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Zimbabwe votes: At a glance

BBC
Saturday, 29 March 2008, 06:43 GMT
Voters in Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans are going to the polls to choose a president, members of parliament and local councillors.

Contributors across the country are sending in their observations of the day to the BBC.

If you are voting, send us your experiences by text on +44 7786 20 50 85 or use the form below - and let us know if you do not want your full name to be published.


0620 GMT: Ben, a voter in Harare, texts to say he has cast his vote: "The atmosphere is peaceful and the polling officers seem keen to make the process efficient."

0619 GMT: A 30-year-old male voter in Kwekwe, south-west of Harare, texts: "I have just voted after an hour but the lines are now moving faster. The people are just relaxed and making jokes in the queues."

0610 GMT: A male voter at Highfields, a Harare suburb, says the queue he is in is moving. People are chatting, it is peaceful and police can be seen monitoring the situation. But people are worried about tomorrow, he says, and on Friday the shops were packed with people trying to stock up in case of trouble.

0540 GMT: Naume Muza in Karoi, north-west of Harare, says: "It took me almost 10 minutes to cast my vote. They had to check my name in the voters roll and then I was given four ballot papers: presidential, senatorial, member of parliament and councillor." He says so far voter turnout has been low. At the 10 polling stations he has visited, there have only been a handful of people waiting to vote.

0539 GMT: Voting started 30 minutes late in many polling stations in Masvingo as ballot papers arrived late, says Owen Chikari in Masvingo. But the long and winding voting lines are now beginning to move. Some people arrived as early as midnight to book their place in the queue, he says.

0525 GMT: Themba Nkosi in Bulawayo says polls have opened with many people queuing eager to vote. Zimbabweans from South Africa are still pouring into the city, arriving by minibuses, coaches and private cars, he says.

0518 GMT: A voter in Harare at a polling station in Roosevelt School says there is a queue of about 50 people, where the atmosphere is "party like", with police round but standing away from the queues. "Everyone is in a very positive mood," the texter says.

0516 GMT: Freelance journalist Brian Hungwe in Harare says the doors to the polling station at Alfred Beit Primary School have just opened - about 15 minutes late. People had been getting a bit agitated, but now the atmosphere is cheerful. There is a long queue of about 3,000 people.

0503 GMT: Farai, a voter in Harare, says the queue at his polling station in Borrowdale is short with about 100 people, and he is about to go in and vote.

0311 GMT: A male voter, 25, from Harare texts to say the queue at a polling station is already 30 plus deep, nearly two hours ahead of the polls opening.


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Makoni confident of victory after voting in Zimbabwe

HARARE, March 29 (AFP)

Former finance minister Simba Makoni said he was confident of ousting his
old boss Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe's president after casting his ballot
Saturday in the country's general election.

"I feel good, I voted for the best candidate, I voted for Simba Makoni," he
told AFP after he voted at Mandara shopping centre in eastern Harare.

Makoni, who has previously predicted that he would win 72 percent of the
votes, again struck a bullish note, saying his chances "are very good" and
said his final tally should be "more than" his initial prediction.

However Makoni, who quit the ruling ZANU-PF party to mount his challenge
against Mugabe, complained that the polling station where he voted had
opened around 20 minutes late.

"In the first half-an-hour I doubt if more than 10 people did manage to cast
their votes," he said.

Makoni, Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are all competing for
the post of president in a general election in which voters will also choose
a new parliament.


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Polls open in Zimbabwe general election

HARARE, March 29 (AFP)

Polls opened in Zimbabwe on Saturday at the start of joint parliamentary and
presidential elections in which veteran leader Robert Mugabe is looking to
secure another five years in office.

Polling booths opened at 7:00am (0500 GMT) and the 5.9 million electorate
have 12 hours in which to cast their ballots.

The contest pits 84-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony
since independence in 1980, against his former finance minister Simba Makoni
and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) party.

Large queues had built up outside polling booths by the time they opened,
with around 300 voters ready to cast their ballots at the Courteney Selous
school in the upmarket Greendale suburb of eastern Harare where Makoni is
due to vote.

