Harare—A significant number of polling stations nationwide opened later than the scheduled start time of 7am on voting day due, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), “delays in the deployment of election materials”.
The commission attributed the delays that particularly affected Harare and Bulawayo to court challenges that had been made by both pro-Zanu PF and opposition individuals.
The court challenges, said ZEC in a morning statement, had affected ballot printing timelines.
NewsHub established that, at most of the affected stations, the delays related to council ballots.
The delays affected both rural and urban stations, according to the nationwide reports this publication received between 7am and 11am.
Normal voting is supposed to take place over 12 hours from 7am to 7pm on 23 August.
It could not be immediately established, though, why the municipal ballots delayed, but it is likely due to the fact that ZEC was overwhelmed by the huge number of ballot papers that needed to be printed and distributed countrywide.
According to ZEC, some 6.6 million people registered to vote at the 2023 elections.
The commission has printed an extra half a million ballot papers to cater for the municipal, parliamentary and presidential election eventualities, bringing the total to more than seven million.
There are close to 2000 municipal wards throughout Zimbabwe, 11 presidential candidates and 210 parliamentary candidates.
Bulawayo seems to have been the most affected, with ZEC statistics showing a blank or nil at 7am.
The commission, however, indicated that polling picked up to 75 percent by 815am.
Harare, the capital, was the second most affected by the delayed opening of polling stations, with only 23 percent having managed to start polling on time.
All polling stations in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Masvingo started on time, while Midlands and Mashonaland West recorded 99 percent punctuality, according to ZEC.
Journalists covering Masvingo confirmed that the province was not affected by delays.
However, it emerged that Forever Associates of Zimbabwe Trust (FAZ) operatives were involved in skirmishes with opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) polling agents in the same province.
The operatives allegedly set up tables within a hundred metres from polling stations, where they were commandeering voters to pass through and be recorded.
Voters reported that the FAZ operatives were ordering individuals in places like Mashava in the province to give them their names and contact details, insisting that those that defied the instruction would be targeted after the elections.
Similar incidents took place in Harare at such polling stations like the Cornelius Hope Academy in Goodhope, Westgate.
At Cornelius Hope Academy, NewsHub witnessed the suspected FAZ foot soldiers telling voters to pass through their tables within the school premises and less than a hundred metres away from the classrooms that held the polling boxes.
This led to a near-fight when CCC supporters confronted the FAZ details, grabbed the tables and threw them away.
While the FAZ details claimed they were stationed 300m away from the polling centres as required by the Electoral Act, police details present at Cornelius Hope disputed that and ordered them to operate from outside the school gate, leading to calm that characterised the rest of the day.
The FAZ is a Zanu PF-affiliated organisation that is being supervised by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
It suspected to be behind fliers that were widely distributed this morning claiming that CCC had pulled out of the elections.
The CCC, however, did not announce any pullout.