The South African Department of Home Affairs has expressed surprise at the low number of Zimbabweans who have gone through the Beitbridge border post in northern Limpopo province in the past few days to participate in Monday’s general election.

There are three million Zimbabweans in South Africa and most of them were expected to go home to vote in their country’s historic elections on Monday.

Beitbridge is the main port of entry/departure after Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International Airport and during the peak travel periods, especially during the Christmas holidays, more than 20 000 travellers are processed daily at Beitbridge.

Zimbabwean businessman Clever Dube, who currently lives in South Africa, was stationed at the Beitbridge border post to see if his fellow countrymen are really going home to vote. He says people are afraid of losing their jobs just to go and vote for a government they are not sure will fix its economy.

“People are afraid to leave whatever they are doing rushing for a vote; they might lose whatever they are doing in terms of jobs.”

Dube, a former freedom fighter and soldier in Zimbabwe, says allegations that former president Robert Mugabe and his supporters have formed a new party, the National Patriotic Front, and that Mugabe is financially supporting opposition party campaigns, made some Zimbabweans despondent to go and vote.

Morris Jones, a shoemaker in Cape Town, wants to vote to bring about change in Zimbabwe. “Things are tight in Zimbabwe, as you can see that people are running away from Zimbabwe looking for work, looking for money in other countries like South Africa, or Zambia. So we are now going for elections people don’t have work, all the companies are closed there is no money, there is nothing which is good in Zimbabwe.”

Meanwhile, the Home Affairs Department Director for ports of entries, Stephen van Neel, said the department was surprised by the low number of Zimbabweans going home to vote.

“We are completely surprised because the number of travellers going through Beitbridge is quite low. I mean when we look at the numbers of people who travelled through the port on Thursday and Friday we had actually less than the number of people we normally get during the week compared with last Wednesday and Tuesday. It is lower numbers. That is the same as any other day that few people move through the port into Zimbabwe to go and vote.”

Eleven thousand polling stations in Zimbabwe were expected to open at 7am on Monday. More than 70 000 police personnel have been deployed all over Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe’s first election since Mugabe was forced to resign last November, incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former ally in the ruling ZANU-PF party, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the MDC.

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