Mathias Chimutsi said he had arrived more than three hours before the
polling station opened and intended to vote for Tsvangirai.

"I've been here since five to three this morning," said Chimutsi. "I am here
to vote because my belly is empty. I am hoping that things will improve in
the country."

While the security forces have been placed on full alert for fear of
violence, there was little sign of a beefed-up presence of either police or
soldiers on the streets.

At Greendale, the atmosphere was largely festive with some of the voters
playing the board game Monopoly as they waited to enter the polling station.

The election takes place against the backdrop of an economic meltdown in the
southern African country where annual inflation now stands at more than
100,000 percent and unemployment is above 80 percent.

Once the region's breadbasket, Zimbabwe now experiences previously unheard
of shortages of even basic foodstuffs such as cooking oil and bread.

Up to a third of the 13 million population has moved to greener pastures,
mainly in neighbouring South Africa.


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Vote-counting procedure


Extract from BILL WATCH 13/2008 [28th March 2008]
From: Veritas <veritas@mango.zw>

ZEC has issued a statement outlining the procedure for counting of votes and processing of results:—Ł
††††††† Ballot boxes will NOT be moved from polling stations to another venue for counting of votes.† This applies to all four of the elections - Presidential, Senatorial, House of Assembly and Council†
††††††† Counting of votes cast at a polling station will be done at the polling station immediately after the close of the poll
††††††† There will be separate counting for each election —Ł Council, House of Assembly, Senate and President
††††††† The number of votes gained for each candidate in each election will be displayed outside the polling station
††††††† The result of the counts will be entered on four different return forms which will then be taken to the Ward Collation Centre
††††††† The postal ballot boxes will be opened and postal votes counted at Ward Collation Centres
NB All votes will be counted at polling station level except postal votes, which will be counted at ward level.
Collation of Results
Council —Ł totals from each polling station together with postal votes will be added together at the Ward Collation Centre and displayed.
House of Assembly —Ł totals from each polling station will be added together at each Ward Collation Centre and displayed, and then taken on a prescribed return form to the House of Assembly Constituency Centre where the results from all wards will be added together and displayed.
Senate —Ł totals from each polling station will be added together at each Ward Collation Centre and displayed; totals for each ward will then be collated at each House of Assembly Constituency Centre and displayed, before being taken to the Senatorial Constituency Centre for final collation and display.
President —Ł totals from each polling station will go the Ward Collation Centre for collation and display; they then will go in turn to the House of Assembly Constituency Centre and the Senatorial Constituency Collation Centre for further collation and display, before being sent to the National Collation Centre for final collation.
Declaration of Election Results
The legally effective declarations of the winning candidates will be at Ward level for Council Elections, House of Assembly Constituency level for House of Assembly Elections, Senatorial Constituency level for Senate Elections, and at the National Command Centre level for the Presidential Election.
Council Elections —Ł the Ward Collation Centre Election Officers will announce and display ward results.† As wards have relatively small numbers of voters, these results should be finalised first, some at least during Saturday night.†
House of Assembly Elections —Ł the results will be announced by the House of Assembly Constituency Election Officers.† As votes have to be counted at the polling stations, collated at Ward Collation Centres and then again collated at the House of Assembly Constituency Collation Centre, it will obviously take longer for these results to be announced.†
Senate —Ł the results will be announced by the Senatorial Constituency Elections Officers.† As collation of votes from the polling stations has to be done at Ward level and the House of Assembly Constituency level first, before final collation at Senatorial Constituency level, these results are likely to be later than those for the House of Assembly.
President —Ł the result will be announced by the Chief Elections Officer from the National Collation Centre.† As the collation of the returns from the polling stations has to go through four levels [Ward, House of Assembly Constituency, Senate Constituency and final collation at National level] these results will probably take longest and it may be a day or two before the result is announced.
All Council, House of Assembly and Senate results will also be sent to the National Command Centre and announced at that level.† These announcements will be broadcast live on ZBC radio and† television as the results come in through Saturday night and the following day(s).
Points of Interest
Presidential election - majority required
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] has formally accepted that to win the Presidential election a candidate must receive at least 50% plus one vote of the total valid votes cast, as stated in section 110(3) of the Electoral Act. †
Police at polling stations - court challenge dismissed
High Court judge Antonia Guvava this afternoon dismissed an application by the MDC challenging the recent Presidential Powers regulations requiring the presence of police officers in polling stations.
Cabinet dissolved
The President dissolved the Cabinet yesterday.†
Number of voters registered for the elections
ZEC has released a press statement listing the following figures for the number of registered voters entitled to vote in the elections [i.e. voters on the roll as at 14 February, when the roll was closed for the purposes of these elections in accordance with section 28A of the Electoral Act].† [Note: —Ł the reliability of the voters roll is being challenged.]
Total†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 5 934 768
The figures for the provinces are as follows:—Ł
Bulawayo†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 320 772
Harare†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 784 598
Manicaland††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 774 482
Mashonaland Central†††††††††† 522 107
Mashonaland East††††††††††††††† 658 123
Mashonaland West†††††††††††††† 625 729
Masvingo†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 740 969
Matabeleland North††††††††††††† 366 271
Matabeleland South†††††††††††† 355 480
Midlands††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 786 237
Sealing of ballot boxes
ZEC has published press notices stating that polling station presiding officers will seal ballot boxes starting at 6.30 am on 29th March.† Candidates, their election agents and accredited observers are entitled to attend the sealing process.
Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied.


