In the run-up to Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections on 31 March, 22-year-old receptionist Lucy Gomo (not her real name) is keeping a diary about life in Harare.
Tuesday 15 March
A huge rain storm on Saturday has brought some relief to us in the Harare heat.
But water has been a source of complaint, as most homes in the low-density areas of the capital were without water for three days last week. My cousin, who lives in these northern suburbs, says it's quite common for the water to be cut off there.
Meanwhile, rumours about maize meal, sugar and cooking oil shortages are making people jittery, especially those with large families.
The police have been checking garages to make sure petrol - which costs about $3,600 Zimbabwean dollars (70 US cents) a litre - is not being hoarded.
I've not seen any evidence of fuel shortages so far: there are long queues each morning as I wait to catch my buses to work - but this has always been the case. There never seems to be enough transport.
Yesterday I was shocked to see three guys walking outside my office wearing opposition white, red and black T-shirts showing an open palm - the symbol for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
They didn't seem worried about wearing them at all, but it's unusual to see people casually supporting the opposition unless they're gathered in numbers at a political meeting.
There are reports of many Zanu-PF rallies outside the capital
On the other hand, ruling party supporters - usually young men - go about their business around town wearing white T-shirts with black Zanu-PF slogans slashed across them.
I usually see them when I pop into the town centre as I did over the weekend to check my emails at an internet café where I have an account.
It costs Z$250 (5 US cents) a minute to log on - and the café was packed, with most of the 50 computers being used.
I've heard there are political meetings for both Zanu-PF and MDC going on and the state-run Herald newspaper says there have been plenty of Zanu-PF rallies outside Harare - some taking place in schools - where large donations are given.
A friend of mine phoned to say she'd tracked down a cleaning product similar to the one I usually use - which I had been fruitlessly searching for - in a shopping centre near where she works.
So instead of going to church this Sunday, I spent the day washing, ironing... and cleaning the stove.
Wednesday 9 March
Election campaigning here in Harare is surprisingly quiet at the moment.
There has been little campaigning in the capital
There are just a few posters up around town, but people just don't seem interested.
Politics is not discussed among my colleagues at work, on the commuter buses or among my friends.
The only real sign of campaigning I've seen was last weekend when I travelled to Kwekwe (180km south-west of Harare).
There I saw some people singing and wearing T-shirts supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Cost of living
My family live in Kwekwe and I try to visit them once a month, which can sometimes be difficult with rising prices - a return bus ticket to Kwekwe costs $80,000 Zimbabwean dollars (about US$15).
If I've overspent, I don't go.
With the minimum wage currently set at Z$800,000 ($145), most people complain about not earning enough.
A few weeks ago these 2kg packs of sugar were not available
Grocery prices went up again this month, but my salary hasn't gone up.
Supermarket shortages come and go, which can make shopping not only expensive but frustrating.
A few weeks ago sugar and maize meal were only available in smaller quantity packs. For example, there were no 10kg or 20kg packs of maize meal, only 5kg bags.
When I went shopping last week, the larger bags were back on the shelves, but I couldn't find the bleach I normally buy.
I looked in different supermarket chains, but I couldn't find it anywhere.
It's been very hot here in Harare and it hasn't rained for a while, which is depressing people.
Those with smallholdings in the rural areas are worried about their maize crops.
One of the guys at work told me he had nothing to bring back from his plot because the rains had been bad.
Will you be voting in Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections?
The following comment reflect the balance of views received:
I live in Johannesburg, or should I say Zimbabwe away from Zimbabwe. There are more Zimbabweans here than there are South Africans. What worries me is that most of them, especially the successful ones, deny their true nationality. Some call themselves Zulus (Ndebele) or Venda (Shona). To you all my fellow Africans, I think it's time for you to mobilise and get Mugabe to allow you to vote since you are almost 50% of the South African population. If not for you then (since you have reached the promised land) for those who still live in Zimbabwe. Being in denial about your identities will not help your country but will destroy it.
Patty, Johannesburg, South Africa
The people of Zimbabwe are a rare species. They have an inherent determination to safeguard what they have at any cost when we come to matters concerning their right of self-determination. The most valuable property they consider is land. To win their favour, one should clearly define his position to the land question. You may have colourful promises but it amounts to nothing if you promise the reversal of the present situation to that of, say, 1998. Though irregularities are there in the implementation of land policies spearheaded by ZANU (PF), it remains the people's ultimate choice when it comes to the question of land. Hate it or loathe it, Zanu (PF) shall remain in power because of its clear stance on land and above all, its history to that effect.
Kizito Muchecheterwa, Harare, Zimbabwe
So long as we still have draconian legislative instruments in the form of POSA and AIPPA we can not even talk about the elections being free and fair. MDC cannot openly hold campaign rallies and media coverage is heavily tilted in Zanu's favour. Mugabe has absolutely nothing to offer Zimbabweans at the moment besides blasting Tony Blair from all angles. Election victory is evidently on the MDC side, but as can be expected, the elections will be once again rigged.
