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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 11:31 GMT
Zimbabwe votes: Harare
Mashonaland Harare Midlands Manicaland Masvingo Matabeleland

The mood in Harare is gloomy since it has become clear that President Robert Mugabe has secured more than 50% of the votes cast.

People in offices look dejected and although there is some anger, at the moment people are still taking in the news.

  • Regional result:
    Mugabe - 101,395
    Tsvangirai - 309,832
  • Capital city
  • Includes dormitory town of Chitungwiza, 20 km south
  • All 19 MPs from MDC
  • Mugabe deeply unpopular because of economic decline
  • Harare and Chitungwiza mayoral polls also on 9-10 March
  • Registered voters in 2000: 800,000

  • At the news conference just given by defeated presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, who is overwhelmingly backed by Harare residents, the mood was equally glum.

    Near the end of the conference, Mr Tsvangirai said he felt awful and had been hoping to give a victory speech.

    But he left journalists in no doubt that the MDC believed the election had been stolen from them.

    "We find ouselves unable to endorse the election of President Robert Mugabe. We put it on record that this is a political issue that has to be resolved politically by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe," he said.

    He added that they estimated more than 360,000 - predominantly MDC supporters - had been denied the right to vote in Harare and Chitungwiza alone.

    And he also said that his election agents had been prevented by Zanu-PF militias from deploying in 52% of rural polling stations.

    "It was in these polling stations that the ruling party did so well," he said.

    He said the party's executive would meet to decide what to do next but said they sought no confrontation with the state - which is what they believed Zanu-PF wanted.

    But as for Zimbabweans, he said it was up to the people "to take whatever action they feel they want".

    12 March

    Zimbabweans are waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the country's most fiercely contested poll since independence in 1980.

    Before people exchange any greetings, the first question on their lips is: "So who's leading?"

    Journalists at both the state-run Herald newspaper and the privately-controlled Daily News say their phones have been jammed with people wanting to know the outcome.

    Since there is no news yet, they hang up sounding very disappointed but phone again shortly afterwards.

    "You are failing to do your job," one angry relative of mine told me.

    Although the verification of the ballot papers started early this morning, counting will take a long time given the large voter turnout.

    Results here are expected in another 24 hours as electoral officials work round the clock counting the ballot papers.

    The ruling party has been sounding confident.

    The opposition, of course says that the election was not free or fair.

    The MDC has been hinting at mass protests if the ruling party steals the vote.

    This in turn has attracted warnings by the government that it would deal with any disorder.

    11 March

    At all the polling stations I went to, I was greeted by long and winding queues of voters both young and old.

    Some came in wheelchairs and crutches, some were blind and could neither read nor write.

    The young were voting for the first time and all looked enthusiastic.

    Despite being weary and hungry, they were determined to cast their vote in the country's fiercely contested elections.

    Supporters of Robert Mugabe were eager to cast their votes which would, in their eyes, defeat years of colonial domination by Britain and other western countries.

    "Zimbabwe will never be a colony again", they insisted in their thousands.

    The opposition supporters responded: "It's time for change".

    But it was indeed a refreshing sight to see both ruling party and opposition supporters stand side by side in peace thanks to a ban on wearing party regalia to the polling stations.

    Many of them are only too happy to see the back of these sometimes violent elections.

    They hope their patience in the long queues, sometimes under the scorching Harare sun, would put an end to the equally long and even more daunting food queues that have become so common in Harare as food shortages bite.

    One elderly woman told me before she cast her ballot that she would use her stomach to vote.

    0930 GMT, 11 March

    There has been a great deal of confusion at polling stations in Harare on Monday morning, after voting was extended into an unscheduled third day.

    State radio said a another day of voting was only being allowed in Harare and nearby Chitungwiza, even though a High Court order on Sunday night said voting should be extended across Zimbabwe because of big queues.

    In the Harare townships though, despite the announcement, many polling stations remain shut, some two hours after they should have opened.

    I visited a polling station at a primary school in the suburb of Mabvuku, where hundreds of people had been waiting to vote since 0600.

    People have been getting angrier and angrier but the presiding officer was still refusing to let them vote, saying he had not received instructions from the authorities to open the polling station.

    He would not give me his name.

    In a couple of the other large suburbs, Dzivarasekwa and Kuwadzana, some are being allowed to vote, but other polling stations have remained shut.

    There also are reports of some polling stations opening and then closing soon afterwards.

    On Sunday evening, riot police chased away hundreds of voters that had been waiting at polling stations most of the day.

    According to the Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, only 205,000 votes had been gathered in Harare by midday on Sunday.

    This is about one-quarter of the voters registered in Harare and about half the number that voted in parliamentary elections in June 2000.

    The government tactic of restricting the number of votes in opposition strongholds likely to vote for Morgan Tsvangirai seems to be continuing.