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Could Mugabe Lose His Election?

Time Magazine

Saturday, Mar. 29, 2008 By ALEX PERRY

One morning this month, the villagers of Nemanwa in southern Zimbabwe
emerged from their homes to a scene they never thought they'd see. A man
wearing a shirt stitched with a bright yellow sunflower stood on a
weed-strewn football pitch and began lambasting President Robert Mugabe, the
man who has ruled the country for 28 years. At first, the villagers looked
on nervously. Then they began to gather and listen. Zimbabwe's descent from
food exporter to malnutrition was an "abomination," said the stranger as the
crowd murmured its approval. The clique around the President had stolen the
country's land from the people, he charged. Louder sounds of approval. When
he accused government ministers of being "cowards," afraid of Mugabe, the
crowd began to cheer. "Simba ku vanhu!" they shouted. ("Simba for the
people.")

Simba Makoni, 57, the man who captivated them, is a former finance minister
running against his old boss in Zimbabwe's March 29 general election. His
platform is vague, promising a "national authority" to rescue Zimbabwe from
80% unemployment and an annual inflation rate of more than 100,000% —
symptoms of an economic collapse that has prompted as much as one quarter of
the 13 million population to leave the country. But what, and whom, Makoni
stands for are mere details; the most significant fact is that he is running
against Mugabe.
"Our votes must go together with guns," Mugabe said in 1976, according to
biographer Martin Meredith. "After all, any vote we shall have, shall have
been the product of the gun. The gun which produces the vote should remain
its security officer — its guarantor." At the time, Mugabe had been in exile
in Mozambique, fighting a war against the white supremacist regime of
Rhodesia. And, once he had achieved power, the gun remained its guarantor.
Although he initially styled himself a democrat committed to market
economics and black-white reconciliation, within a few years Mugabe began
repressing internal opposition. Elections, in particular were accompanied by
state terror. During the mid-1980s, he unleashed his army's North
Korean-trained 5th Brigade on the ethnic Ndebeles of Matabeleland in central
Zimbabwe, killing more than 10,000, for their support of Mugabe's rival
during the liberation struggle, ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo.

A TV ad for Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in the run-up to the 1990 parliamentary
elections featured the sounds of a car accident followed by a voiceover that
intoned: "This is one way to die. Another is to vote [then opposition party]
Z.U.M." In 2005, Mugabe ordered the security services to level whole
districts in towns across the country, depriving 700,000 people of their
homes or livelihoods out of fear that urban support for a new party, the
Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.), would foment rebellion.

