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Thousands queue to vote out Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe

The Sunday Times
March 30, 2008

Christina Lamb
President Robert Mugabe faced the greatest challenge of his 28 years in
power as hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans queued before dawn to vote in
yesterday’s elections, apparently determined to oust him.

Faced with the world’s highest inflation and lowest life expectancy, they
turned out to support opponents of the 84-year-old leader. Yet many feared
the election had been sewn up by Mugabe before the first vote was cast.

“It’s not about who you vote for, it’s who they rig for,” said a voter in
Harare, the capital. After losing three flawed elections in eight years, the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed it would not be
cheated out of victory this time.

Last night the MDC was locked in a race with the regime to announce early
results in an effort to expose the expected rigging of the official count.
Party agents equipped with cattle counters and mobile phones were trying to
call in figures from polling stations across the country.

“We are seeing an overwhelming landslide throughout the country,” said Roy
Bennett, treasurer of the MDC, last night. “It will be very difficult for
them to rig to that extent.”

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Desperate Robert Mugabe recruits dead voters to rig election

The Sunday Times
March 30, 2008

Zimbabwe’s defiant voters start queueing before dawn to grab their chance to
oust the dictator - but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve,

Christina Lamb
ZIMBABWEANS began queueing before dawn yesterday to cast their votes in an
atmosphere of open defiance as people dared to think the unthinkable – that
they could finally oust Robert Mugabe after 28 years.

Years of repression and rigged elections have left Zimbabweans resigned to
the 84-year-old president using all means at his disposal to secure a sixth
term. But this time round they seemed eager to have their say.

“Everyone was quite open,” said Grace Harabwa after voting in Harare. “We
were saying, we are going to kill the cock [Mugabe’s election symbol] and
then bury it deep underground.” The opposition is carrying out its own
parallel count in the hope of announcing results before the official
election commission and thus encouraging a public reaction.

“If Mugabe declares victory this time it will be a monumental fraud,” said
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). “He’s
not going to get away with it this time.” Some in the cities had camped
overnight to avoid what happened last time when polling stations closed
before everyone had voted and thousands of voters were driven away with tear
gas and batons.

At Waterfalls primary school in Parktown a queue stretched for about 400
yards by 6.30am, half an hour before polling stations opened. In Victoria
Falls there was almost a stampede as people jostled to get into a polling
station in Chinotimba township.

Fed up with the lack of food and inflation of 150,000%, people seemed
undeterred by the presence, as in previous elections, of army trucks
patrolling the streets with water cannons and jets circling the skies.

Voters in the queues alongside knee-high piles of uncollected rubbish
outside polling stations in the townships of Harare spoke openly about
change and waved the open-palm salute of the MDC.

“I may be old but my grand-children deserve a better future, a future where
they can be guaranteed clean water, electricity and goods in the shops,”
said Vitalis Chinyama, 77, standing in a long queue in the Harare township
of Mbare with his 74-year-old wife. “If I don’t vote, it means I am happy
with the way Zimbabwe is being governed.”

These elections were given new impetus by the entry into the race of Simba
Makoni, the former finance minister from Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF. Although
he lacks the grassroots popularity of the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai,
Makoni’s candidacy has split the ruling party and security services and
might force the election into an unprecedented second round run-off.

“He [Mugabe] is 84 years old now,” said Wellington Phiri, an elderly,
Malawi-born labourer. “He got 28 years in the job. Now he want more! What
for? He must go.”

The whites came with camp chairs, coffee flasks, lunchboxes and books. “Is
this for bread or for petrol?” an old white man joked as he joined a queue
just after dawn. been filled. Upon checking the voters’ roll, Makone
discovered that more than 8,000 people were registered to vote at something
called Glen Hat Housing Cooperative. The addresses listed on the roll were
nonexistent – the area is thick bush.

Surprisingly, Mugabe said yesterday after casting his vote with his wife,
Grace: “If one loses an election and one is rejected by the people, one
should accept it is time to go.”

Most believe that the president will not allow himself to lose these
elections, fearing he would share the fate of Charles Taylor, the former
Liberian leader on trial in the Hague.

Mugabe was quoted in the state-owned Herald last week as saying: “You vote
for them [MDC] but that will be a wasted vote. You will be cheating yourself
as there is no way we can allow them to rule this country.”

In the three elections since 2000 independent observers have concluded that
Mugabe’s victories were the result of violent intimidation; partisan
elec-toral laws and security services; and outright cheating. Indications of
the same patterns have been spotted this time round.

The heads of the army, prison service and police have all said they would
not accept orders from an MDC government.

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Zimbabwe votes: At a glance

Saturday, 29 March 2008, 20:32 GMT

Voters in Zimbabwe

Voting has ended in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans voted to choose a president, members of parliament and local councillors.

Contributors across the country sent the BBC their observations of the day.

Voter in Zimbabwe

Noel Kututwa, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which has been monitoring today's elections told the BBC at 1647 GMT that in general voting had progressed quite smoothly countrywide. He said that most of the long queues at polling stations had been dealt with. But he expressed concerns about the state of the voters' roll which, he said, "was fraught with many problems of duplicate names, of ghost voters, and of people who have long since died but are still on the voters roll."

1815 GMT, Harare: Ashley (not his real name) texts in with this message: "They denied many youth to vote because they knew they were the ones to vote them away with various reasons. " He told the BBC by telephone that he was turned away from a polling station as his name didn't appear on the electoral roll - even though he says he has already registered to vote.

1813 GMT, Bulawayo: Contributor Themba Nkosi says that people who remained in queues after polling officially closed were still allowed to vote. But many were turned away from polling stations because they turned up in the wrong ward or did not carry proper documentation, such as identity cards. Although voting was generally peaceful, there were some reports of violence in Bulawayo.

1725GMT, Harare: Munawari emails in to say that police are around but standing away from queues. "Everyone is in a very positive mood, the atmosphere is calm, but we want free and fair elections."

1723 GMT, Binga and Hwange: Contributor Joel Gore in Matabeleland North Province says about 1,000 people in Pashu, Binga, had not started voting by 1400 GMT as ballot boxes arrived late. A source said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission could not explain the late arrival.

Incumbent opposition MP Joel Gabhuza called for voting in the area to be extended to enable everyone to vote. Mr Gabhuza also complained that many people had been disenfranchised as the constituency had new boundaries. This had confused some voters who had turned up at the wrong polling centres or could not reach more remote polling stations.

Meanwhile in Hwange, supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai were concerned by the presence of two disqualified MDC candidates on the ballot paper. They expressed fears that this could split the vote to the advantage of Zanu-PF our contributor says. By 1700 GMT polling stations were empty of voters.

1715 GMT, Karoi: Voting finished in and around Karoi about three hours ago, contributor Naume Muza says. As counting gets under way, it has been reported that independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni has not fielded election agents in the majority of rural wards in Mashonaland West. Our contributor says this is surprising as Mr Makoni said earlier that the only way to defeat President Robert Mugabe was to ensure that counting was done at the ward level.

1707 GMT, Mutare: Contributor David Farira says voting ended with no reports of incidents of violence although there were allegations that ballot papers in Mutasa South were in short supply. He says there was no official confirmation of the ballot paper shortage. There is little social activity in the city centre and night spots and beer halls have fewer patrons. Most social centres are closed.

1642 GMT, Victoria Falls: An anonymous voter who has travelled around the polling stations in the district emails with this report: "I'm impressed with the maturity shown by the Zimbabwean electorate. The voting process has been transparent throughout the day and I haven't seen or heard any cases of violence since 0713 [local time] when I went to exercise my democratic right to vote."

1623 GMT, Masvingo: Owen Chikari in Masvingo says 10 people have been arrested in connection with clashes between opposition Movement for Democratic Change and ruling party Zanu-PF supporters in the rural constituency of Bikita West. Our contributor says in Masvingo town, voting, which has been peaceful, is all but over with polling officers sitting around waiting to start the count in just over half an hour.

1622 GMT, Harare: Mrs B wrote in an email: "Went to the polling station at Eastridge school, (eastern part of Harare) at about 3pm (local time). How sad. There were two voting halls and no voters to be seen. It was very peaceful. The people in the school area said there may have been about 400 people voting throughout the day, when in fact this venue should have seen thousands.

This is the second report of terrible voter apathy I've heard today. I've spoken to several folk who could have voted, but said they haven't because: 'What's the point? The outcome is predetermined'. If there is no presidential change, then once again, Zimbabweans may never know. However, I do feel voters should have turned out en masse."

1551 GMT, Bulawayo: If polls close as planned then many people will not get to vote in Zimbabwe's second city, says contributor Themba Nkosi. He says that at Cowdray Park polling station there are still long queues. People hope that the electoral commission will extend the voting to allow them to cast their vote.

1533 GMT, Harare: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairman George Chiweshe tells the BBC that turnout seems to be high in and around the capital.

He says he has not heard reports of problems outside Karoi, where farm workers claim they have been forced by their employer to vote for the ruling Zanu-PF party. "As far as I'm concerned we afforded everyone who wished to vote the opportunity to do so freely and secretly," he says. "If it does happen, it is an offence and people can be reported to the police."

He says after polls close, counting will be done at polling stations to be closely scrutinised by "the contestants or their agents in the presence of observers". Results are to be posted outside the polling stations and sent on to collation centres.

1526 GMT, Bulawayo: An anonymous voter says: "It seems our deceased relatives' names are still on the voters' roll. When they were checking my name, I peeped at the list and I saw the names of relatives of mine who died some time ago. I could not ask them about it because right in front of the voting station there was a heavy police presence."

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe voting on 29 March 2008
Mr Mugabe blames Zimbabwe's problems on a Western plot

1512 GMT, Harare: It is still quiet and calm all over the north and the east of the city, says contributor Festus. There are no queues at all. It is a public holiday so no restaurants or shops are open and most people are off the streets - which are almost deserted, he says.

1430 GMT Radcliffe, near Kwekwe: Georgina says: "I went to four different polling stations in the area and my name was not on any of the voters' rolls, even though I checked two weeks ago to make sure, and my name was on the voters' register then.

My grandmother's name was on the roll but she was told she could not vote this time, even though she has voted in all previous elections - she is 78. However, seven members of my family who have all passed away were on the list, including my uncle, who died a week ago and was an MDC member of parliament.

This is very disturbing for us. But we are not the only ones. Out of the four polling stations I went to, I would say half of all the people who turned up were turned away. They still took everyone's names however, including my neighbours.

I was hoping to vote for Morgan Tsvangirai and I am afraid they will attribute my vote to Zanu-PF. The same thing must be happening across the country and it will probably mean another Zanu-PF victory. It's very sad."

1402 GMT, Victoria Falls: Harrison Muronga emails: "Got to the polling station in Ward 10 at 0730 (0530 GMT) and voting was peaceful, stretching to over 300 metres. Please Zimbabweans let's keep up the discipline. Let's show the whole world we are a peaceful nation despite the difficulties we are facing as they shall all come to pass."

1400 GMT, Harare: Tinashe wrote in an email: "I voted in Mabelreign at 1100 (0900 GMT) having been in the queue for two hours. On passing the polling station two hours later it was virtually empty with about five people waiting to cast their votes. With 29 polling stations in a constituency of about 27,000 registered voters it could mean people have managed to vote without the long queues. In the township of Highfield, where Mugabe cast his vote, the queues had disappeared when I went there and I was told they were long in the morning. It seems the electoral officers will be able to close their stations at the designated time of 1900."

1330 GMT, Luveve, Bulawayo: Sporo in the UK texts: "I just spoke to my brother who is voting in Luveve. He is in a queue and it's piling up with people. He thinks latecomers will not able to vote."

1325 GMT, Hornung Park, Bulawayo: An anonymous voter texts: "Just finished casting my vote.I am disturbed by the number of people being turned away because their names don't appear on the voters' roll."

1305 GMT, Bulawayo: Colin Chigiyegiye texts: "I have voted and the system is quite easy and transparent, in my view. I do not expect any rigging. There is total peace."

