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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 17:22 GMT
Zimbabwe: An election observer's tale
Election observer sits next to ballot boxes
300 non-governmental observers were accredited
A Zimbabwean election observer in the Midlands province, who did not wish to give his name, tells BBC News Online his experience of the election weekend.

On the first day of polling, there were long queues of people waiting to vote, especially in Kwekwe Urban, Gweru Urban and Redcliff constituencies.

The queues were a result of the decision to reduce the number of polling stations in towns.

HAVE YOU VOTED?

I and many others who got to the polling station hours before the official opening of the station at 0700 only managed to vote late in the night

N Musvoto, Zimbabwe

But despite the long wait under cloudy skies, people were excited, patient and determined to vote.

For the first time, I noticed a heavy turnout among the large Asian community living in the Midlands.

There was also a heavy presence of the Zanu-PF militias, codenamed "Talebans".

Some of them joined the lines of voters, spacing themselves out along the queues.

Antagonism

In Gweru, voting ended several hours late due to the long queues.

In contrast, most rural voters were able to cast their ballots on the first day due to the increased number of polling stations.


regional reports from around Zimbabwe
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I saw "Talebans" at every rural polling station I visited. They had even set up temporary camps outside some of the schools where voting was taking place.

Both the police and the "Talebans" were very antagonistic towards local observers.

Those who had been refused official accreditation and were trying to monitor the vote from outside the polling stations were chased away and assaulted.

Some had their fluorescent green "Election observer" bibs ripped off their backs. Others were arrested.

I saw two senior Zanu-PF officials in the province move around polling stations, ordering the "Talebans" to beat up local observers and chase them away from where the voting was taking place.

Determined

I also noted a heavy presence of secret state agents from the Central Intelligence Organisation moving around the polling stations.

At one point, they started following me but not for very long.

Despite all the intimidation, voters were determined to vote for the candidate of their choice in most of the areas I visited.

The second day of voting was not nearly as busy as day one. Many rural polling were deserted from noon.


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11 Mar 02 | Africa
11 Mar 02 | Africa
10 Mar 02 | Africa
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