Hence the surprise of the residents of Nemanwa, traditionally a Mugabe
stronghold, to find Makoni campaigning in their midst. The local chief,
Fortune Charumbira, a member of the president's inner circle, had instructed
his headmen to ensure no opposition parties campaigned in the area; he was
ignored. Makoni campaigned and travelled without hindrance, and he's not
alone. Scores of Zanu-PF members are, with apparent impunity, running for
parliament as independents, against official candidates. "There is a turnout
all over the country of opposition supporters, cheering against Mugabe,"
says Eldred Masunungure, a professor of political science at the University
of Zimbabwe. "They would never have dared [to do so] in the past. I can't
explain it. Maybe we've been an abnormal country for so long, when normality
comes, it feels abnormal."

Most commentators still predict Mugabe, 84, will win. On Thursday the
president warned opposition supporters against demonstrating if they lose on
Sunday. Even if Mugabe were to lose, Zimbabwe's army commander, General
Constantine Chiwenga, has vowed that the army will keep him in power. Still,
Mugabe and his circle sound nervous. In an interview on state television on
his birthday last month, Mugabe lashed out at Makoni, saying "a prostitute
could have done better ... because she has clients." The task of overseeing
the polls is being handed to 60,000 teachers in state schools, leading some
to believe that the election is likely to be cleaner than in the past.

All of this has prompted speculation that this poll may mark the beginning
of the end for Mugabe. "Clearly there is evidence of an implosion inside the
Zanu-PF and the regime," says Masunungure. Chris Maroleng of the Institute
of Security Studies in Pretoria says Mugabe's potential successors within
the ruling party will "make their moves based on the outcome — a narrow win
could be the cue for action from several quarters."

Many in the international community certainly hope so. Zimbabwe's ambassador
to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, complained in February that the West
believes "the only election that can be free and fair in Zimbabwe is one in
which President Mugabe is defeated," and there is some truth to that. The
world will not re-engage with Zimbabwe as long as Mugabe presides over what
is widely viewed as a corrupt dictatorship.

In the past, elections have primarily served as an opportunity for Mugabe to
tighten his grip. Campaigns have been violent, their aftermaths more so. Few
would discount the possibility that by allowing open opposition, Mugabe is
merely drawing his opponents into the open. But even if the violence fails
to materialize this year, Maroleng says the poll is a distraction from talks
between the government and opposition, mediated by South Africa, aimed at
restoring a more democratic political climate in Zimbabwe and strengthening
its institutions. The election, says Maroleng, once again reduces the
question of Zimbabwe's political future to the question of Mugabe. "That's
wrong for every one," says Maroleng. "Well, for everyone but Mugabe."

— With reporting by Jan Raath/Nemanwa


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Zimbabwe – countdown to 'the day after'

Famagusta Gazette, Cyprus

By Roderic Pratt 29.MAR.08
As Zimbabweans go to the polls today, the eyes of the world are on them –
mainly from a distance, given the systematic expulsion of any and all media
considered hostile to the 28-year-old rule of the 84-year-old presidential
incumbent.

Ahead of the election, opposition claims of organized vote rigging, ballot
papers outnumbering the total number of eligible voters (including some for
the deceased), fear of violence with the warning of a security clampdown
during and after polling, a constant stream of refugees escaping to
neighbouring countries – like South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique and new
record-setting of inflation figures of a country totally out of economic
control.

Yet, there remains the distinct possibility that the man who doesn’t
contemplate defeat will be declared the victor in an "election" where the
details of how that result is manipulated will quickly become yesterday’s
news.

Even if one of his two rivals successfully steps through the election
minefield for a result to be announced in his favour, it’s not over 'til it’s
over, and in the mind of Mugabe that would seem to translate to: “it’s not
over 'til I say it’s over.

Defiance is his stock in trade, once giving him great credibility through
the war against Ian Smith’s UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence –
1965) white rule, the Lancaster House negotiations and their result –
independence in 1980 with him as prime minister.