Morgan Tsvangirai votes in Harare
Morgan Tsvangirai said he was confident of victory

1304 GMT, Hatcliffe, north of Harare: Laura Lynch, a reporter from the Canadian Broadcasting Company, tells the BBC about allegations of voting irregularities after visiting a polling station based in the middle of a field: "There were a number of people lined up to vote. The candidate of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change tell me this is an example of vote rigging, because she says all of these people can't possibly be living in the field, but that is what they're saying their address are. I did speak to one of the people there. He believes that he is able to vote there because President Robert Mugabe gave him a piece of that land last November, so he believes it's legitimate."

1246 GMT, Mutare: Contributor David Farira says voting has remained peaceful although the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has complained there were attempts by some soldiers to intimidate people at a polling station in Chikanga high-density suburb.

Some MDC candidates said they were also "shocked" by the high number of people who have been turned away at polling stations either because their names do not appear on the voters' roll or they were in the wrong ward.

Misheck Kagurabadza, the MDC candidate for Mutasa South, said at one polling station about 20 people were turned away in just two hours. Zanu-PF election agents said there were satisfied with the voting process.

At most polling stations in the city, our contributor says there were more polling agents and police than the number of people queuing to vote.

But there are reports of a high voter turnout in constituencies in Chipinge, 190km south of Mutare, our contributor says.

1231 GMT, Harare: Tia emails: "I was disenfranchised by a faulty voters' roll. I was distressed and disappointed to be turned away after hours of queuing, having voted in all polls since 2000, and having confirmed my name on the voters' roll last month. The roll is seriously flawed - many legitimate voters have been turned away."

1214 GMT, Bulawayo: Contributor Themba Nkosi says voting is continuing peacefully, but the thousands of people who have braved the heat to vote are complaining that there are too few polling stations in the townships.

I have waited for this day since last year and I will make sure I cast my vote
Dumisani Ncube

He spoke to some voters who had been standing in the queue for two hours and those going into the booths take too long to finish. Inside the polling booths, officers say they have a problem because many people do not seem to understand the voting procedures and they fear there will be many spoilt ballots.

Many people have also been turned away because they had turned up at wrong polling stations, our contributor says.

Dumisani Ncube who was queuing to vote outside Luveve Hall said the queues were frustrating but said he would wait until he voted. "I have waited for this day since last year and I will make sure I cast my vote," he said.

Our contributor has received reports from the border with South Africa that scores of other would-be voters are still trying to get cleared by immigration officers at Beitbridge to get to Bulawayo on time before voting closes.

Some 5.9m eligible voters
They elect president, parliament and local government
Nearly 9,000 polling stations
Polls opened at 0500 GMT and close at 1700 GMT
Winner needs more than 50% to avoid presidential run-off

He says South African immigration officers are also reported to be giving those who want to vote first preference in the immigration queues. But there are unconfirmed reports of Zimbabwean police detaining a bus carrying Zimbabweans from South Africa. Police and soldiers are patrolling the volatile townships where they expect youths to cause trouble after the results are announced, our contributor says.

1208 GMT, Masvingo: Contributor Owen Chikari says the long and snaking queues which characterised early voting in Masvingo have disappeared. He says a total of about 2,000 people have been turned away in different constituencies by 1000 local time (0800 GMT).

To be honest our voters' roll is in shambles
Mashoko Manjengwa in Masvingo

"I have walked about 15km and I am now trying to find out where my name is," Mashoko Manjengwa told our contributor. "I am surprised that my name is not appearing on the roll when I have been voting in previous elections. To be honest our voters' roll is in shambles."

In rural areas around Masvingo, our contributor says voting was very peaceful and by midday polling officers were basking in the sun after the long queues had disappeared.

He says so far no incidents of political violence have been reported with the police saying they were in control of the situation.

1150 GMT, Harare: O Mapiye writes in an email: "Voted early at 0715 (0515 GMT). The atmosphere was good and there was a large turnout. I visited three polling stations in the Warren Park area and there were no observers anywhere."

1147 GMT, Gweru: Gora Valentine Elifas emails: "I voted at Senga Primary School in Gweru city at 1000 (0800 GMT). There were only two of us voting at the time. The voting process was easy and the officers were all friendly. I encourage all those who have not yet voted to visit this underused station. Confronted with four ballot papers the old and illiterate may seek assistance especially in rural areas and this is where possible rigging may take place. I congratulate Zimbabweans for conducting themselves so maturely so far."

1130 GMT, Hwange: Contributor Joel Gore says queues at polling centres have reduced this afternoon, unlike in the morning when voters rushed to cast their votes. He says no incidents of violence or intimidation have been reported and the streets continue to remain silent as residents prefer to remain indoors.

It saddening to note that there is voter apathy
MDC supporter Lizwe Mathe

But some complained that they had been turned away because they produced drivers' licences as proof of identity. "I came yesterday from Bulawayo for the elections and carried with me a driver's licence," Jabulani Khumalo told our contributor. "However, I did not vote because I had no registration identity card or a passport. This happened to most voters who had carried drivers' licences because they don't indicate citizenship."

On Friday, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters moved around Hwange Central in a vehicle mounted with a hailer encouraging people to go and vote, but our contributor says, their call seems to have fallen on deaf ears as this afternoon some polling stations are empty. "It saddening to note that there is voter apathy. I do not know what the respective authorities and political parties can do to encourage people to go and vote. This is the only day and it will not be extended," MDC supporter Lizwe Mathe said.

Our contributor says last night returning and presiding electoral officers were seen in beer halls wearing MDC T-shirts.

1130 GMT, Radcliffe: John in the UK texts to say: "My grandmother and my sister were both turned away from their polling station in Radcliffe, near Kwekwe. My grandmother was told she could not vote because she was an alien, even though she was born in Zimbabwe and has lived there all her life. She is married to a Malawian, has a Malawian passport but holds a Zimbabwean ID. My sister was told she was not on the electoral role, even though when she checked a couple of weeks ago she was on it. They had to leave the polling station, obviously disappointed and distressed. "

1059 GMT, Karoi: Gandawa emails: "I came to the polling station at 0720 (0520 GMT). The queue is moving fast with approximately 1,000 people behind me. The voting is peaceful. The mood in the queue is good and people are joking. The wind of change is blowing."

It was a command that we all vote for Zanu-PF even though we are suffering here
Farm labourer near Karoi
1050 GMT, Karoi: Contributor Naume Muza says few residents in the farming town 204km north-west of Harare have so far turned up to vote - some polling stations only recording about 100 voters by mid-morning. Karoi is within incumbent President Robert Mugabe's home province.

On Thursday, the electoral commission fired more than 100 polling officers around Karoi and Hurungwe rural. There has been no official reason given, but our contributor says people suspect it is because they were felt to be opposition sympathisers.

"We are being fooled by Mugabe who can easily manipulate the votes into his favour," a school teacher in Chikangwe high-density suburb said.

"Our chance to bring about change is being denied by those who he is using in the secret service, the Central Intelligence Organisation, who have blacklisted us as polling officers saying we are a security risk."

Our contributor says in the farming resettlement areas, labourers were forced by the black bosses to queue for elections as early as 0500 local time (0300 GMT), two hours before voting commenced. At Dicks farm run by Zanu-PF councillor and war veteran Ben Chikanda, farm labours said they were forced to the polling station to vote for the ruling party.

''It was a command that we all vote for Zanu-PF even though we are suffering here,'' one voter told our contributor.

1045 GMT, Victoria Falls: An anonymous voter texts: "I arrived at my polling station in Ward Three in Victoria Falls only to be told that there were no ballot papers. This was at 1000 local time (0800 GMT). There were still no papers at 1235 local time (1035 GMT)."

1044 GMT, Bulawayo: Contributor Themba Nkosi says that a petrol bomb exploded at the home of Zanu-PF councillor Mary Nsingo at 0200 local time (midnight GMT) in Emakhandeni constituency. She was hurt, but has not been seen since, so there are no details of her injuries. Other people were in the house with her - everyone was sleeping at the time. It is not known who is responsible; however, our contributor says she lives in an opposition area. Ms Nsingo is standing for re-election as a ruling party local councillor.

1030 GMT, Gweru: A male voter, 32, who works in the industrial sector told the BBC that there was confusion at his polling station at 1030 (0830 GMT) when he went to vote as ballot papers for president, senator and MP are all on white paper. He says the ballots should be blue for the president, green for the senator, white for the MP and yellow for councillors. The councillors' ballot was yellow, he says. There were about three police officers around, the atmosphere was ok and there were lots of people in lining up to vote, he says. After voting his finger was marked with indelible pink ink.

1029 GMT, Chipinge: Lackson Nyemba writes in an email: "I was first in the queue at 0400 (0200 GMT) and managed to vote by 0715 (0515 GMT) at Matione Primary School, Chipinge Central constituency. By the time I left, the queue was about 200m long. The atmosphere was quite peaceful with people chatting."

1024 GMT, Zvishavane: Francis Masere emails: "The situation in Zvishavene is calm. People went to polling station as early as 0400 GMT. I waited for about two hours to cast my vote. My name wasn't on the voters' roll but I was allowed to vote on the condition that I brought in a receipt which reported that I had registered as a voter before the deadline of 14 February, 2008."

1001 GMT, Harare: Rose texts: "Have voted in the northern suburbs. Very peaceful. Friendly and helpful officers. Whole process took approximately 35 minutes."

1000 GMT, Zesa in the UK texts: "I have just received a text from my sister-in-law in Chegutu. Voting has stopped in her area due to a shortage of ballot papers."

0938 GMT, Harare: Opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai casts his vote, saying: "The people's victory is assured."

0921 GMT, Harare: Nicky told the BBC by phone: "I went to one station but the queue was too long. The people there told me they had been waiting since 0100 local time (2300 GMT). I only got there at 0600 (0400 GMT) and waited till now but it's too slow so I'm driving around to find a shorter queue within my ward - there are four stations that I can vote at so I'm going to try the others."

I have already voted. It was OK - unlike the confusion we anticipated. I got to my polling station early.

0912 GMT, Harare: Farai, 24, a student in Borrowdale spoke to the BBC via telephone: "I have already voted. It was OK - unlike the confusion we anticipated. I got to my polling station early. I was there from about 0600 and was among the first people to cast their ballots. I didn't stay long and came right back home."

There are not that many police around. I can't see any observers - maybe they are only inside
Clarence, voter in Mutare

0907 GMT, Mutare: S Moyo texts to say that voting has been peaceful so far: "No acts of violence, intimidation. People are free to choose their candidates."

0906 GMT, Kadoma: Olla in Kadoma, north-west of the capital, says voting is going on very well except for some cases where suspected Zanu-PF supporters are being forced to vote while being observed because the ruling party suspects that some of its supporters will vote for opposition candidates. "They are forced to declare to polling officers, as illiterate and they need assistance," Olla emails.

A policeman and voter and her baby at a polling station in Zimbabwe
Voting has been largely peaceful

0905 GMT, Bulawayo:Hlo emails: "At about 0600 I was up to go to the polling station. I arrived before it opened only to find a long queue, when I was thinking I would be the first one. After about two hours, I was happy to get in and vote for my preferred candidate for the president and others. This was the first exciting vote for me."

0859 GMT, Harare: AFP news agency reports that President Robert Mugabe has cast his vote. "We are not in the habit of rigging... We don't rig elections," the 84-year-old said. "I cannot sleep with my conscience if I have rigged."

0837 GMT, Marondera: Cleopas, 38, in Marondera - a town about 70km east of the capital, Harare, emails: "Voting is going on. People started going to the polls as early as 0530 local time (0330 GMT). Everyone is in high spirits and texts like these are doing the rounds among friends: 'Make sure the old man leaves the keys for state house - if he is shy, tell him to drop them at the robots [traffic lights] on the corner of 7 ave and samora machel ave.'"

Zimbabwe map
1: Mashonaland West
2: Mashonaland Central
3: Mashonaland East
4: Manicaland
5: Masvingo
6: Midlands
7: Matabeleland South
8: Matabeleland North

0833 GMT, Mutare: David Farira says voting kicked off peacefully in the city east of the capital, Harare, but with far fewer voters than expected queuing to cast their ballots. The pre-election hype that characterised the campaign period has not yet matched the number of people going to the polling stations, he says.

In Sakubva, the most populous high-density suburb, there were very short queues. In Dangamvura, the second most populous high-density suburb, and the city centre, the situation was the same, with about 40 people counted at one station. Our contributor says that only in the new high-density suburb of Hobhouse were there long queues. "I made sure my vote is counted," Obvious Zengeya said after casting his ballot in Hobhouse.

