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Harare election blog II: Voting day
|In the run-up to
Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections on 31 March, 22-year-old receptionist Lucy
Gomo (not her real name) is keeping a diary about life in Harare.
Thursday 31 March 1645 GMT
I've seen several people after their trip to the polling station and they've all got pink ink on their fingers to mark that they've voted.
A lady - who dropped in at my house to ask if one of my housemates could style her hair - was complaining that she couldn't remove the stain and it was ruining her nails.
Other people have just been enjoying the holiday. At lunchtime, before the rain started, I passed a group of men hanging out by the butchers, where they were drinking beer and barbecuing their meat.
At home I've been listening to Radio 3 - an FM music station which usually plays music.
But today it's been all election talk - encouraging people to go out and vote.
Now that polling stations are about to close, the music has started up again.
I haven't been able to get through to my family in Kwekwe to find out about voting there - the landlines may be down. At work yesterday there were no phone lines all day.
Thursday 31 March 0845 GMT
Well I didn't make it to my family's home in Kwekwe last night because when I finished work just after 5 o'clock, the heavens opened and I got drenched in the queue for the bus.
And with all the accidents on the roads it's not really safe to travel - there was a nasty crash outside my work this week.
I'm registered to vote in Kwekwe, but this morning I set off for my local polling station at a Harare school to see if it might be possible to cast my ballot here instead.
Signs to the station were hung on nearby trees.
As I suspected, the election officials said no.
I'm disappointed that I didn't get to vote, as this is the first time I've had the opportunity.
But people at the polling station had turned up in numbers to vote here, lining up quietly.
The process, as far as I could see, was orderly: When you arrive at the station you are given a number for your place in the queue.
Then people wander off and come back later to join the line.
Afterwards I went to the shops.
It's a public holiday here so people are busy getting on with their business.
The streets along the way were strewn with ruling party Zanu-PF pamphlets.
I've just arranged to meet up with a friend this afternoon, after she's voted.
Tuesday 29 March
I set off by bus for Kwekwe (180km south-west of Harare) on Friday to spend the Easter weekend with my family.
Our journey, which usually takes about three hours, was drawn out by another couple of hours as our conductor got arrested for touting, which is illegal here.
He wasn't actually touting at all; he jumped off the bus in Kadoma, a town before Kwekwe, to get some change and was asked by waiting passengers where the bus was going.
As soon as he responded, policemen pounced on him and arrested him for touting and he was taken down to the police station.
The bus driver refused to leave without him, so we all went along to the police station too, where a fine of $25,000 Zimbabwean dollars (US$4) was paid and the conductor eventually released.
Fined for being late
There is a heavier presence than usual of policeman about because of the elections - but there are usually loads on the roads anyway, manning road blocks.
There they diligently search cars and buses, in search of misdemeanours for which they can levy fines.
For example, police at road blocks keep copies of the bus timetables and if a bus arrives late, the driver will be fined for not keeping to its schedule.
When I got to Kwekwe it was quiet, like Harare, on the election front and I didn't see any campaigning in the town centre.
I spent Saturday with my cousins preparing for a family wedding: Looking at venues and in the evening we held a bridal shower - or a kitchen tea as we call it - for the bride.
The rest of my family got up early to go to the Easter sunrise church service on Sunday morning, but after the festivities of the night before I stayed in bed.
When I got up I helped with the preparations for lunch, which is always a big affair at my aunt's house.
I arrived back in Harare on Sunday night, where I noticed the regional Sadc election observers had arrived in town.
When I passed by the Sheraton hotel I saw their cars parked outside with big stickers declaring their observer status.
And today I've seen lots of big buses full of people wearing T-shirts supporting the ruling Zanu-PF and a car with some opposition supporters inside. They looked like they were on their way to campaign meetings.
But apart from these vehicles, it doesn't really feel any different to any other day. The skies are overcast - it's very hot and looks like rain.