Since then, it has done the opposite with his growing obsessive alienation
of much of the west – Britain in particular. Then, in 2000 his forcible
seizure of white-run farms served to dramatically accelerate the spectacular
economic disaster, destroying the country’s major income base of
agricultural production.

Blocking outside media coverage of the country’s economic and human rights
woes was one sure way of instilling fear into the average citizen, while
rewarding those faithful to him was the other side of the coin that paid for
the upkeep and entrenchment of his position.

Hearing him rail at the west, and apportioning blame there for his country’s
economic failures would have tempted one to believe the charade was all but
over. But the situation did not evolve in that way.

Indeed, it was a row with his one-time finance minister that prompted Simba
Makoni to quit the ruling ZANU-PF, and line up alongside – but not with -
opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to stand against Mugabe.

In any election, the candidacy of two opposition leaders risks splitting the
vote and allowing the incumbent an advantage. Indeed, the MDC (Movement for
Democratic Change) has already charged that Mugabe plans to declare winning
60 per cent of today’s vote and in that way avoid a second round.

Whatever should transpire now, it seems just too hard to visualize Mugabe,
who critics say is losing (or has already ) lost touch with reality,
magnanimously conceding defeat.

The man who has been lavishing selected targets with gifts – like hundreds
of cars to doctors – while not producing any sign of relief from the
hardships being endured by the wider population hardly seems to be
positioning himself, or his Praetorian guard, for a gracious stepping down.

So, if he does continue in power, by whatever means, what would the likely
picture be ‘the day after?’

Economic meltdown won’t stop if the status quo remains, with no lifting of
UN sanctions, no intervention from the IMF/World Bank, no resumption of
foreign aid.

Massive protests would be likely as would their vigorous suppression,
isolation would increase and misery worsen, while the stream of those
seeking to flee the country would swell into a fast-flowing river of
displaced humanity.

These, or similar, propositions must surely have been considered on regional
and international levels, as they directly imply far-reaching repercussions.

The situation could quickly turn from a sad local fiasco into a regional and
international disaster, with a serious security dimension. If Kenya, a
country standing out as a beacon of post-independence stability on the
continent, can plummet into spontaneous violence over disputed elections,
what can be expected of a volatile country where vote-rigging has been
alleged in advance?

Now, with the polls open in Zimbabwe, it can only be hoped that some other
as-yet unseen element can enter the equation, direct events along a
different course and avoid this "day after" scenario. - Copyright ©
Famagusta Gazette 2008


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Zimbabweans stage mock vote

tvnz, New Zealand

Mar 29, 2008 6:41 PM

Zimbabweans living in New Zealand are doing their bit to try to get rid of
President Robert Mugabe by holding their own elections - even though their
votes won't count.

Save Zimbabwe Campaign kicked off with its own mock elections in
Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. But the 7000 Zimbabweans living in
New Zealand are well aware their votes will not count towards political
change and will not bring about an end to Mugabe's rule.

However they hope they are making more people aware of how their country and
its people continue to suffer from the loss of democracy.

"We decided as part of the four million that have not been given the right
to vote to show our discontent and make a point that we do matter in the
discharge of justice and democracy in Zimbabwe," Mandla-Akhe Dube from the
Save Zimbabwe Campaign says.

Four million Zimbabweans living outside the country are not allowed to vote
and the 7000 in NZ want to have their say any way.

"It's creating awareness..we've got similar processes taking place in
countries like Australia, Canada, the UK and the US," says Adams Makope.

The protesters say Mugabe has plundered the country's economy and resources
and it is time he was out.

"The lack of governance has resulted in social strife and if the economy is
not functioning how else can people move on with their lives," questions
Dube.

Zimbabweans in New Zealand are angry they have had to give up their rights
to have a say on what is happening back home.

"If we are not allowed to have a dual citizenship and exercise our right to
vote being Zimbabwean citizens then it does concern us," says Makope.

And the protesters say their adopted country is a shining example of what
democracy should be.

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