"My vote will contribute towards change to a better Zimbabwe." An official manning a polling booth in Sakubva said that voters were expected to flood voting stations in the afternoon. There are no incidents of violence reported anywhere in Manicaland Province, our contributor says.

0830 GMT, Harare: Our contributor Festus at Glen Lorne polling station says the queue is building. Some people have brought deckchairs and umbrellas and there is a hot food stall set up.

He says the atmosphere is good, but people are starting to talk about the numbers of voters who are being turned away, their names not on the voter's list.

Two young white Zimbabweans offer to take a group of black voters up to Chisipite or Gletwin Farm, a further 15km away, to see if they are on the voters' list there.

Our contributor says there is indignation as word starts to go around.

0826 GMT, Mutare: Clarence, 27, at a polling station in the eastern city of Mutare, says: "I got here about 20 minutes ago and am in the middle of the queue. People are just being cool - everyone is relaxed. Then as soon as they have voted, they leave straight away and return to their homes. There are not that many police around. I can't see any observers - maybe they are only inside."

0824 GMT, Mazowe: Stephen told the BBC that people have been voting peacefully in Mashonaland Central, but turnout is still low as most miners in the area have gone to work despite it being a public holiday. As he went to cast his ballot at 0630 GMT in a mining compound, he says he noticed that there was "a minor hiccup" with the ballot box labels. The written label and colour coding lid on the boxes for the presidential vote and senatorial vote did not tally. The president's box had a green lid instead of a blue one. Stephen says he notified the poll officials and the error was rectified.

0820 GMT, Bulawayo: A voter in Bellevue texts: "Been in the queue since three hours ago. A slow process - I guess it's because of the four ballots. The mood is optimistic, everyone is eager to cast their vote. Everybody is voicing their thoughts out loud, fear is gone, there is hope. Despite the delays everyone is in good spirits."

0820 GMT, Masvingo: Long and winding queues are characterising the elections in Masvingo, south of Harare, says Owen Chikari. Voting was delayed for almost an hour at some urban polling stations. Desperate voters some who been queuing since midnight threatened to destroy Kubatana polling station. But tempers cooled down following the arrival of the ballot papers around an hour after the polls were expected to begin.

"We know that ballot papers did not arrive on time in some areas but the situation is now under control," Ignatius Mushangwe, an official with Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, said.

Our contributor says that in rural parts of Masvingo there was a high voter turnout. "We had to sleep in the voting queue because what we need this time as Zimbabweans is a complete change that will make life easy," said Nyasha Mhosva who was in the voting queue at Nemazuwa School polling station. Voting continues, our contributor says, and troops have been deployed in all areas.

0800 GMT, Harare: Our contributor Festus says problems are starting to surface at St Joseph's School polling station in Harare East as huge numbers of people are finding their names are not on the electoral roll.

I made her look again, then for all my family. My father and mother aren't on the list. Only my one of my brothers is on the list
Ben in Harare

One voter, Ben, says he has walked three kilometres to vote and after an hour in the queue found his name was missing. "I showed my ID card and the polling officer started to check the list but said I wasn't on it. I made her look again, then for all my family," he says.

"My father and mother aren't on the list. My other brother Ian isn't on the list. Only my one of my brothers is on the list for this polling station where we have always, always voted in the past."

0809 GMT, Bulawayo: Sandra, 23, told the BBC over the phone from a polling station in Bulawayo: "I'm in the queue - there's seven people in front of me. I only got here an hour ago and so it's all going very efficiently. There is a long queue behind me but it is moving. People around me are quiet and are waiting patiently to cast their vote. People are just waiting for their turn."

0748 GMT, Harare: A voter in Mbare texts: "The situation is calm and peaceful and voting is going on smoothly."

I did not want to miss this opportunity
Mlungisi Mabhena, Zimbabwean teaching in South Africa

0736 GMT, Harare: Sandra says she is standing in line waiting to vote and the atmosphere is peaceful "though tinged with a kind of scepticism". "We don't know whether our votes will count or rigging will occur as in 2002," she texts. "I think the opposition should have done more to mobilise people to register. While most of my friends are very vocal about their desire for change, most failed to meet the registration deadline."

0723 GMT, Mutare: Stuart Valintine emails from Mutare that voting has been peaceful and efficient with large numbers turning out, although it started 10 minutes late. "An old man over 70 who has always voted was turned away because his ID document says he is an 'Alien'," he writes. "He was born in Mozambique, but has live and worked all his life in Zimbabwe."

0715 GMT, Hwange: The usual voter apathy in Hwange, in the north-west, is not in evidence, says Joel Gore. Many people have come out to vote and even Zimbabweans living from South Africa are in the area in large numbers to cast their ballot. He says campaigners can be seen removing election posters to save them as many people are anticipating a presidential run-off .

0714 GMT: A texter from Harare, who has just voted quietly and peacefully, emails, "Some registered voters turned away because name not on voters roll. I saw the name of someone I know who emmigrated years ago was on."

0710 GMT, Bulawayo: Themba Nkosi says at polling stations he has visited in the townships, there were thousands of people, both the young and the old queuing to vote. Those in the queues were in jubilant mood, chatting to one another regardless of which political background or affiliation they came from. At Cowdray Park township, voters started queuing as early as 0300 (0500 GMT) - most of them Zimbabweans working and living in South Africa who started arriving on Friday. "I did not want to miss this opportunity," Mlungisi Mabhena, who works as a teacher in Johannesburg, told our contributor. Mr Mabhena has never voted in Zimbabwe but this year he made sure he came to register to vote because he wants change, he says. Our contributor says no violence has been reported so far and police and soldiers are patrolling the townships where the majority of the city's 1.6m residents live.

0640 GMT: Presidential contender Simba Makoni votes at a Mandara shopping centre in Mashonaland East. "I feel good, I voted for the best candidate," he told AFP news agency.

Hundreds of Zimbabwean wait in a voting queue on election day in Harare
Some people arrived as early as midnight to book their place in the queue
Owen Chikari, Masvingo

0620 GMT, Harare: Ben 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, Kwekwe: 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, Harare: A male voter in Highfields 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, Karoi: 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.

So if you won't take note of electors' complaints why are you here at all?
Disabled voter in Umwinsidale, Harare

0539 GMT, Masvingo: 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. Somepeople arrived as early as midnight to book their place in the queue, he says.

0530 GMT, Harare: From a polling station in a large marquee between a petrol station and police outpost in Umwinsidale, Festus says voting has been progressing peacefully and the whole process of voting takes just under five minutes. There are no uniformed policeman inside and the one patrolling outside did not enter when a disabled lady entered, he says. However, although she had on previous elections been on the electoral roll for this ward, she was told her name was not on the roll and she must go elsewhere. She tried to complain to the observers both inside and outside the tent, but no-one paid any attention or took any note of her complaint. She told a chap wearing a yellow jerkin which read Regional Faith Observer: "So if you won't take note of electors' complaints why are you here at all?"

0525 GMT, Bulawayo: Themba Nkosi 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, Harare: A voter at a polling station in Roosevelt School says there is a queue of about 50 people, where the atmosphere is "party like", with police around but standing away from the queues. "Everyone is in a very positive mood," the texter says.

0516 GMT, Harare: Freelance journalist Brian Hungwe 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.

0511 GMT, Harare: Noel Kututwa, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Election Support Network that more than 8,000 election monitors, tells the BBC there are concerns about the presence of police officers in polling stations and the state of the voters roll. "We know that there are a lot of duplications," he says. "We also know there are a number of voters who are on that roll whose age is over 100 whom we believe are no longer alive. We know that the voters roll has not been adequately tested."

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, Harare: A male voter, 25, 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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Morgan Tsvangirai claims victory in Zimbabwe

The Telegraph

John Birch, Peta Thornycroft and Byron Dziva in Harare
Last Updated: 9:36pm GMT 29/03/2008
Page 1 of 3

Desperate Zimbabweans turned out in their thousands in an attempt to vote President Robert Mugabe out of office and put their country on a path to a new era.

Many queued from the early hours of the morning to vote for a new president, parliament and councils at more than 9,000 polling stations in what promised to be an historic election, with clear signs that many former supporters had finally turned against Mr Mugabe.

A man cycles past an elction board: In Pictures- Fraud fears as Zimbabwe goes to the polls
Fraud fears as Zimbabwe goes to the polls

"This time round we'll finish him off," said one middle aged woman, queuing along with at least 1,000 others to vote at a polling station in a tent in the town of Chitungwiza 20 miles south of Harare.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, claimed victory. "We've won this election," he told The Sunday Telegraph.

But the optimism among the president's opponents was tempered by a widespread suspicion that he would once again attempt to cling on to power by rigging the final result.

As voting started it became clear that large numbers of people were being turned away from the polling booths.

In Chitungwiza The Sunday Telegraph witnessed seven people being turned away in the space of five minutes after being told their names were not on the voters roll or that they had not got the correct identification.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed Mr Mugabe had packed the voters roll with fake names and addresses, and set up "ghost" polling stations which only his agents knew about in order to rig the results of an election he knew he was going to lose.

African Union election observers also raised concerns about 8,450 voters registered to a patch of deserted land in north Harare.

Mr Mugabe, 84, rejected the rigging claims and predicted he would win a sixth term of office.

"We are not in the habit of rigging... We don't rig elections. I cannot sleep with my conscience if I have rigged," he said.

But even in Mr Mugabe's own home village, Zvimba, 40 miles west of Harare, voters appeared to be turning their backs on the president and his Zanu PF party. Of 20 people interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph, 12 who had previously voted Zanu PF said they had switched to the MDC and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

One mother of two children, a distant relative of the president, said she had voted for the MDC because of the economic conditions in a country in the grip of a prolonged economic crisis.

The 33-year-old, who sells tomatoes at the roadside to eke out a meagre living, said: "Do you think the economy will improve if the old man wins again? How is he going to control the economy with such levels of inflation.

Zimbabweans queue to vote:  Morgan Tsvangirai claims victory in Zimbabwe

"We used to get free maize here but not any more. If we who are his relatives cannot get the free food now imagine what the rest of the country is like. My vote is my power. We want change."

The latest figures show inflation in Zimbabwe running at 165,000 per cent - the highest in the world, while unemployment is at 80 per cent and there are shortages of food and the most basic household items.

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African observers allege fraud in Zimbabwe poll


Sat 29 Mar 2008, 18:41 GMT

HARARE, March 29 (Reuters) - African observers charged on Saturday that they
had discovered fraudulent voters rolls in the Zimbabwe election, listing
more than 8,000 apparently non-existent people.

Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African parliament, said that in one Harare
constituency, "It has been brought to our attention that out of the 24,678
registered voters more than 8,450 have been registered under block
081083...which is a deserted land with a few scattered wooden sheds."

In a letter to the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) seen by
journalists, he said 70 more people were registered under another empty
piece of land in the same area.

"Taking into account that there have been a lot of complaints from
opposition political parties regarding the fact that ZEC has printed
approximately 50 percent more ballot papers than the number of registered
voters, the mission would like to request that ZEC clarifies these claims at
the earliest of its convenience," he said.

ZEC officials were not immediately available for comment.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the main opposition MDC, said the party
had also found "ghost voters" in an area of Harare.

Bitti earlier charged that President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party planned
systematic fraud to keep him in power, including multiple voting by his
supporters. (Reporting by Cris Chinaka; Editing by Barry Moody)

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Zimbabwe votes as rigging claims mount up

Yahoo News

by Godfrey Marawanyika

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabweans voted Saturday in polls which could see President
Robert Mugabe turfed out after nearly three decades in power, with opponents
accusing him of trying to extend his rule by rigging.

Voting passed off smoothly in a country groaning under the impact of the
world's highest rate of inflation.

But a row over the fairness of the poll gathered steam as foreign observers
added their concerns to opposition accusations that Mugabe was stealing

Meanwhile Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, said he was confident of victory
and he could not sleep at night if he attempted to fix the result.

"We don't rig elections. I cannot sleep with my conscience if I have
rigged," the 84-year-old said as he cast his ballot in Harare.

Large queues had gathered outside the polling stations in the capital by the
time they opened, but apathy reigned in other parts of the country.