Tuesday 22 March
I've got a cold - like everybody else. The overcast weather seems to have brought along flu with it. But it hasn't dampened people's spirits too much as there is a hint now of election excitement.
I've seen a lot more people wearing T-shirts supporting both the ruling party and opposition; while radio stations keep playing a song in support of the ruling Zanu-PF.
Before the weekend everyone in Harare was talking about a free music concert to take place on Saturday afternoon - it sounded as if it was going to be big with loads of local artists billed.
I was meant to be going, but one of my friends got too drunk and we didn't bother in the end.
So I was surprised to hear afterwards that it had all been a trap, as it turned out to be a Zanu-PF campaign rally.
Loads of those who did go said they'd been misled and one of my colleagues was saying it had nothing to do with music.
Otherwise, life in Harare goes on as usual. I find it tiring fitting in work with night school.
I spent time on Sunday trying to find new accommodation and went to have a look at a small cottage, but it was too expensive.
Some monthly cottage rents are as high as $2.5m Zimbabwean dollars (US$415). My limit is Z$600,000 (US$100) but it's proving tough to find something - and I've been searching since January.
Last night the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had an interview on state-run television at 9 o'clock. I missed it as I was out at college - and it wasn't advertised.
My friend, who was watching TV at the time, rang to tell me it was on.
I haven't spoken to her since, so I don't know what it was like and nobody at work today seems to have watched it either.
The ruling party, meanwhile, calls its campaign an "Anti-Blair" campaign - in reference to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Most days when I read the state-run Herald newspapers it lists on its inside pages what anti-Blair means: "getting back your land; an end to racist factory closures; an end to politically motivated price increases; an end to sanctions; no safe havens for corrupt bankers; no disruption of fuel supplies; no to political interference; an end to Blair's MDC; keeping our Zimbabwe".
While I was reading the paper this morning, I was looking at a photograph of a new national dress that's been launched.
It's a long robe with horizontal stripes - I think in the colour of the national flag, although this was a black and white picture.
Anyway, we were having a giggle about it, when a customer came in, leaned over to look at the article and said: "Are we going to be able to eat that?"
Will you be voting in Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections? Please send us your comments on this blog and your own experiences using the form below.
A selection of your comments will be posted below.
We really need help from Britain and the US otherwise we can never dream of
change in this country. All you people outside the country, please help us to
remove this regime. Oppression is on the increase. Never think there is no
violence, intimidation is at its peak. Surely this will never be a free and fair
I feel Zimbabwe is very much OK right now. There is no violence that's worth
fussing about and elections are going to be very free and fair. All contesting
parties have been and are being given adequate airtime on the television and
radio. That's good news.
I know this is slightly off the point, but thought it worth mentioning
considering South Africa is Zimbabwe's key friend. As a South African citizen in
New Zealand on a work permit I am not entitled to vote in a South African
election. Does this qualify South Africa as being
I have not been to Zimbabwe since 1998. I always found the people of this
beautiful country to be friendly, enthusiastic and vibrant. However, you could
see the decay beginning around the edges. Certain foods were becoming scarce.
The exchange rates were beginning to change at a rapid pace and modern materials
such as computers and such were becoming exceedingly rare to see in modern
cities like Bulawayo. The game parks which I loved were becoming empty because
of the uncertainty and the fact that no foreigners were coming to this country.
Today the animals are gone, the people are hungry and Mugabe is still there.
Desperate measures must be taken by the Zimbabweans and remove Mugabe and his
cronies at any cost. When this occurs, all of the nations of the world must aid
in rebuilding this beautiful nation and bring dignity to its
Compared to most African countries, I see a thriving democracy in Zimbabwe
contrary to western countries and media positions. Yes the land issue could have
been handle better by the ruling party but everything else has been democratic
so far. Since when did it became an issue that Africans abroad did or did not
vote? Can you tell me about any other African country that facilitate this? The
land issue have been dealt with and folks around the world should learn to
accept and respect the democratic will of the majority which in this case did
not favour the affluent white farmers!