    10 March

    Frustration over long queues and delays in voting greeted thousands of voters in Harare again as polling stations reopened on the second day of Zimbabwe's fiercely contested presidential elections.

    For some, this is the second attempt at the polls in bid to cast their votes.

    ''I came yesterday, but I never got anywhere near the gate. I am back again and even if it takes me a week, I will wait to vote. My vote is my power to express my anger,'' said a middle aged woman.

    ''We are tired. Enough is enough. The government does not care.''

    Another woman I found at Avondale Primary School polling station in Harare where opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai cast his vote this morning, said for her, queuing was nothing new.

    ''We are used to queuing for sugar, mealie-meal, salt and everything. Even if the queue is 100 km long, I will wait. We are angry and we want to change things.

    "We give our money to the government but where is it going?'' she said, adding that Friday should be declared a public holiday so that they can celebrate victory.

    ''The opposition party is definitely winning. Our voting is a mere formality,'' she added. ''We are determined, we saw Tsvangirai and our spirits have been lifted.''

    The wish of the people should be respected. We are tired of lies. The truth must be now known to everybody

    Harare voter
    But what if the ruling party and government does not accept defeat as some opposition supporters fear, I asked her.

    ''They have no choice but to respect the will of the people.

    "The wish of the people should be respected. We are tired of lies. The truth must be now known to everybody. They just have to accept it. They just have to.''

    ''If they don't we are going to undress at State House,'' said one woman.

    Another added: ''I will do that if it gets to that. I will undress to protest. The will of the people should be respected.

    ''Why should I be scared? It's a free country. I am a Zimbabwean, born and bred in Zimbabwe. I should be free to express my wishes. So why should I be scared?"

    Morgan Tsvangirai votes with his wife
    The opposition leader cast his vote on Sunday morning
    Mr Mugabe on Saturday said he would accept the outcome of the election because he would have won the election.

    But the big question is: what if he loses?

    Long queues resulted from an almost 50% reduction in the number of polling stations in urban areas which are strongholds of the opposition.

    Although authorities said the voting delays were being caused by a surprisingly high turnout, the opposition claims it has been designed by the government to frustrate urban voters who support the opposition.

    ''The intention, of course, is to ensure that you frustrate as many urban voters as you can,'' said Mr Tsvangirai.

    At some polling stations, where people began queuing in the middle of the night, as few as 60 people an hour were able to vote.

    Both parties are predicting victory.

    9 March

    Thousands of residents in Harare turned up at the polls but found the voting process frustrating and painfully slow.

    But an elderly woman told me she was prepared to even sleep at the polling station to cast her vote.

    ''I think the confusion is deliberate. We want more days so that all of us can vote,'' she said.

    Another young man in Highfields township said he had showed up at the polling station at 0300 but 10 hours later, he still had not voted.

    ''I am bored but I am not going home without voting.''

    In the constituencies and wards I visited, the number of polling stations has been reduced. One voter complained it had been done deliberately to reduce the number of urban voters ''because they know we are opposition supporters".'

    In Highfields, President Robert Mugabe cast his vote at Kudzanayi primary school where he predicted victory. Mr Mugabe again accused Britain of supporting the opposition MDC.

    ''They are supporters of the opposition and we know they have already prejudged the election. Even people of the status of the prime minister of Britain said the election not only will be won by the opposition but should be won by the opposition,'' said Mr Mugabe.

    Robert Mugabe casts his vote
    President Mugabe is confident of reelection
    ''I will accept the result. More than accept it because I would have won,'' he said after casting his vote.

    The opposition has said the election cannot be described as free and fair.

    But opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has refused to specify what action he would take should he lose.

    ''The people know what to do in the event the election is stolen,'' he has said without elaborating.

    Mr Tsvangirai will cast his vote in Harare on Sunday to coincide with his 50th birthday.

    Harare background

    In this industrial city, people want jobs rather than the land promised by President Robert Mugabe and the thousands made redundant generally blame the government.

    Mr Mugabe's attempts to blame Zimbabwe's economic decline on sabotage by the West fall on deaf ears.

    MDC rally in Zimbabwe show grounds
    Morgan Tsvangirai addressed one of the biggest campaign rallies in Harare

    Shops which were once full of high quality goods, either made locally or imported, are now empty and sales staff have lost their jobs.

    Some of those still employed have been reduced to walking up to 20km to their work-places, as they can no longer afford the bus fares.

    As living standards have plummeted in recent years, Harare's townships and the dormitory town of Chitungwiza have occasionally erupted into anti-government violence.

    This has been crushed by the army, which has been accused of indiscriminately beating up civilians.

    The headquarters of the opposition MDC were attacked by a group of Mr Mugabe's supporters earlier this month.

    The government has postponed the election of Harare's mayor for over a year, knowing that it is almost certain to lead to a victory for the MDC.

    Now, the vote will take place at the same time as the presidential election.

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