There was no immediate figure for the turnout after polls closed at 7:00
p.m. (1700 GMT), although some 5.9 million people were entitled to vote for
the president as well as members of the 210 seat parliament and local

Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony uninterrupted since
independence in 1980, is up against ex-finance minister Simba Makoni and
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change

While Makoni, formerly one of the leading lights in the ruling ZANU-PF
party, is likely to peel votes away from Mugabe, Tsvangirai is seen by
analysts to represent the major threat to the president.

As he cast his ballot in Harare, Tsvangirai said he expected to win but made
fresh allegations of widespread vote-rigging.

"Victory is assured in spite of the regime's attempt to subvert the will of
the people," Tsvangirai told reporters.

Tsvangirai said his party had uncovered evidence of widespread vote-rigging,
including the names of a million "ghost" voters registered to cast their
ballots in a northern region of Zimbabwe.

A team of African observers meanwhile wrote a letter to the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission claiming that 8,450 voters had been registered on a
patch of deserted land in northern Harare.

"Despite the fact that the area is empty, voters were registered using
addresses of the empty stands," stated the letter shown to AFP by the
observers on condition of anonymity as they did not yet want to make their
concerns official.

No reliable opinion polls were conducted during the campaign, although state
media has predicted Mugabe would triumph with 57 percent of the vote and
avoid the need for a run-off within three weeks.

The election takes place as Zimbabwe is grappling with the impact of the
world's highest rate of inflation -- officially put at 100,580.2 percent -- 
and an unemployment level which has breached the 80 percent mark.

Once seen as the region's breadbasket, the country is now suffering from
previously unheard of shortages of even the most basic foodstuffs such as
cooking oil and bread.

"We just want to live normally again, to be able to get into hospitals
stocked with drugs, to be able to walk into shops and buy mealie-meal (corn
flour)," said a mother-of-seven after voting at the same polling station as
Mugabe. She did not want to give her name.

The president has blamed the country's economic woes on the European Union
and the United States, which imposed sanctions on his inner circle after he
was accused of rigging his 2002 re-election. He has portrayed the election
as a chance to stand up against the West and in particular Britain.

Security forces have been placed on full alert during the poll in a bid to
avert the type of violence which followed the recent disputed election in

While there were no reports of widespread unrest, police said that the home
of one ruling party parliamentary candidate had been firebombed in the main
southern city of Bulawayo.

While the turnout appeared high in Harare, it was a different story in
Bulawayo, with one polling station virtually deserted except for election
officers and police.

"I was surprised to see no queue and I thought I had come to the wrong
place," said 25-year-old Asakhile Ncube, after casting her ballot at Large
City Hall.

The first results are not expected until Sunday and the count is not
expected to be completed for several days.

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Polls close after largely peaceful Zimbabwe elections

Monsters and Critics

Mar 29, 2008, 18:07 GMT

Harare/Johannesburg - Voting in Zimbabwe's critical national elections ended
Saturday night with polling stations closed after a day that watchdog
organizations said was unmarred by serious controversy.

'From what we have observed of the voting, there have been minimal
problems,' said Noel Kututwa, chairman of independent local monitor the
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN). 'We didn't anticipate major
problems. The problems come in the counting and collating.'

Counting is expected to begin immediately after polling stations closed, and
observers say they believe the first results will come out tomorrow morning.

With the economy in ruins and most Zimbabweans living in hunger and penury,
President Robert Mugabe, is facing the most serious challenge to his power
since he came to power in 1980, from Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the larger
faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and from
Simba Makoni, his former finance minister.

Makoni is said to have caused major divisions in the 84-year-old ruler's
Zanu-PF party by his decision to challenge Mugabe, as an independent.

Elections for the two chambers of parliament and for local councils are
being held concomitantly.

No estimate of turnout was offered by the official Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission, but Kutuwa said that it had been 'high.'

The queues outside polling stations were not as large as expected, but he
said it was explained both by the fact that the number of polling stations
since the last presidential election in 2002 had doubled, and by the
inflated size of the voters' roll, put officially at 5.9 million but more
reliably estimated at 3.5 million.

He said there were also large numbers of people who had been turned away,
mostly because of changes to the constituency system which meant that people
now had to vote in the wards (districts) in which they lived. Previously,
they could vote in any ward in their constituency.

Observers have reported a dramatic surge in support for former national
labour leader Tsvangirai and Makoni in the last month, said to have been
unleashed after waves of violence that preceded every other election since
2000 did not materialize.

Tsvangirai particularly has drawn large and wildly enthusiastic crowds to
his campaign rallies, penetrating for the first time, the underdeveloped,
poverty stricken rural areas where Mugabe has held almost exclusive sway in
the past. All over the country are open and constant calls for 'change.'

'It's obvious,' grinned Edgar Takundwa when asked Saturday how he had voted
in the Harare township of Warren Park. 'We are suffering. We are starving.'
Wellington Phiri, an elderly labourer was was on his way to vote when he
said: 'He (Mugabe) is 84 and he been in the job for 28 years. Now he wants
more! What for? He must go.'

Mugabe, when he voted in the capital, predicted 'overwhelming victory' for
himself and Zanu-PF, but added: 'If one loses the election and one is
rejected by the people, one should accept it is time to go.'

Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai's MDC, said: 'It is beyond
reasonable doubt that the people's victory is on course.'

Independent observers have dismissed Mugabe's victory in the three elections
since 2000 as the result of brutal intimidation, electoral laws heavily
skewed in the ruling party's favour and outright rigging.

Observers say the atmosphere of excitement and hope for change surrounding
Saturday's election is undermined by deep anxiety that Mugabe will 'steal
the vote' again.

The government has banned observers from 'hostile' Western countries and
accredited only a handful of foreign journalists, although press conferences
are filled with correspondents from all over the world, most of them
operating 'illegally.'

The MDC Saturday was already crying foul over the polls, saying ruling party
supporters had burnt down the home of a party election agent in the remote
northern area of Muzarabanhi and that election agents in the town of
Concession about 50 kilometres north of Harare had found six 'unlawful'
ballot boxes.

Kututwa said that there had been several instances where opposition election
agents and observers had been refused entry to polling stations, and
expressed concern about the potentially intimidatory presence of large
numbers of paramilitary police around polling stations.

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Zimbabweans turned away from polls in big numbers: watchdog

Monsters and Critics

Mar 29, 2008, 16:56 GMT

Harare/Johannesburg - A Zimbabwean election watchdog body said many people
had been turned away from polling stations during voting in the country's
watershed elections Saturday because of confusion over where they should

'It seems like there's a high voter turnout and a lot of people got turned
away on the basis of ward (district) boundaries,' Noel Kututwa, chairman of
the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), told a press conference in
Harare, without giving estimates for turnout or the number of people turned

The confusion stems from a change in the election law obliging voters to
cast their ballot in the ward in which they reside. In previous elections
they could vote in any ward in their constituency.

Otherwise, there had been 'minimal problems', Kututwa said. 'People have
freely gone to polling stations and freely cast their votes.'

ZESN attributed the absence of queues in some places to the near doubling of
polling stations since the last presidential polls in 2002, from 5,000 to
9,400 in this election.

ZESN also said the voters' roll, which lists 5.9 million voters was probably

The opposition has been claiming for weeks the voters' roll is stuffed with
the names of many dead or fictitious people. Among the dead to be registered
as eligible to vote is deceased former Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith.

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Few Turn Up at Many Rural Polling Stations in Zimbabwean Vote


By Peta Thornycroft
29 March 2008

The polls are closing in Zimbabwe after elections to determine the future of
longtime President Robert Mugabe. Peta Thornycroft reports from the capital,
Harare, that voting was largely peaceful but few voters turned up at many
rural polling stations, and one person was killed in apparent political

Many voters in Harare lined up at polling stations hours before the polls
opened on Saturday morning. They remembered the last presidential election,
in 2002, when some voters never got to cast their votes.

For the first time, people are voting for a new president, parliament,
senate and local government councils simultaneously. Two opposition
candidates - Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change and
Simba Makoni, an independent - are challenging Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled the
country since 1980.

One voter in Mbare, a high density suburb of Harare, said he remembered the
last presidential election and how he queued most of the day before he could
vote. He said it was much easier this time. "In 2002, there was only one
polling station here. I waked up at 6.30 and then I went to vote at 4 pm,"
he said.

He said this time, he voted within 90 minutes.

Other voters in Mbare said they were voting for change to ease their poverty
and for a better life for their children. Zimbabwe has been suffering from
runaway inflation that has reached above 100,000 percent. "We are looking
for change....No teachers, no food for breakfast," said one voter.

The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network says that voter turnout
has been good so far.

However, some commentators said they were surprised to see that so few
voters lined up in rural areas where 60 percent of the population lives.

Substantial numbers of voters were turned away, perhaps as much as 15
percent, said one independent election observer Saturday.

The opposition to Mr. Mugabe has said it expects widespread rigging. But Mr.
Mugabe has said his conscience does not allow him to cheat.

A young man in Mbare said his name was not on the voters' roll, but he still
believed he would be allowed to vote before the end of the day. "I ws not
able to vote. I registered at harare High School. They are telling me I must
register today and vote," he said.

The day was marred by two apparent acts of political violence. The dead
person in Insiza, in rural Matabeleland province, was apparently a member of
the public who was killed by a moving vehicle. The vehicle, according to the
independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, may have been shot at.

In the city of Bulawayo, a bomb went off at the home of a ruling party
parliamentary candidate. No injuries were reported.

Noel Kututwa, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network, said it is
too early to say whether the elections have been free and fair. He said that
the counting of votes, not the actual voting, could pose problems. "It is
quite clear, from a technical aspect, people have freely gone to polling
stations and voted. As in past elections, there is very little problem on
voting day. The problem issues come at counting and tabulation, and we will
wait and see how that happens when the polls have closed," he said.

He said as far as he knew counting would begin immediately after the polls
close on Saturday.

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A day at the polls in Harare

Mail and Guardian

Mail & Guardian reporter

29 March 2008 11:45

      If this was the day that the big change would take place, Harare
did not look the part. If it weren't for the posters and the tent structures
for polling stations on open land, one would be forgiven for thinking this
was just another sleepy public holiday in the capital of Zimbabwe.

      The excitement, the expectation and the frantic last-minute
campaigning by various political parties that one would expect to accompany
such strong winds of change passed Harare by.

      With change -- the core of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) campaign -- in mind, the people in Harare went to
the polls on Saturday. A barrage of television advertisements told them it
was the right thing to do. In this MDC stronghold, the most challenging
decision to make was whether it would be change at the hands of MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai or former Zanu-PF finance minister Simba Makoni.

      On the way into Harare, dozens of posters displayed the
ever-defiant-looking President Robert Mugabe with yellow spray paint
covering his face -- the capital's way of showing its distaste for
Zimbabwe's president of the last 28 years.

      At the overcrowded and stinking hostels of Mbari, a township
outside Harare, Zanu-PF posters were taped over with newspapers -- 
ironically, the state-owned Herald, the only newspaper easily available in
Harare. This week both the Financial Gazette and the Zimbabwe Independent
had printing problems, but they did appear eventually.

      By Saturday evening, after voting stations had closed, some
African observers charged that they had discovered fraudulent voters' rolls,
listing more than 8 000 apparently non-existent people.

      Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan African Parliament, said that
in one Harare constituency, "It has been brought to our attention that out
of the 24 678 registered voters, more than 8 450 have been registered under
block 081083 ... which is a deserted land with a few scattered wooden

      In a letter to the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) seen by
journalists, he said 70 more people were registered under another empty
piece of land in the same area.

      "Taking into account that there have been a lot of complaints
from opposition political parties regarding the fact that the ZEC has
printed approximately 50% more ballot papers than the number of registered
voters, the mission would like to request that ZEC clarifies these claims at
the earliest of its convenience," he said.

      ZEC officials were not, however, immediately available for

      Posh poll
      In 2005's elections, the polling stations closed despite
hundreds of people who had not voted yet because the queues were too long.
This time, some voters did not want to leave anything to chance. In the
townships they came equipped with blankets at 3am to ensure they were first
in line when it was time to make their mark.

      In Avondale, a posh suburb in the west of Harare, things looked
slightly different.

