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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 14:20 GMT
Zimbabwe votes: Midlands
Mashonaland Harare Midlands Manicaland Masvingo Matabeleland

President Robert Mugabe has won convincing majorities in 11 of the province's 16 constituencies, according to official results.

The remaining five constituencies - all urban areas - were carried by Mr Mugabe's rival, Morgan Tsvangirai.

  • Regional result:
    Mugabe - 258,780
    Tsvangirai - 151,355
  • Main towns: Gweru, Kwekwe
  • Many heavy industries based here
  • 11/16 MPs from Zanu-PF,
  • Ethnicity: Shona, Ndebele
  • Registered voters: 724,659

  • Supporters of Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change view the official results with suspicion, and say privately that the election was rigged.

    But there is no public show of discontent, following Tuesday's large deployment of police across the province.

    As I a drove through Chegutu and Kadoma, I witnessed wild celebrations by Zanu-PF youths.

    12 March

    Thousands of heavily-armed police officers and soldiers have been deployed in cities, villages and at strategic installations in the Midlands province as the government anticipates an outbreak of political violence when the election results are announced.

    This is expected to be either later on Tuesday or Wednesday.

    High-density suburbs in Gweru, Redcliff and Kwekwe have been sealed off and soldiers have imposed a curfew which started at 1800 local time (1600 GMT).

    Residents have been warned against venturing outside during the night or moving in large groups.

    The results of the poll are expected to be announced later today as polling officers started counting shortly after 1300.

    Polling officers have been busy all morning with the verification of the ballot material.

    Meanwhile, police in Mvuma arrested 60 MDC polling agents early this morning following an outbreak of violence in the small mining town, 80 kilometres north-east of Gweru.

    They were later released without being charged.

    MDC district chairman for Mvuma, Michael Dzingisa, described the arrests as Zanu-PF's last attempt to stifle opposition politics ahead of the announcement of the results of the weekend poll.

    11 March

    A tense atmosphere prevails across the Midlands province today, following the vote and opposition allegations that the authorities are trying to rig the elections.

    The police are out in force, especially near polling stations and there has been one outbreak of violence.

    There are no demands that voting be extended for a third day, as in Harare, as almost everyone who wanted to, managed to vote over the weekend.

    Most shops, banks and business are open as usual but schools remain closed until Wednesday.

    Ballot boxes were taken from polling stations at around 1430 local time (1230 GMT) and transported to the provincial command centre, where counting is expected to start tomorrow at 0700.

    Gweru's high density suburb of Mkoba saw clashes this afternoon between MDC and Zanu-PF youths.

    A group of ruling party militants began marching through the streets.

    When they threatened to attack a house belonging to an MDC activist, violence broke out, leaving 9 people in hospital with serious injuries - 7 from Zanu-PF and 2 from the MDC.

    Riot police intervened and arrested 7 Zanu-PF youths.

    In Mberengwa, only the speedy action of the riot police prevented more fighting at the notorious Mataga growth point.

    10 March

    As on Saturday, voting has been very quiet, especially in the rural areas.

    There were very short queues at polling stations, most of which had closed by midday.

    There are 724,000 registered voters in Midlands province, and only 240,000 were reported to have voted by midday (1000GMT) on Sunday.

    Most people were just going about their ordinary business, and you would not have thought there was any election going on.

    Sunday was very hot in all parts of the province, unlike Saturday, when the weather was very cold and cloudy.

    In urban areas, there were many more people going to vote and queuing outside polling stations, especially in Gweru.

    Some polling stations had remained open late into Saturday evening.

    I received a report that the Zanu-PF MP for Shurugwi, Francis Nhema, went to a mobile polling station around noon on Saturday.

    He took six ballot books away and no one knows exactly where he took them.

    What was surprising is that he was not even a member of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, or the election directorate.

    This issue has been raised by the MDC in Midlands province, but so far there has been no response from the election directorate.

    1600 9 March, Gweru

    Voting is much slower in rural areas of the Midlands, than in urban centres.

