THIS year's census hung in limbo yesterday after the training of enumerators was postponed indefinitely with those who turned up at various centres countrywide being told to go home.
The training of enumerators, which was suspended on Monday, was expected to start yesterday.
At Girls High School in Harare, gates were locked with guards advising prospective enumerators to return home until further notice.
Such was also the situation in Bulawayo, Mashonaland East and West, and Masvingo.
Enumerators were turned away at Masvingo Polytechnic, Dewure High School in Gutu, St Anthony's High in Zaka, Silveira Mission in Bikita, Mwenezi Government High School, Berejena Mission and Alpha Mpapa High School.
Reports say some ZimStat workers complained that they were left out of the exercise and alleged nepotism in the selection process.
Civil servants at Bulawayo Polytechnic said they were told the programme was postponed indefinitely.
"Officials in charge of the exercise told us that Cabinet approval was needed on certain aspects of the training process," said a prospective enumerator.
The training was also postponed in Matabeleland South.
Acting provincial administrator for Matabeleland South Province, Mr Midard Khumalo, confirmed the development yesterday.
He ascribed the postponement to some issues that were yet to be clarified.
"The training of enumerators at Mtshabezi High School has been postponed until further notice. We are still seeking Cabinet approval in some of the processes involved," he said.
Masvingo provincial administrator, Mr Felix Chikovo, confirmed that there had been no movement on resumption of training of enumerators.
Mr Chikovo said they were now waiting for a directive from Government on how many members of the uniformed forces should be included.
"No training for census enumerators took place today (yesterday) across all the district training centres in he province where both civil servants and members of the uniformed forces area waiting to resume training. We are waiting for a directive from our superiors on how best to go forward," said Mr Chikovo.
In Mashonaland West province a teacher who had travelled all the way from Kariba said the Provincial Co-ordinator at the Public Service Training Centre had also advised to people to leave.
"I am on my way home now because we have been told to leave. They did not give any dates for us to return and we are now wondering whether this exercise was properly prepared for," the teacher said.
Sources in Makonde and Karoi also confirmed that no training had taken place yesterday.
Mashonaland West Governor and Resident Minister, Cde Faber Chidarikire, said his office had not received any information of the situation on the ground.
In Marondera sources say the continued suspension of the training programme was involving issues to do with chaos and misunderstandings in the recruitment of the enumerators.
About 30 000 people are needed to conduct this year's census and only holders of degrees and diplomas would be recruited.
It is alleged that security forces, who were also civil servants, had requested to be given a quota.
On Tuesday, riot police in Harare sealed off venues where training of enumerators was supposed to take place after Government had suspended the exercise.
However, Acting Finance Minister Gorden Moyo, and an official at the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency insisted the programme was still on.
Minister Moyo said he was yet to be appraised on the situation on the ground.
"I am now going to receive a report on what has happened. We shall attend to problems centre by centre, we will make follow ups on what transpired at the other centres.
"We cannot give a blanket view that there were problems at all the centres. We are not postponing the census and registration of enumerators who meet the criteria are underway.
"If anyone forces themselves to be registered when they do not meet the criteria we are not going to accept it," he said.
Minister Moyo said the standard they were using was guided by the Sadc guidelines on census and United Nations principles of running national censuses.
On the allegation of nepotism the ZimStat employees said: "The whole selection process was biased towards people from the Census Department yet ZimStat is made up of other departments.
"There is a lot of disgruntlement in the manner the whole exercise is being done because we have people who have years of experience in these issues that have been left out or relegated to low levels in the process," the employee who declined to be named for fear of victimisation said.
The people selected to carry out the census are being grouped in various levels with the enumerators being the lowest in and in Level 4 while the Team Leaders, District Co-ordinators and Provincial Co-ordinators are in Levels, 3, 2 and 1 respectively.
ZimStat has various departments that include that of Social Statistics, Income Statistics and Production.
ZimStat Population Census manager, Mr Washington Mapeta, yesterday denied that the training exercise had been cancelled in the different centres in two separate interviews.
"The training exercise is going on but we have not yet received full reports of what is going on. If there are areas having problems that should be addressed at Provincial level," he said in an interview yesterday morning.
On the issue of nepotism, he said: "That is interesting, but you should be aware that we have other activities at ZimStat apart from census that should be ongoing for example collation of inflation statistics.
"Those people that talked should have first talk to their departmental heads because what we are dealing with mainly at the moment is the issue of logistics that is distribution materials and so forth."
Mr Mapeta however, admitted that continuous delays in the training exercise would have a negative impact on the completion of the census.
The training period was supposed to run for 10 days from August 6 while the actually counting of people will take place in August 17 and 18.
The principals in the inclusive Government are expected to officially launch it on August 15.