      Voters had packed flasks of coffee, rusks and glossy magazines
to while away the waiting time. Some had their foldout chairs in which they
could wait comfortably for the polling station at the local high school to
open, which it did promptly at 7am. After voting, they were planning to
round up friends and spend a day on the golf course.

      Avondale was even graced with a celebrity voter. Tsvangirai
arrived at 9.30am with his sidekicks in big 4x4 bakkies, the only vehicles
allowed inside the school gates. Other voters had to park their Mercedeses
and Audis in the street outside.

      There was no question that "Morgan is more" for the residents of
Avondale, as his campaign slogan said. But he was also the darling of the
media, with more journalists attending his voting event than that of Mugabe.
They all scrambled at 7am to see the other presidential hopeful, Simba
Makoni, cast his vote, but Makoni was a disappointing no-show. He had a good
excuse, though -- he had to be rushed to hospital instead. Some blamed food
poisoning; others said it was poisoned water. Either way, he voted later in
the day, far away from the glaring eye of the media.

      The poshest suburb of them all, Barrowdale Brookes -- where
Mugabe's retirement home is located and some army generals have their
not-so-humble abodes -- saw Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono cast his vote.

      Flanked by two bodyguards and impeccably dressed in a dark blue
suit, Gono was chauffeur-driven in his jet-black Mercedes into the gates of
Heritage School, which provides the most expensive education a pupil in
Harare can get.

      He could have left the body guards at home because at 10am on
election day, the polling station at the school was practically deserted.

      The long queues that were the trademark of the 2002 and 2005
elections in Zimbabwe are not what the 2008 elections will be known for in
Harare. It is said that voters in rural areas were more enthusiastic, but in
the capital, where the opposition has the most support, voter turnout was

      Even polling stations in the townships were not crowded. Voters
complained that the actual process of checking if their name was on the
voters' roll took a long time, but said that making their cross on the four
ballot papers (president, Senate, Parliament and local council) was a quick
and easy process.

      Bread or voting?
      At the Beverley shopping centre, which consists of a bar, a
bottle store and a small cash-and-carry, voting was the last thing on the
mind of Catherine Chitinga (27), an unemployed women.

      Chitinga chose the queue for bread rather than the queue to
vote. She had been waiting for two hours for the bread to arrive at the shop
and would vote later, after attending the funeral of a relative. "I'll go to
vote after that, if they [the polling stations] are still open," she said.

      Tichaona Bepe, a lieutenant in the army, had already voted and
was cooling off with local sorghum beer, a milky liquid sold in brown
plastic bottles that makes the drink perfect for sharing with friends. "This
is for Morgan," he said, proudly showing his pink-coloured pinky stained by
voting ink.

      Although he was emphatic about the fact that the MDC would win
the election, he was not above using the voting day for his own purposes.
"They [my superiors] phoned me and said I should come and take some of my
people, but I said no. I told them I haven't voted yet, I will only be able
to come in a few hours."

      What if Morgan didn't win? What if Mugabe managed to defy all
odds, like so many times before, and won the elections by hook or by crook?

      "Then we have a problem. That is the problem," said Bepe, echoed
by his friends who also shook their heads.

      And that is all. These fervent MDC supporters in the outskirts
of Harare had, like their leaders, no solutions or post-election plans to
ensure that change did take place.

      There was to be no uprising, no taking to the streets, no
removing Mugabe by force. Even a fervent strategist for Makoni had no idea
what would happen then. "The people will have to decide; they will have to
show that they have reached their limit," he said.

      The next few weeks will show whether Zimbabweans will force
change upon Mugabe, or whether their limits will be tested once again.

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Turnout high for Zimbabwe election

Published: March 29, 2008 at 6:22 PM

HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 29 (UPI) -- Voting in Zimbabwe's national election
was mostly orderly Saturday and turnout was high, police and poll watchers

President Robert Mugabe, seeking a sixth term, faces challenges from Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, and Simba Makoni,
a former Mugabe ally running as an independent.

Voters waited in long lines, often for hours. A Voice of America reporter in
Bulawayo said she spent three hours and 15 minutes in line.

Police reported only one violent incident, a bomb that went off at the home
in Bulawayo of a member of Parliament from the ruling Zanu-PF party. No
injuries were reported.

Election observers said there appeared to be police intimidation at some
polling places.

Results are expected by Monday. To claim victory, a candidate must have at
least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off election in three weeks.

Nearly 6 million people are eligible to vote in the struggling African

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MDC: 'No doubt' we have won the poll

Mail and Guardian

MacDonald Dzirutwe | Harare, Zimbabwe

29 March 2008 07:30

      Polls began closing in Zimbabwe on Saturday after voters cast
ballots for Parliament and president with incumbent Robert Mugabe battling
to extend his near three-decades rule.

       Agence France-Presse correspondents at polling stations said
officers began closing doors at 7pm (5pm GMT) after 12 hours of voting but
allowed people who were still queueing to cast their ballots.

      Voting passed mostly calmly, according to police.

      Turnout in parts of the country appeared low, according to
polling officers, but participation figures were not immediately available.

      About 5,9-million voters were eligible to pick a president as
well as members of the national assembly and nearly 2 000 local councils.

      Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony uninterrupted
since independence in 1980, is up against former finance minister Simba
Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).

      MDC says lack of ballots
      The MDC said on Saturday afternoon that there were insufficient
presidential ballot papers in some constituencies in Manicaland.

      "I have received reports that presidential ballot papers have
run out at a polling station in Mt Dzuma and in Wards 29 and 30 of Makoni
South, said MDC official Itai Marombedza.

      Moffat Masabeya, the provincial elections officer, was not
immediately available for comment.

       Mugabe said on Saturday he would accept the results even if he
is defeated.

      Counting was to commence at polling stations minutes after the
closure and partial results were expected to start trickling in shortly
after counting ended.

      Stealing victory
      The opposition said Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party planned to
steal victory through multiple balloting by its supporters.

      It said voting ink could be removed from ballots with detergent.

      Combined with a bloated voter role and the printing of three
million extra ballot papers this "ensures that there will be multiple
voting" said Tendai Biti, a senior MDC official.

      "There is absolutely no doubt we have won this election," he

      Many voters said they wanted a new government.

      "I am voting for change. I am praying for a free and fair
election. It is the only way this country can move forward," said Richard
Mutedzi (25), a trained mechanic who voted in Chitungwiza, 30km south of

      He said he was forced to sell odds and ends because of lack of

      Despite the odds stacked against Mugabe (84), many analysts
believe he will be declared the victor.

      Mugabe oozed his usual confidence when he voted in Harare on
Saturday. "We will succeed. We will conquer," he said, denying that he
planned to steal the vote. "Why should I cheat? The people are there
supporting us. The moment the people stop supporting you, then that's the
moment you should quit politics," he said.

      Mother of three, Gertrude Muzanenhamo (36), voted early in the
poor township of Warren Park, telling reporters: "People are dying in
hospitals and funeral expenses are very high. How do you expect us to
survive? Shop shelves are empty."

      Sagodolu Sikhosana, a rural villager in the opposition
stronghold of Matabeleland, said after voting: "Things have been too hard
for too long. I think now there needs to be a change and they need to take
us more seriously."

      Vote largely peaceful
      Voting was largely peaceful but police said a bomb exploded in
the house of a ruling party candidate in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo,
an opposition stronghold. No-one was hurt.

       "I can't say Zimbabweans are cowards or that they are cautious.
They are peace loving people but if Mugabe steals the election there will
surely be trouble in this country," red-eyed Leo Kariwo said as he waited to
vote in a Harare township. - Reuters, AFP, CAJ

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Zimbabwe ruling party candidate's house bombed-police


Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:44am GMT

HARARE, March 29 (Reuters) - The house of a Zimbabwean ruling party
parliamentary candidate was bombed early on Saturday in the first violence
in the country's election, police said.

Chief police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told Reuters that a bomb had
exploded in a house belonging to a ZANU-PF candidate in Zimbabwe's second
largest city of Bulawayo.

"Early this morning a house in Emakhandeni...constituency was bombed. We
have since retrieved explosive devices ... no arrests have been made as yet
and no one was injured," Bvudzijena said. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe)

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Mugabe says would accept election defeat


Sat 29 Mar 2008, 10:07 GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe denied planning to rig Zimbabwe's
elections on Saturday and said that although he was sure of winning he would
be ready to accept defeat.

"We do not rig elections. We have that sense of honesty. I cannot sleep with
my conscience if I have cheated in elections," he told reporters as he voted
as a primary school in Harare.

"Why should I cheat? The people are there supporting us. The moment the
people stop supporting you, then that's the moment you should quit

Zimbabweans are voting in the most crucial election since independence from
Britain in 1980, with Mugabe facing the biggest challenge of his

He faces a formidable two-pronged attack from veteran opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai and ruling party defector Simba Makoni. Both accuse him of
plotting to rig the poll.

If no candidate wins more than 51 percent of the vote on Saturday, the
election will go into a second round, when the two opposition parties would
likely unite. Critics say Mugabe will do his utmost, including rigging, to
avoid this happening.

He said on Saturday that a second round was unlikely.

"We are not used to boxing matches where we go from round one to round two.
We just knock each other out," said Mugabe.

"That's how we have done it in the past. That's how we will do it this time.

Asked how he rated his chances of winning, Mugabe said:

"Very good. I rate them the same way as in the past. We will succeed. We
will conquer."

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Hoping so hard that it hurts

The Zimbabwean

Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:48
Hoping so hard that it hurts

As Zimbabweans go to vote today, in the most crucial elections my
country has faced since Independence in 1980, I am filled with apprehension.

There is so much at stake. Change is imminent. I can almost smell it.
I am hoping so hard it hurts. But I also know the realities of the
situation. I know Mugabe – his utter ruthlessness. Although I cannot
comprehend it, I recognize his desperation to cling to power. It is
He knows that most people no longer support him, no longer love him
the way we used to. We have seen through all his lies.  The only ones who
support him are those he has bought – with farms, with food, fat salaries
and useless Zimdollars that no longer buy anything.
He knows that we know that he is the cause of our problems. He is the
reason for the economic collapse of one of the most prosperous and diverse
economies in the entire sub-continent. No-one believes his lies about
western sanctions and re-colonisation plots, or sabotage of the economy by
the opposition and the whites. His rantings are tired, hollow, meaningless.
They fall only on the ears of children and old people herded by vicious
green bombers to his campaign rallies around the country.
He has thrown everything at this election – money, threats, violence,
cars, food. The entire machinery of the state is at his disposal. By
presidential decree he has changed laws at the last minute, desperately
hoping this might prolong his presidency.
The top echelons of the military and the police, rich beyond their
wildest imaginings thanks to his patronage, have come out in full support –
threatening a coup if the people should fail to re-elect him and his party
at the elections.
I feel sad that it has come to this. My beautiful country – now so
wasted, so impoverished, so destroyed.  Zimbabweans were a proud,
hard-working people. We used to hold our heads high in the international
community. Visiting South Africa recently, I told someone I was Zimbabwean.
“Ag, shame,” she replied. Fury rose within me that one old man had reduced
me to an object of pity. It could have, should have, all been so different.
We had so much going for us at independence, but Mugabe has squandered
it all.
My heart weeps for the countless Zimbabweans going to an early grave –
because of Mugabe. For the families split and scattered to the four corners
of the world. We all miss home, would love to go home. We have been driven
away by this crazy old man. I feel a profound sense of betrayal.
I feel angry at the abuse of the police and the military.  These
forces are meant to keep us safe. They are now being used to terrorise us.
Tanks are rumbling through the streets of our cities, while Chinese-built
MIGs screamed overhead. Rocket launchers were dragged through the streets of
Harare yesterday. I feel angry when I think of the police beating women,
marching peacefully with roses in their hands and babies on their backs – as
they have so often done in the past five years.
I feel outrage at the prospect of Mugabe rigging the elections in his
favour – and getting away with it yet again. I feel outrage at the South
Africa president and the observer mission, which, as recently as last week,
declared that everything was in place for free and fair elections in
Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans as a whole feel terribly let down by our African
brothers. They have been so quick to endorse flawed elections in the past,
out of a mis-guided sense of African solidarity. I pray this time will be
Things could be so different if they would insist on truly free and
fair elections, if they would raise the alarm in Harare today if Mugabe goes
ahead with his elaborate rigging plans.
A new government – headed either by Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni
or a combination of the two – would mark a significant new beginning. The
international community stands ready to assist us get back on our feet
again. Millions of skilled Zimbabweans around the world are just waiting for
the end of the Mugabe era to go home and rebuild their shattered nation.
But mostly I cling to hope. Hope that the election will indeed be free
and fair. Hope that the civil servants conducting the elections and the
police will, at last, realize that there is life after Mugabe and do the
right thing. Hope that there will be dancing in the streets when the results
are announced – not bloodshed and Kenya-style violence. Hope that the exiles
will be able to return, to kiss the soil at Harare airport. I will be among
them. – First appeared in The Weekender, Johannesburg, 29.03.08

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Sitrep Chipinge

SW Radio Africa (London)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 29 March 2008

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, reeling under a barrage of attacks for
alleged incompetence in its handling of the harmonised elections from
opposition political parties and civic society groups, is reported to be
deliberately omitting names of polling agents for the opposition MDC
(Tsvangirai) from the list of polling agents in Chipinge.

