Tuesday, July 31, 2018

‘Baby-swapping’ at queues as Zim goes to polls

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BY 5:30am Yeukai Matunhu had already booked her place in the long, meandering queue to vote in Zimbabwe’s historic elections at Chirichoga Primary School polling station in Masvingo West constituency.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
She thought she was going to beat the queue and be among the first to cast her ballot.
That was not to be.
After waiting to get her chance after voting had started one-and-half-hours later, the mother of three designed a plan to by-pass the queue. At last she got assistance from a lady who had a toddler and had already been exempted herself from standing in the queue. She was loaned her six months old, crying baby so that she could cast her vote early.
“I saw her pleading with the people on the queue and election officials so that she could not stand in the queue as her baby was crying and wanted to suckle. Seeing that she succeeded, I also tried my luck.
“While I succeeded, however, others who tried the same trick even with their babies or other women’s babies were, however, not successful as the trick had been overused,” the woman laughed as she showed off her ink-dyed index finger.
Such cases of baby-swapping were not limited to rural constituencies alone.
In Masvingo Urban at Shakashe Primary school, ward seven, another woman was told to wait in the queue like others after getting into the polling station with a crying baby, which election authorities said she had “hired” to avoid waiting in the meandering queue.
This prompted social media jokes, with messages circulating of people willing to loan their babies for a fee to voters who did not want to stand in the queues.
What also made voters impatient was that some could not find their names on the roll at the sub-polling venue at the same polling station and had to move from one classroom block to another.

For example, at Runyararo Primary School polling station in Masvingo Urban, a voter said she was frustrated by moving from one classroom to another.
There were four sub polling booths at the same venue.
“They first checked my name in one classroom, I was not there. I moved from one classroom to the other and finally got it in the fourth one,” a woman, who wanted to be identified only as Blessing, said.
Ward 7 aspiring councillor (Zanu PF) Talent Majoni, complained that the voting process was very slow.
“My supporters are being frustrated by the slow process, I wonder why the Zec officials are slow, Maybe they do not want to finish today so that voting is extended and they get more allowances,” Majoni said.
At other polling centres like Francis Aphiri, queues were very long and this prompted impatient voters like vendors, who wanted to go and trade their wares after voting, to jump queues.
However, at other rural centres like at Sikato Primary, there were no long queues.
By around 11:30am, over 160 people had cast their votes, with seven of them being assisted, according to presiding officer Loveness Dumbu, who said voting at her centre was going on smoothly.