    Some polling stations I visited in rural Mberengwa and Shurugwi were empty by 1400 local time (1200 GMT), with just 2-300 people having cast their ballots.

    In sharp contrast, polling stations in urban Zvishavane, Gweru, Kwekwe and Redcliff have long queues outside - some up to 2km.

    The actual process of voting is very slow, as all voters are being asked to show their identity cards and their names are checked off against the list of registered voters.

    In most of the urban polling stations I visited, an average of around 700 people had voted by 1400.

    Some prospective voters were turned away because they did not have the correct identity documents but they were not very many.

    Despite the queues, the atmosphere was generally peaceful and calm, helped by the wet, cloudy weather.

    However, MDC officials say that one of their polling agents in Gokwe was kidnapped this morning by men driving a white land rover.

    There were representatives of both main parties in every polling station I visited but I did not see many observers.

    By 1700, I had only encountered two international observers and not a single representative of Zimbabwean non-governmental organisations who had requested to be allowed to observe the vote.

    However civil servants monitoring the poll were out in force.

    0430 9 March

    Two groups of MDC polling agents were attacked last night, as they travelled to their respective polling stations. In Kwekwe, suspected Zanu-PF activists threw stones at a car belonging to local MDC MP, Abednigo Malinga. The occupants were forced to flee and the car was set ablaze. In Lower Gweru, a truck belonging to another MDC MP, Renson Gasela was attacked, again by suspected Zanu-PF activists. Because of these attacks, several MDC polling agents were late taking up their positions at their polling stations but they did manage to arrive before voting started this morning.

    8 March

    The political atmosphere remained generally calm today throughout the Midlands province ahead of the weekend's vote.

    There were, however, isolated cases of violence and intimidation in Gweru, Kadoma and Lalapansi on Thursday night and this afternoon.

    I would rather spend the whole day waiting in the queue and restock my supplies so that I devote the next two days to polling

    Margaret Mapfumo

    In Lalapansi, a mob of about 150 Zanu-PF youths pulled down campaign posters for the MDC candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai and threatened to attack a hotel owned by MDC activist Patrick Kombayi.

    The group only dispersed after being repelled by MDC youths in the small-mining town.

    In a separate incident this afternoon, another group of suspected Zanu-PF supporters were repelled by MDC activists in Gweru after they threatened to attack a house belonging to MDC national executive member, Stella Matibenga.

    Long and winding queues have started forming at major supermarkets in Gweru as residents sought to augment their supplies of maize-meal, sugar and bread ahead of the weekend poll.

    Maize-meal is the staple food of the country. A failure of this year's crop due to the shortage of rain and the loss of production on commercial farms due to the land invasions has left most staples in short supply.

    "I would rather spend the whole day waiting in the queue and restock my supplies so that I devote the next two days to polling," said 54-year-old Margaret Mapfumo.


    Thousands of villagers in the Midlands province are on the verge of starvation as their food stocks have long dried up, while government officials have shifted their focus towards the presidential election campaign.

    Although both Zanu-PF and MDC presidential candidates, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, have used campaign rallies to pledge drought relief, villagers cannot wait until after the election.

    Morgan Tsvangirai
    Tsvangirai promises to distribute food as soon as possible if he wins
    Mr Mugabe said his government would ensure that no-one starved to death while Mr Tsvangirai said his government would distribute food soon after being voted into power next month.

    About 700,000 villagers had registered for food aid three months ago, but the figure is likely to rise sharply because most crops this year have been rendered a write-off due to the scorching sun.

    The government recently passed legislation barring political parties and non-governmental organisations from distributing maize-meal in their individual capacities.

    The state-owned Grain Marketing Board, the country's sole buyer and distributor of maize, now relies on maize imports from South Africa after its stocks were exhausted late last year.

    Maize-meal is the main staple food in Zimbabwe.

    The most affected areas are Gokwe, Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Chiwundura and Kwekwe where some families have reportedly gone for days on end without food.

    Some families have resorted to eating wild fruits and berries.

    In urban centres, long and winding queues for scarce maize-meal have become the order of the day as poverty has reached alarming levels.

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