Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – Tensions are rapidly brewing in Zimbabwe in advance of this month’s election, with the opposition calling for greater transparency to ensure that the voting process is free and fair.
Zimbabweans will head to the ballots on July 30, in what will be the first election since the military-assisted deposition of former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe, and Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC Alliance), are seen as the top two candidates in the presidential race.
Mnangagwa has vowed to deliver a free election and Western observers have been brought in to monitor the polls.
But the conduct of Zimbabwe Election Commission’s (ZEC) poll preparations has come under fire by the opposition, with thousands of MDC Alliance supporters marching in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday to demand reforms following alleged irregularities in the voters’ roll.
Tensions rose further on Thursday when the opposition said police and other security officers who will be on duty during the vote had begun casting their postal ballots at police stations in southern and western parts of the country – in violation of electoral law, which says postal ballots are not to be cast at a polling station.
Objecting to the proceedings, the MDC Alliance held an overnight vigil at Ross Camp police station in the second city of Bulawayo, guarding three open cardboard boxes containing sealed ballots.
The protest turned into a street demonstration on Friday, with scores of people chanting across from a line of armed riot police guarding the station.
“People are supposed to vote in their homes, not at Ross Camp, and that’s why we had to guard those votes. This is a way of trying to steal the vote and we cannot say this is a free and fair vote when people are made to vote at a polic