Samson Sithole, the MDC Tsvangirai candidate for Chipinge Central, which has
8 urban wards and 6 rural wards, alleges that in the 3 of the polling
stations that he has attempted to deploy his polling agents, names of his
polling agents are missing from the ZEC list.

They are 14 wards in the constituency, and has 37 polling stations.

Sithole holds that he gave ZEC a typed list (2 pages) of polling agents.
However, in all the polling stations that he has sought to deploy his
polling agents, the Presiding Officers are saying that the list Sithole
submitted is different from the ZEC list, in some instances, the Presiding
Officers are professing complete ignorance of the candidate's list.
Sithole's efforts to get reprieve from ZEC have yielded no results, with
officials from ZEC saying they have no information.

Sithole has however sought the indulgence of Gakava M, the Constituency
Registrar, who is trying to correct the situation. He however, has to start
the process of submitting the names all over again. "I think it is a
deliberate and systematic plan to frustrate access to polling stations by
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, whose capacity to handle the harmonised
election is in grave doubt", said Sithole

Security agents in intimidation antics!

State security agents in Harare have embarked on an intimidation exercise in
Harare's high density suburbs.

Swathes of soldiers, policemen and youth militia from the Border Gezi Youth
Training camps, clad in police uniforms, are on the prawl in Mabvuku and

The intimidation antics follow hot on the heels of threats by security chefs
to subvert the peoples vote in the event of the incumbent, Robert Mugabe,
losing the elections.

The Commissioner of Prisons, Retired Major General Paradzayi Zimondi,
threatened to go back to the bush and take up arms if Mugabe loses, the
Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri followed with veiled threats against
opposition candidates, holding that he will not salute sellouts. The
Commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga made
similar threats.

It is against this background that soldiers and policemen are on a roadshow
in Mabvuku - trudging through the streets of Mabvuku in military tankers, in
a massive show of military might.

And scores of youths from the infamous Border Gezi Training Centres are
roaming the streets in the city and the high density suburbs in large and
intimidating groups.

In Chitungwiza, a similar roadshow was exhibited before Morgan Tsvangirai
addressed a star rally at Chibuku Stadium.

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Opposition Polling Agents Flee Bikita

SW Radio Africa (London)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 29 March 2008

The National Command Centre has learnt that opposition polling agents in
various parts of Masvingo, have been denied access to their respective
polling stations. It has emerged that in Bikita West constituency, riot
police has been deployed and running amok on any person suspected to be
linked to NCA and Youth Forum after the arrest of the 10 activists in that

The riot police stationed in Bikita are reported to have been deployed from
Masvingo, leading to their arbitrary threats on the polling officers. The
polling agents had to flea for their dear life, deserting the polling
stations. By the time of going to press the agents had not returned to their
polling stations.

However, Bulawayo and Midlands have managed to deploy agents at all polling
stations. The denial of opposition polling agents access to polling stations
is clear evidence of the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ)'s a signal of how the
GoZ is determined to manipulate the already flowed process in its favour.

Mashonaland Central...

Meanwhile, on the 27th of March 2008, motorist and public transport drivers
were forced by soldiers to divert their routes to attend President Robert
Mugabe's rally which was held in Bindura, in Mashonaland Central province.

Some of the people forced to attend the rally were passengers who were on
their way to Harare to do their businesses ahead of the harmonized
elections. Soldiers forced the passengers to wear Zanu PF T-shirts and chant
to Zanu-PF slogans.

Another Zimbabwe is Possible!

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Statement From Military Chiefs

SW Radio Africa (London)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 29 March 2008




MARCH 28, 2009

The Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces: Gen C. G. Chiwenga

The Commander Zimbabwe National Army: Lt Gen P. V. Sibanda

The Commander Air Force of Zimbabwe: Air Marshal P. Shiri

Director General in the President's Office; Rtd Maj Gen H. M. Bonyongwe

Commissioner of Prisons; Ret Maj Gen P. W. Zimondi

Members of the media

Good morning

Tomorrow the nation goes to vote in the Harmonized elections amid peace and
tranquility much to the chagrin of detractors who hyped that there will be
increased political violence as we move to the polls. Such a view was
intended to buttress their ultimate conclusion that the polls would not be
free and fair. I applaud the nation at large, the churches for their prayers
and the many politicians who have joined us in the message and practice of
zero-tolerance to violence We urge everyone in our nation from all sectors
of our society to uphold the peace, law and order that has prevailed as now,
tomorrow as we vote, and also thereafter.

We wish to advise the nation that all the defence and security forces of
Zimbabwe are on full alert from now onwards covering the election period and
beyond. May we remind everyone that those who think and do evil must fear,
for the Defence and Security Forces are up to the task in thwarting all
threats to national security. Also those who have been breathing fire about
Kenyan style violence should be warned that violence is poor substitute for
intelligence and that it is monster that can devour its creator, as it is
blind and selective

Such misguided elements should stop this dangerous dreaming where they start
to commend themselves among themselves forgetting the Constitution and our
existence. Doing so is not wise.

As we approach the polls tomorrow, we remind all contesting parties and
individuals that the law clearly stipulates how the votes will be counted
and results announced. We are not going to allow a situation where
individuals arrogate themselves the role of election officials and announce
themselves winners at any stage of the electoral process. The authority of
counting votes and announcing the winners is vested in the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) in accordance with law. We warn anyone of such
inclination that we will not tolerate any such pronouncements as they have
the effect of trying to take the law into their own hands thereby fomenting
disorder and mayhem. Everyone is therefore advised to follow the law

We guarantee peace and safety for all Zimbabweans who would like to exercise
their right to vote. Adequate security deployments have been made to ensure
their safety. But after voting we urge all the voters to go and await the
result in the comfort of their homes. The officers who have been deployed at
polling stations have been thoroughly briefed on their roles in line with
Statutory Instrument 43 of 2008. There has been some exaggerated reports
carried by the media with regard to these elections. We appeal to the
various media houses to report stories in a professional and ethical manner.
Truth and accuracy should not be sacrificed on the alter of political

In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, we reiterate that violence does not
discriminate on its victims. It has the capacity to injure and take lives of
both perpetrators and the innocent. We discourage acts that could lead to
anarchy. We advocate total peace, law and order. On our part we are without
doubt ready to carry out our constitutional obligations without fear of
favor. May the Almighty God bless our only motherland-Zimbabwe.

I thank you

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Accompanied Voters

SW Radio Africa (London)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 29 March 2008

Mandisa Mundawarara

The government recently announced that those requiring assistance to cast
their votes would have to be accompanied by police officers, which hasn't
gone down very well with many of those requiring assistance.

On Wednesday Masimba Kuchera who is blind, filed an urgent High Court
application challenging this amendment to the electoral bill, stating that
it violated his constitutional rights guaranteeing him a secret vote.

Kuchera said that he was concerned about the amendment because it meant that
voters like himself, who required someone to assist them in casting their
votes were denied the right to secrecy, and they had no guarantees that the
people who were assisting them were not partisan.

"Our concern is that the commissioner of police has said that they would not
be ruled by puppet, so I'm not sure that the partisan police that we have
will be able to assist me in all honesty," Kuchera said.

Masimba was informed at the voting station that he could not go ahead with
his own chosen assistant but would have to be accompanied by a presiding
officer, 2 police officers and 2 polling officers.

He said; "I ended up with 4 people - presiding officer, 2 polling agents and
a police officer - all civil servants who have been told by their leadership
to vote in a certain way so I'm unsure and I have had it recorded that I
passed this vote in protest."

He later went on to tell us that on Monday he intends to continue with his
legal application at the Supreme Court. He says that the voting process is
failing to take note of the availability of materials for those who are
sight impaired such as Braille and large print material, so there is no
reason why they should have to be accompanied in the first place.

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Makoni South Runs Out of Ballot Papers After 2 Hours

SW Radio Africa (London)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 29 March 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

From Manicaland the Tsvangirai MDC candidate and party provincial
spokesperson Pishai Muchauraya reports that ballot papers ran out after
about 2 hours in Makoni South, wards 29 and 30. Only 300 people had cast
their votes by that time and about 1000 more were waiting in the queues.

Muchauraya said he approached ZEC officials and they told him that they had
no powers to do anything to get more ballots.

He explained that this area is an opposition stronghold where ZANU-PF got
only 5 votes in the last parliamentary election. It is extremely suspicious
that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission would send only 300 ballots to a
constituency where the ruling party has no support.

There were also reports from a polling station in Victoria Falls that had no
ballot papers at all - and that was still the case at lunchtime Saturday.

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Riot Police Intimidate Voters in Bikita

SW Radio Africa (London)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 29 March 2008

Brilliant Pongo

The opposition polling agents in Bikita had to flee from Nyika growth point
on Friday night, as riot police in the area unleash a violent campaign in
efforts to intimidate voters.

The police blocked roads around the growth point on the eve of election day.
Sources that spoke to newsreel confirmed that roads had been blocked and
this resulted in the opposition polling agents who had fled from the police
led attacks in the area failing to be at their posts when voting started
this morning. Members of the public have been wantonly attacked and several
people have been subjected to random beatings.

Meanwhile the 10 youths who were arrested in Bikita on Thursday are still,
in police custody and the police have denied their friends and families
access to them and have refused to get food to them.

Willington Zindove, a member of the Youth forum said: "The police are
claiming that they are short staffed at the police stations and are refusing
to let us bring food to our members, so they have not had any food since
they were taken in."

However, people in Bikita are clear in their resolve to have a say in this
vote and have braved the attempts by the police to scare them, by getting
out in large numbers to cast their vote.

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Polling Stations Run Out of Ballot Papers

SW Radio Africa (London)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 29 March 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

Reports from around the country Saturday indicated that many people woke up
early on election day in order to get into a good position in the queues.

But some polling stations opened late while others ran out of ballot papers
after just a few hours. There were reports that some opposition polling
agents were being denied access to polling stations in various parts of the
country. The worst situation was reported in Bikita West where riot police
allegedly assaulted any person suspected to be linked to the NCA or the
Youth Forum.

Many cases of 'assisted' voting were also reported. Robert Mugabe amended
the Electoral Act earlier this week to allow the police into polling
stations to assist "illiterate" voters. This was criticised as an attempt to
influence these voters and to intimidate others, through the presence of
uniformed police.

As for the turnout, political commentator Dr. John Makumbe described it as a
"mixed bag". He said some areas had "phenomenal" participation and these
were mostly the high-density suburbs in urban areas. But Makumbe was
astonished that other areas had such low turnout that there were no queues
at all.

Makumbe is monitoring the elections for the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a
coalition of civil and church groups that also organises prayer meetings and
rallies. He said in Harare there were police units stationed outside the
polling stations. At one location, the police were telling people to go home
after they voted. But Makumbe said they intervened and questioned the police
as to what section of the electoral law stipulates that voters must leave as
soon as they cast their ballots.

Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa visited the low-density suburbs,
including Chisipite, Avondale and Borrowdale. He found that there were no
queues and voting was proceeding at a comfortable pace.

But there were long queues in the high-density suburbs of Mufakose,
Kambuzuma and Glen View. Muchemwa said the queues were moving very slowly
and people were getting frustrated.

