Maputo — Polling stations for Mozambique's municipal elections, visited by AIM in central Maputo on Wednesday morning, mostly opened on time, at 07.00.
At the start of voting there were long queues - but this does not mean that turnout will be high. Many people vote early, so that they can spend the rest of the day - which is a public holiday in all the municipalities - at the beach or in other leisure activities, or on their farms, preparing for the 2018-2019 agricultural year.
Polling station staff (MMVs) work at different rhythms in different polling stations. At one station visited by AIM, the MMVs had organised the queues very efficiently. There were two polling booths, so two voters were allowed in at a time. It took an average of a minute to process each voter.
Less well organised stations in the same polling area also had two booths, but only allowed voters in one by one, which took up more time. AIM calculated that it took two minutes on average to process each voter. The difference between one and two minutes is enormous in terms of how long people have to stay in queues.
The queue at the most efficient station had disappeared by 09.00. After that, voters appeared at a trickle. There were 534 voters on the register for this station, and about 100 had voted in the first two hours. This suggests the turnout by the end of the day will be low, possibly 30-35 per cent.
At other stations in the same area, there were still long queues by 10.30, but this was largely because the MMVs were less well organised.
The atmosphere in the stations visited by AIM was relaxed and cheerful. The MMVs were unfailingly courteous to voters, and, when necessary, assisted elderly and disabled voters.
The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) announced in mid-morning that the majority of polling stations in the 53 municipalities had opened on time, and the atmosphere was generally calm and peaceful.
The only significant disturbance noted by STAE was a demonstration in the central city of Beira outside the STAE premises, by people who had applied to be MMVs but were not hired.
STAE spokesperson Claudio Langa said it was impossible to hire all the people who took part in the MMV training sessions.
"Today there are 38,213 MMVs working at the polling stations, but the training covered about 43,000 candidates", he said. "It was not possible to hire all of them. They were trained and assessed and the best were selected".
STAE urged the demonstrators to go home, and not to disturb the voting. But some of the demonstrators told reporters in Beira that they are demanding STAE pay them an allowance for the 13 days spent in training, and also pay them the expenses they incurred in travelling to the training course and for the documents they needed to enrol in the course.
The Mozambique Political Process Bulletin, published by the anti-corruption NGO the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), has correspondents scattered across the country and agreed with STAE that most polling stations opened on time.
However, it found that some opened more than two hours late due to missing materials and late allocation of MMV. In some of the smaller municipalities such as Marromeu and Sussundenga, some polling stations had not opened by 9 am.
The Bulletin found that queues were longer in the northern and central Mozambique. There were over 200 voters waiting for each polling station at 07.00 in some polling areas in the northern city of Nampula. Long queues were also noted in Beira, Tete, Quelimane, Gurué, Catandica and Chimoio. One enthusiastic voter in Beira told the independent television station STV, that he had started queuing outside the polling station at 03.00, four hours before it was due to open.
In the south, the bulletin reported a lower turnout in Gaza and Maputo provinces. In Maputo city, and the neighbouring city of Matola turnout was said to be variable, with long queues at some polling stations and only a handful of people at others.