitch up.

About 20 people had already queued at Zhombe Mission by that time while some locals who sought to observe the poll were turned away because they were not accredited.

In Gokwe, nearly 200 people thronged Raji polling station in Chemagora. The voters formed a long queue and were allowed into the centre in batches of 30.

Over 100 people had cast their votes by 9 30am, according to the returning officer, Mr Ganyiwa Gift Allan.

However, the number of voters at most polling stations at Gokwe Centre was low. Some areas in the district were inaccessible by road, prompting Zec officials to use a helicopter.

In Hurungwe, voting started at a slow pace, but, later gathered pace.
Most of the polling stations in and around Karoi and Magunje were yet to record 100 voters by 9am.

The situation was, however, different in the surrounding farming areas where some polling centres had recorded more than 400 voters by 11am.

In Mazowe, voting started at the scheduled time with the number of voters increasing as the day progressed. A total of 31 dual citizenship-holders were turned away at three polling stations in the morning.

Communication problems between constituencies were also experienced owing to the district’s predominantly mountainous terrain.
Gutu witnessed a low voter turnout at most polling stations with the elderly forming the bulk of voters. Most voters in Harare visited polling stations in the morning with Town House recording about 2 000 ballots by the close of voting.

In Mount Pleasant, several voters turned up well before polling officers while other areas such as Avondale, Alexandra Park and Belgravia saw more youths voting.

There was a low turnout at polling stations in Borrowdale whereas long queues formed at many polling centres in Mbare, Highfield, Glen Norah and Glen-View.

Zaka and Bikita recorded huge volumes of voters most of whom turned up to cast their ballots at around 6.30am.

In Zaka Central, where Zec set up 46 polling stations, voters also formed long queues. Voting was smooth throughout the Zaka constituencies. The situation was the same in Bikita.

Voting also progressed smoothly in Hurungwe and Kariba where all stations opened on time.

By around 6pm, there was no activity at nearly all polling stations visited.

The latest statistics could not be obtained at Kariba district command centre, but, 3 900 people had voted by 10am and 175 had been turned away.

Zec officials were making frantic efforts to assist about 80 fishermen on an island on Lake Kariba who wished to vote. A boat had been secured for the exercise.

In Zvishavane, lack of adequate voter education resulted in hundreds of prospective voters being turned away while voter apathy was evident in urban areas.

Voting also went on peacefully in Masvingo with 205 589 people having cast their votes in the province’s seven districts by 2pm.
About 4 674 others had also been turned away for various reasons, including failure to provide the required identity documents.

In Bulawayo, most polling stations were male-dominated while youths opted to stay away.

In the city centre, most polling stations started off on a low note, although the numbers increased towards the end of day.

More than 500 people had cast their ballots at the Small and Large City halls before midday while after 2pm the numbers had reached about 800.

The TM Hypermarket polling station attracted the highest number of voters. Over 1 000 people had cast their votes by 2pm. At Queen Elizabeth Primary School in Nkulumane 11 169 people had voted by midmorning while four were turned away for failing to produce proper documents.

A total of 138 people had cast their ballots at Mafekela Primary School in Luveve by lunchtime. At Stanley Square Hall in Makokoba, more than 600 people had voted by 2.30pm while 28 had been turned away for failing to produce the required documents.

In Matobo, the majority of voters were women. Many villagers said they were unaware of the contents of the Draft Constitution, adding that no awareness campaigns were held in their respective areas.

Voting in Umzingwane began on time, albeit with few voters coming to cast their ballots. The figures improved during the course of the day.
Binga recorded a low voter turnout despite having 117 polling stations.
Villagers attributed the low numbers to the long distances they had to walk to the nearest polling stations.

Others said they chose not to vote because they did not know what they were voting for. In Kamativi, some polling stations did not even witness a single person voting by 8.30am.

At Cross Dete there were about seven people at the polling station at 7am.

Bubi and Nkayi, however, registered high voter numbers. In Beitbridge, voting went on peacefully at all the 86 polling stations in the district.

There was a huge turnout at most centres visited.
Lutumba polling station had by 12pm recorded a total of 325 votes while Tshapfutshe and Langeni had 226 and 272 votes respectively.

In Tsholotsho, there was a high turnout of voters with 300 being the highest voter turnout.

In Bulilima, Mangwe and Plumtree, polling started without incident.
In Mashonaland West, voting progressed peacefully although the turnout was rather subdued at several centres.

At Dudley Hall Primary School in Norton, proceedings started with the sealing of ballot boxes in the presence of observers at 6.30am.
Voters started trickling in after 7am, braving the chilly weather.

At Murombedzi Growth Point, the turnout was low in the morning. It was the same situation at Murombedzi Primary School and Murombedzi Vocational Training Centre.

Close to 300 people had cast their vote at the three polling stations at Waverley Primary School in Kadoma by mid morning.

In Sanyati, around 350 people had voted at Sanyati Government Secondary School by late afternoon.

Justice Makarau told journalists that no incidents of violence had been reported. She said some polling stations, however, opened late.

She said: “We have not received any cases of violence. The latest brief that we received from the police was just about 20 minutes ago.

“The reasons for the delays countrywide have been related to fuel shortages, vehicles breaking down and delays in the delivery of polling station materials in some instances.

“We have also experienced bad weather conditions; that is excessive rains in Mashonaland Central, especially, and, lastly, we have also delayed in opening some of the polling stations due to late delivery of tents in Harare province.

“Regarding communication, we are experiencing difficulties in communicating in certain areas especially Matabeleland North and Mashonaland Central.

“The communication lines in Mashonaland Central are currently all down due to bad weather. The provincial logistics committee is trying to establish the cause and to rectify it.”

Sadc Executive Secretary Mr Tomaz Salamao, who is also part of the regional bloc’s observer team, said he was happy with the way Zimbabweans had conducted themselves during the process.
“Everything is going very well and we are happy with the proceedings thus far and in view of that we really commend the Zimbabweans and encourage them to come over and cast their vote,” he said.

Mr Salamao said the successful holding of the referendum had put Zimbabwe in a good position to successfully hold the harmonised elections later this year.

“The referendum is part of the GPA and an important milestone towards the next and most important step (harmonised elections).

“I believe what is next is an important milestone and a historic milestone. We hope that Zimbabweans will perform the same way and take full responsibility of their own destiny.”

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