Our correspondent then visited the polling station at ward 42, Hatcliffe
Extension, where there are 1,500 stands that have no houses built yet. But
suspicious information from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said that
8,500 voters were registered there. He spoke to some voters there who
admitted that they had been bused in from other constituencies, in the new
buses that were distributed by Mugabe at his rallies in Harare recently.

They also admitted that they would be voting in their home constituencies as
well. This is clearly rigging, but the government might not be able to get
away with it this time because observers from the Pan African Parliamentary
delegation were in the area and heard the voters talking about the

In Bulawayo our correspondent Zenzele reported that voting was peaceful, but
there were unconfirmed reports that a house had been bombed in Luveve. There
were short queues at the polling stations in Makokoba, Nkulumane Hall,
Sizinda and Ntabazinduna. The polls opened late at Plumtree, Pumula South
and Magwegwe.

There were some problems with polling agents at some stations, including
Makokoba and Magwegwe. Contesting parties had assigned 2 polling agents to
each station but they were told they would be allowed only 1 agent.

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Fear evaporates as rural Zims flock to polls

The Zimbabwean

 Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:39

MAKONDE – Francis Mushangwe tied his chicken to the fence around the polling
station on the outskirts of Makonde before casting his vote in Zimbabwe’s
sixth general election on Saturday.

An over-officious and unsympathetic policeman had told him that he could not
take the chicken into the polling station. Francis had to choose between
running the risk that his chicken might not be there when he returned or not
vote at all.
But like millions of Zimbabweans he was determined to vote. On emerging from
the polling station and relieved to discover that his chicken was still
there, he whispered the opposition slogan: “Chinja - I have voted for
Despite predictions of a win for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, Mashonaland West is no place to
advertise one’s opposition to President Mugabe’s rule. During the terror
that swept the countryside in the past two months, scores of opposition
supporters have been harassed by marauding bands of self-styled war veterans
and green bombers.
In the same province in Zvimba, Mugabe's home province, an opposition
candidate’s home was razed down by a Zanu (PF) mob two weeks ago. This
province also encompasses Chegutu East, one of constituencies where the
tally of voters on the roll (25059) does not tie up with the number of
voters listed on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission list (31226).
The Zimbabwean was told Saturday that in this province, re-education camps
were held across the region to bludgeon the electorate into voting for the
ruling Zanu (PF).
Jefat Karemba, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC House of Assembly candidate for
Makonde, has been under constant harassment by a suspected Zanu mob. He is
standing against newspaper publisher Kindness Paradza, an independent
candidate formely with Zanu (PF), Risipa Kapesa of Zanu (PF), and
Sibangilizwe Nhlazi of the Mutambara MDC.
At a rural shopping centre in Makonde, a dozen, so-called war veterans and
green bombers in brand new Zanu (PF) T-shirts had built their camp-fire near
the polling station.
Staring menacingly at the long queue of voters, which snaked its way round
the breeze block shacks, they contented themselves with drinking the local
brew, Scud. Their work had already been done.
“You are wasting your time. The MDC will never rule this country," a
bloodshot-eyed war veteran in a filthy red beret shouted. "We will never
allow it."
For hours the voters ignored the rambling Zanu (PF) mob and continued
queueing, sheltering under the lemon trees from the blistering heat, waiting
for their turn to vote. The lines moved painfully slowly, but never seemed
to diminish.  They kept coming in their thousands.
Women with babies strapped to their backs, old men hobbling on wooden
sticks, and huge numbers of young people, few of whom have jobs and all of
whom are voting for the first time.
Scores were turned away after being told they could not vote because they
were not on the electoral roll, their identity papers were not in order, or
because the supplementary electoral roll, detailing late registrations, had
failed to arrive.
Their details were meticulously recorded on forms headed “Particulars of
Persons Denied the Vote” by the dutiful ZEC officials.
A rowdy gang of Zanu (PF) green bombers showed up at the polling station
with orders to scare away the hundreds of voters waiting patiently at the
school gates.
The youth militia noisily and provocatively jumped the queue then peeled off
their jackets to reveal identical T-shirts emblazoned with Mugabe’s face.
Punching the air, they chanted Zanu (PF) slogans and jabbed their boots at
young women crouched on a grass verge accusing them of being opposition
For a few moments the hum of conversation was stilled. Then an elderly man
who had been sitting on a brick wall stood up and shouted at the green
bombers: "Your time is up, you are finished. It's the end of the road for
your regime."
The militia scanned the faces of the crowd staring back at them. Only days
ago these people would have run. Not any more. They stood their ground and
the green bombers walked away.
The elderly Moses Chigwango, the man who had confronted the Zanu (PF)
youths, told how 30 years ago he and President Mugabe were guerrillas in
exile in Mozambique, fighting the chimurenga, or war of independence.
Ask this father of eight what he thinks of his old comrade now and he spits
on the ground and says "traitor".
"I never thought I would see the day when we buy a loaf of bread for ZD20
The scores of people around him nodded and shook his hand. There is a sense
that the months of intimidation have failed to dent most Zimbabweans desire
to rid themselves of Mugabe’s regime, even here, a place touted as a ruling
party stronghold.
Some risked their lives on Saturday to mark their cross on the four ballot
At 7pm sharp, the polling station closed. And many said they eagerly await
the results that they feel could change their lives for ever.

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Mugabe plans escape route

The Zimbabwean

 Saturday, 29 March 2008 17:46

Mesmerised by his own creation of economic collapse, which carries on its
back the twin evils of social decadence and a debilitating political crisis,
Robert Mugabe had plans to leave the country as soon as he finished casting
his vote yesterday.

Sources from Mugabe’s office told this paper that by Wednesday his handlers
were almost finished with his travel arrangements to a destination believed
to be Malaysia and he would be travelling with his wife and kids.
“He did it in 2002 and had no option this time, when there is even more
uncertainty and which he is pretty aware of,” a top source said. “The truth
is the old man can’t be sure of anything now. He fears that his enemies are
everywhere, including top CIO, army and even the election management team.”
We also heard from senior officials at Air Zimbabwe that Mugabe was likely
to grab one of its long-haul planes for his trip to safety.
Mugabe, our sources say, this week held meetings with the team of his
remaining closest loyalists in CIO, army, police and other strategic
institutions where he said to them he sensed danger but pressed them to do
all they can to secure victory for him. “But he is no longer sure if those
responsible can accept and allow plans to secure that victory by any means
possible and that crudely means rigging. He is not even sure whether he will
be allowed to get away with another fraud by SADC or SA leader Thabo Mbeki,”
said the source.

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Mugabe pays US$2,5 million to rigging experts

The Zimbabwean

 Saturday, 29 March 2008 17:33

President Robert Mugabe made a down payment of US$1 million to an Israeli
company with Mossad connections at the beginning of this month to help him
rig the elections.

The balance of U$1,5 million is due as soon as Mugabe has been sworn in for
another term, The Zimbabwean on Sunday can reveal.
Details of the deal were leaked to us on Friday from the president’s own
office, substantiating reports by the MDC of Israeli involvement in the
Impeccable sources revealed that the spy agency had initially asked for US$3
million  to secure Mugabe another term but ended up settling for US$2,5
million after negotiations with Mugabe’s emissaries, including Reserve Bank
Governor Gideon Gono and CIO bosses.
The RBZ made the funds available and will also pay the balance, according to
senior bank officials. Gono was said to be in a series of meetings on Friday
when we called for comment.
The Mossad-linked company’s role includes ensuring that Mugabe “safely”
settles in for another term. The source said this involved  working with
Zimbabwe’s security forces to deal with any protests that might follow the
stealing of the election.
Meanwhile two ZEC commissioners told this paper that in the run up to
yesterday’s voting, the commission had been forced to cede authority on the
management of the elections to a team comprising the Mossad company and the
Early last week the rigging team was firmly in control of all aspects of the
elections, and attempts by some commissioners to protest against this
fraudulent arrangement were crushed by the CIO.
According to our sources, the majority of commissioners were not aware of
the rigging details, except three (believed to be CIO) appointed by the Zanu
(PF) regime.
They said the major tool used by the rigging team would be “doing something
with the extra ballot papers, which nobody even is sure how many they are”.

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Poor Zimbabwe villagers hope vote brings change


Sat 29 Mar 2008, 17:32 GMT

By Muchena Zigomo

UMGUZA, Zimbabwe, March 29 (Reuters) - Like many other Zimbabweans, villager
Betty Sithuthu's main hope is that Saturday's elections will help put more
food on her table.

"We just hope that this voting of ours will change the way that we are
living here," said 35-year-old Sithuthu after casting her vote at Gadade
village in Umguza in the southern Matabeleland province, an opposition

President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party wrestled the Umguza seat from
the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the last
parliamentary elections in 2005.

The opposition says that vote was rigged and believes the ruling party will
cheat again this time too.

ZANU-PF says the villagers changed their minds because they had been given
land under a redistribution programme and were disillusioned with the MDC
for failing to improve their lives when it held the seat before.

This time around, villagers reliant on subsistence farming say the
government has not offered enough aid after drought ravaged their crops and
everyone talks of change.

"Things have been too hard for too long. I think now there needs to be a
change and they (government) need to take us more seriously," said
Sithuthu's neighbour Sagodolu Sikhosana, who also voted in Saturday's
crucial Zimbabwean election.

Mugabe faces an unprecedented challenge from main opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and former ally Simba Makoni.

Mugabe, 84, has been in power since 1980 and is widely blamed for an
economic crisis that has left Zimbabweans grappling with chronic shortages
of food, fuel, water, electricity and the world's highest inflation rate.


The crisis has hit urban dwellers -- from whom the MDC draws most of its
support -- the hardest.

Residents in rural areas have not felt the impact of frequent electricity
cuts and regular municipal water cuts that has hit those living in town.
Country dwellers did not have those services before anyway.

Mugabe's heartland is in the rural areas of his Shona people, the largest of
Zimbabwe's ethnic groups. Before the election, there were signs that the
economic crisis was affecting support there too.

A local journalist covering the vote in the southern Masvingo province,
traditionally loyal to ZANU-PF, said voters turned up in their thousands but
many appeared to have been brought to the voting stations.

"I talked to some of them, and they said the village heads had been telling
them to vote correctly, which means to vote for ZANU-PF," said the
journalist, who declined to be named. "If they win here, it will also be due
to intimidation."

In drought-prone Matabeleland, where thousands died in a five-year
insurgency put down by Mugabe in the 1980s, the economic meltdown has been a
further incentive to vote against the ruling party.

Mugabe blames the difficulties on sabotage by Western governments opposed to
his controversial seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to
landless blacks.

"As you can see there is no food in our fields," said Sithuthu, pointing to
her field of wilting maize, explaining that a failed crop meant she would
not be able to pay school fees for her three children.

They live in two dilapidated mud huts with sackcloth for windows.

"We hope that the new government coming in will look after us and our
children," she said.

