Zim voters turned away

Large numbers of registered voters have been denied entry to voting stations.

Zimbabwe's Prime minister, leader and candidate of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, flanked by his wife Elizabeth, casts his ballot in a polling station in Harare. Picture: AFP.

HARARE - With just a few hours to go before the close of polling in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, the country's electoral chief addressed claims that voters were being turned away in large numbers from voting stations.

Turnout is believed to be high in this poll, which President Robert Mugabe has described as a do-or-die struggle.

In comments broadcast live on state radio, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Rita Makarau admitted that a number of hopeful voters have been turned away from polling stations despite being registered and carrying proof of registration.

Makarau has advised those affected to go back to their constituencies where they will be allowed to vote, though their names will be entered into a separate register. But with only a few hours to go before the end of this year's election, it's not clear how many will do as she said.

As the day draws to a close, it has been reported that queues are in fact growing.

His main contender Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is hoping to dethrone the Zanu-PF leader after 33 years in power.

The African Union (AU) has praised Zimbabwe's election for being peaceful and orderly so far, despite it being unusual for election observers to make their feelings known until the process of counting votes is complete.

However, the head of the observer mission from Zimbabwe's neighbours expressed concerns at the candidates going to the polls without copies of the voter's roll.

The African community's judgment on this process is deeply significant because, apart from a token Chinese observer mission, they are the only countries and organisations permitted to witness the polls.