"We want our kids to get better education and have a better future, but we
can't afford the fees." (Editing by Marius Bosch and Matthew Tostevin)

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Situation Reports 1 and 2 : 29 March 2008

Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe

Situation Reports 1 and 2 : 29 March 2008
Sokwanele : 29 March 2008
Please send us your voting experiences to
Situation Report 1 : 9am

The ballot papers are not colour coded in totality. The Presidential,
Senatorial and House of Assembly papers are white with a block at the top
denoting the relevant colour for the vote type, white for Presidential,
green for Senatorial and blue for House of Assembly, MP. Only the Council
papers are entirely yellow. Each voting sector has its own box, and is
marked by a small strip of colour. It is not easy for an illiterate person
to cope with the procedure. Already one man at a station in Bulawayo, the
fifth to vote in his ward, made the error of putting all four papers into
the first box for President. At least his vote for President will be valid,
the rest are spoilt.
Yesterday a group of French speaking West African observers were seen at a
popular Portuguese restaurant in the city centre. They arrived at noon and
by 6 pm were still ensconced at their table, swigging imported wine and in
no fit state to carry out their duty.
This morning in Harare the streets are quiet with few cars on the road. The
queues are growing with Avonlea already into a thousand people waiting.
Troops have been seen in carriers prowling the streets. Apparently they are
showing their pink fingers to the people they pass, proud they have voted!
Police at one police station were seen parading in riot gear.
Apparently a young woman in Harare whose father is in the police has
information that there was widespread rigging in the police postal ballot.
However she is too afraid to go online and report it to the Zimbabwe
Democracy Now's initiative to pay handsome rewards for this kind of
Bob has been spied careering around in party regalia; this is meant to be
6 additional stations were opened overnight. The polling agents for the
opposition have had to split up to cover their duties, meaning each station
now has only one opposition agent per station.
Low flying jets circled this rural area early this morning. The intimidation
there is growing.
West Zvimba:
A group of 9 MDC supporters and polling agents were attacked by over 100
Zanu PF supporters. One of the polling agents was put under house arrest and
told not to bother to do his job. He has already left his house and is
determined to carry out his duty. His bravery is formidable.
An unconfirmed report has come in that only one polling station is serving
the whole of Kariba town. People started queuing yesterday to make sure
their voices are heard.
Bulawayo: Ward 2, Bulawayo East
19 polling stations were opened but without any opposition Polling Agents on
duty. ZEC had "lost" the official accreditation forms and all the agents had
to go to the ZEC command centre to get copies of their forms made.
Situation Report 2 : 1pm

Voting average times per polling station are averaging at around 35 to 40
votes being cast per hour. Each polling station serves approximately 1000
registered voters. If there is a 50% turnout then voting should take about
12 ½ hours. However, most people believe turnout is going to be far higher.
It is going to be a long day.
We are still waiting for confirmation on a story that Ignatius Chombo was
arrested here yesterday when he was found in possession of ballot boxes
stuffed with votes.
Chinhoyi and Karoi:
People are openly waving the MDC greeting. In the last elections these were
no go areas for the opposition and people would not have dared risk their
lives for such action.
It has been confirmed that a certain brand of drain cleaner washes off the
"indelible" ink used to prevent people from voting again.
Zvimba East (Mugabe home turf):
MDC activists just passed through a road block manned by the police. They
tried to give the men in uniform Morgan for President stickers, but the cops
declined, smiled and politely waved them off!
Bulawayo and Harare:
Voting queues have tailed off and the streets are dead quiet. Opposition
candidates are pushing ZEC officials
Another unconfirmed report has come in that Judith Ncube, a Zanu PF
candidate, from Emakandeni had her house bombed. Apparently she is hurt, but
not critical.
Unconfirmed rumours are abounding that there is a hit list for specific
opposition leaders.

I have made my mark !
Blog written by a Sokwanele activist
published here:
It's a beautiful fine day in Zimbabwe. I have made my mark and the feeling
is one of overwhelming satisfaction. Last night I couldn't sleep with the
mounting excitement jolting me awake hourly! My 3am friend was second in the
queue. She and her 5 sisters have done their work now it's up to all
Zimbabweans to protect their sacred rights.
By 6.45am the queue at my polling station was around 120 people and the
atmosphere charged, people praying, sharing jokes and by and large
determined to see change in Zimbabwe. Had there been any zpf voters there,
they would have been wise to keep their opinions to themselves.
The doors opened at 7.10am. We were about no 40 and by 8.10 we were done.
Left pinky daubed with cerise ink. The biggest hold up in the queue was at
the point where the voters roll was checked. The woman manning this position
does not know her alphabet and I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from
reprimanding her.
Once I left the queue I stopped outside the station to commiserate with an
old friend who was denied the right to vote. Sadly she had not checked the
voters roll in February and her name had been struck. She is now considered
an alien. She was born here. 5 of us stood in a small huddle, only she did
not brandish her pink mark of pride. The teenage policeman on duty broke up
our group, telling us we are not allowed to congregate outside a polling
station, this constitutes a rally! We guffawed and moved on.
When I got home one of the workers had already voted at another station in
the ward which has hardly any voters in the queue. When she got to the desk
to receive her ballot papers, a female official on duty whispered to her,
"Yebo Ma, please vote nicely. It is you old Gogos always do the wrong
things. You must not vote for this Madala [old man]".
Ironically this old gogo's husband has been arrested and beaten many times
over the years for being an MDC activitst - she was preaching to the
converted. However, this just goes to show.
Zimbabweans are ready, they have had enough.
More blogs at

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Situation Report 3 : 29 March 2008

Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe

Situation Report 3 : 29 March 2008
Sokwanele : 29 March 2008
Please send your voting experiences to
Situation Report 3: 4 pm

The elation at this morning's queues is turning to quiet despair. Most of
the country is reporting queues have dwindled to a trickle.
This incident, reported earlier today, is now confirmed: Another unconfirmed
report has come in that Judith Ncube, a Zpf candidate, from Emakandeni had
her house bombed. Apparently she is hurt, but not critical.
Bradfield polling station, Bulawayo:
Bradfield polling station has turned away at least 40 out of 320 voters. One
woman had checked the voters roll in February and found her name there, but
today it was gone.
City Hall, Bulawayo:
At least 58 out of 900 people turned away.
Zvimba East:
The Zanu PF candidate, Patrick Zhuwao, Mugabe's nephew is apparently very
worried about his seat in the House of Assembly. People in the previous no
go home ground for the Zezuru Mugabe family are brazenly showing support for
the opposition.
Frank Sada, a candidate for the Zanu PF rural district council is drunkenly
cavorting just metres from the command centre. When the opposition
supporters went to the police to report this they were turned away and no
follow up was carried out by the ZRP.
In the same area newly acquired tractors were seen ferrying people to a
beerhall - so much for feeding the nation.
Hillbury Estates:
Mitch Whaley and opposition polling agents were beaten by Zanu PF supporters
and a CIO operative at around 2am. The incident was reported to the police.
Nyabira Primary School Polling Stations:
30 people are waiting in the queue to vote and when the officials realized
the opposition polling agent knows an MDC supporter from a support team, he
was rejected from the station.
Polling stations in Tshovani township and others in Mkwasine have run out of
ballot papers and they are turning voters away.
This previously hotly contested area is reporting a well organized election
process. ZEC officials and the police have behaved impeccably and the turn
out is exactly as expected. They believe counting will start on time.
The resettled farms in this area are showing a determined boycott of the
vote. Previously these "new farmers" participated in chasing off commercial
farmers and were staunch zpf supporters. Now they are refusing to
participate in the vote at all in defiance of threats issued by the likes of
Clifford Sibanda, the Zanu PF House of Assembly candidate claiming they are
sick and tired of being forced by Zanu PF to do what they are told. They
were "donated" maize recently which proved to be rotten and impossible to
Not one Zanu PF vehicle has been seen in this area today.
Despite long term intimidation by Zanu PF Minister, Obert Mpofu, widely
believed to be directly behind the murder of Martin Olds, the area is
reported to be quiet and orderly.

One subscriber's voting experience today. Emailed to us at
Published on the Sokwanele blog
My wife and I voted at St Johns School. The whole process took no more than
20 minutes. Pretty well organised.
My gardener also voted at St Johns, but my maid, who has also voted at the
same polling stations as us was turned away at St Johns, Borrowdale Primary
School and Greystone Park School.
At the latter, I went into the so-called command centre filled with almost a
dozen policemen and one lady sitting at a computer. I queried the latter as
to why my maid, one JM [full name supplied] was not on the Harare North
voters roll since she had voted in this constituency in the past.
In front of my very eyes the computer monitor shows up at least half a dozen
The operator quickly removed that page from the screen which I had
observed - but she did confirm that this JM (matched her ID) was on the
voters roll for Ward 42 - Hatcliffe, I was informed.
She even gave me the page number - [page and line number supplied] - to
facilitate locating the name on that register.
I helped J off with return bus fare to Hatcliffe and await to learn whether
she will be successful.
My gardener reported that he came across several people who had been turned
away at St Johns polling st. I spoke to a young white lady at Borrowdale
Primary School who was not on the voters roll as previously. She walked off
without any intention of taking the matter further.

Messages for Zimbabweans from around the world:
Published on the Sokwanele blog
Take courage.the present regime is only comprised of mortal men. Their
power, however intimidating, is limited and temporary. Even this shall
pass.they might retain their power through this election, but they are
fragile in the mighty hand of God. Millions across the globe stand with you
who seek freedom from such oppression.I count myself among that number.we
pray for you. May you find peace amidst the not allow wicked men to
dictate your happiness! (Cape Town)
Our prayers go with you. (Barbados)
Hope is the last thing to be lost and from what we've seen lately,
Zimbabweans still have hope that there will be a change for the better - and
I do too, which is why I'll be 'watching' the elections today! Good luck
Zimbabwe - you deserve to get your pearl back! (Spain)
I am praying for you and will continue to. God is bigger than all the
trouble you are facing. He raises kings up and He brings them down. God
bless you. Indeed the world is watching and so is God.(USA)
Good luck to all of you from here in Kenya. We hope you will see a change.
Good luck to you in the hope that the morning is bright with promise. The
Zim elections have gotten a fair amount of press here in the States and its
in all of my mainstream news feeds (the BBC, of course, but also US news).
The world is watching.(USA)
I feel lost here in Manchester not being able to participate and rid
Zimbabwe of the greatest evil that has been visited on us. So I comb the web
for any news. I spoke to friends and family and they told me of the amazing
spirit of hope that people have that this might just be the end of Mugabe's
regime. I wish I was home. I feel so helpless. All I can say to my fellow
countryman is I am praying for your protection and that at last our Gods
deliver us from this evil and that we might have our country and our
deginity back again. You are in my prayers. God bless Zimbabwe (UK)
From South Africa, I wish you the best. It has been horrible hearing about
what goes on in Zim. I hope it comes right in whatever way possible. Old Bob
was way past his 'best before' date ages ago, if he ever was best at all.
God bless Africa.(South Africa)
Zimbabweans, all over the world we hope and pray for a miracle. Vote
tomorrow for a better and brighter future. Go for it.(UK)
The world is indeed watching and praying. Good luck on Saturday.(USA)
Blogs at

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Mugabe’s chilling warning to people of Matabeleland

The Zimbabwean

 Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:00

A few days before the elections, President Robert Mugabe gave a chilling
warning to the people of Matabeleland that a vote against him would bring
'fire' to their homes.

Residents of the blighted region in southern Zimbabwe have good reason to
fear conflict. Thousands were murdered by Mugabe's army two decades ago for
failing to submit to the domination of the ruling Zanu (PF).
But war is no longer the worst imaginable calamity. Matabeleland's people
are living with a more immediate threat - hunger. Drought has withered crops
and the upheaval of the land invasions has left shops bare of maize and
cooking oil, crucial ingredients in the Zimbabwean diet. It is no way to go
into an election, particularly as many in the region hold Mugabe personally
responsible for their empty bellies.
"People are hungry. That's what really matters," said Washington Sansole, a
former high court judge who is now one of Mugabe's sharpest critics in
Matabeleland. "Mugabe wants to make out he is strong with his threats but
people see that this is a president who does not even have the capacity to
get food to people when they are hungry."
At a small church in Hwange, the congregation feels threatened both by the
lack of food and by the political terror visited upon them. But while the
violence is sporadic, the hunger is always there. People at the church say
'sadza' - the staple made from maize – has disappeared from their diet. Many
have only one meal a day.
"The president came here recently. He didn't bring food," said LK Dube. "We
have had to kill our goats for something to eat or sell them to buy food.
But you can only kill them once. We blame the president because he has the
The anger has been compounded by profiteering. With the shop shelves bare of
maize, an illegal trade has sprung up at double the official price. It is
usually run by ruling party members and is a source of bitterness in the
Mugabe has boosted attendance at his rallies in the region with wholesale
food distributions. People began queuing hours before the meetings in Hwange
with plastic bags and buckets in hand in expectation of a gift of maize.
Most were not disappointed, but it is unlikely to win their votes.
Intimidation has risen sharply in recent weeks in an effort to scare the
Ndebele into supporting the president, even though they have consistently
voted against Zanu (PF) for more than two decades. The ruling party's
militia has rampaged through the region, torturing overt opposition
supporters. Mugabe's henchmen have threatened collective retribution on
those villages that do not support the president.
In the church, no one actually says who is bringing the terror. The
identities are implicit and unspoken until a girl, about 12 years old, pipes
up. "It's Zanu (PF). They are forcing people to buy party cards or they beat
you," she says. Sansole believes the intimidation will not work. "I detect a
mood of determination," he said. "There's a consensus here that Mugabe has
to go."

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