Basil Mdluli, Harare, Zimbabwe
Most reporting on the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe seems to begrudge the peaceful political campaigning period in Zimbabwe. Instead of applauding and encouraging this reality the international press and sadly a great many Zimbabweans in the diaspora are impugning the efforts of the Zimbabwean people to conduct a peaceful election. I am not a Zanu Pf sympathizer, but I am a patriotic Zimbabwean and I would like to impress upon the international community not to prejudge this election. The violence that so many have predicted and want to witness will not materialise this time. We should all welcome and encourage this manifestation of political maturity. Zimbabweans will democratise Zimbabwe.
Farai Maziona, New York, USA
We spent so much effort ousting Ian Smith and now we ought to start asking why on earth we bothered? Even under Ian Smith's rule, things weren't as bad as this.
Graeme Phillips, Guildford, UK
What planet do those who say there has been no violence live on? Intimidation is all over the place in Zimbabwe. The government tries to bribe people by offering them food. The country is falling to ruin all around our feet. Enough is enough and we need those cowardly leaders in South Africa and in Uganda to speak out against dictator Mugabe. Why don't they? They will go down in history as accomplices of his wretched regime and partners in the ruin of a country.
Karen Simbura, Harare, Zimbabwe
Like many Zimbabweans, I live in another country. Even if I could vote, it would not be worth the effort. The elections will be rigged again because Mugabe and his government would lose hands down otherwise. And Mugabe will not relinquish power until he dies.
Sean Gallagher from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Basically I am not surprised at the lack of interest from the people in my country and voting will not make any difference whatsoever. We all know who is going to win and hence after several years of hoping things will change at home one has to just give up. People are tired of struggling and I guess there is now an idea of if you cannot beat them then join them. It's really so sad.
Jessica, Oxford, UK
It is surprisingly quiet and I hope it remains like that after elections. Goods are in short supply and unfortunately this is likely to work against the opposition as these shortages are linked to business people, many of whom are MDC members and are in attempting to manufacture public opinion in order to score their party's aggrandisement.
Lesley Nguvayakaoma, Harare
The elections are already unfair. The opposition cannot canvas freely in all parts of the country; the electoral role contains almost a million dead people; the police, army and judges are not impartial and the thousands of displaced farm workers can no longer vote. The only people outside of Zimbabwe who can vote are embassy staff (there are millions of opposition supporters outside the country); the opposition have been given limited and very late access to the media and the only observers allowed in are allies of Mugabe. What sort of election is that?
James Bvute, Zimbabwean in London
Vote? Democracy on empty stomachs has never worked. Feed the people first, then when they have enough strength to yawn, you can happily talk voting. Personally, I won't go voting. Why the waste of time and effort? There are better things to worry about in Zimbabwe than voting. There are people who have been parliamentarians since 1980. Twenty-five years down the line, the same people are still running for office. The real problem with Africa and Africans is greed. Greed of political power, wives, land, duration in power etc. Once a person ever gets the chance to get political power they don't leave.
Goromondo Conrad Tarupiwa, Harare, Zimbabwe
The atmosphere in Zimbabwe is exceptionally quiet, as expressing your view on the forthcoming elections could be misconstrued as a violation against the new laws which are basically suppressing self-expression. People have resorted to keeping their feelings tightly locked up. It is like the quiet before a storm. The ruling party shall be in for a rude awaking come 31 March 2005.
Karen Chidzonga, Harare, Zimbabwe
I am a Zimbabwean and it saddens me to hear all the trouble out there, as that is where I grew up and left in 1999. In 2000 I went back and got mugged and they tried to put me into a taxi. Luckily someone saw it all and came to my rescue. The sad thing is, when I tried to report it to the police they had no transport and just told me because I walked two miles to the station to report it I was breaking the law. I haven't been back since but I always miss Zimbabwe. Luckily my parents are English so I can live in the UK. I pray for those that have nowhere to go and are struggling to live there.
Amanda Chapman, Tonbridge, UK
With the calm that is around, one wouldn't think there is an election in two weeks time. Yes, I am going to vote. I wish the SADC guidelines are revised so that voting can be done for two days.
Vatengesi Muzere, Harare, Zimbabwe
Personally, I would love to vote in the upcoming elections, that is if what is to take place on 31st March can actually be classified as elections. In order for a candidate to be elected surely the process should allow the people to make up their own minds about who they want to represent them. So, who best represents the starving majority in light of the impending drought? Fat cats in shiny cars, living in luxurious mansions with all the food they could ever need? I think not... nothing intimidates more than starvation.
Ryan Stevens, Cape Town, South Africa
Having worked for an NGO in Zimbabwe for four years I feel that these elections will be the same as ever - faked electoral registers, intimidation of voters, bans on public gatherings etc. I hope MDC win but hold out no hope as yet, this country is the most beautiful and friendly in all of southern Africa, was once the breadbasket and provider for others. How do those who vote for ZANU-PF justify it? Can they not see the devastation and injustice? I hope Zimbabwe regains its rightful place as a top tourist destination, food producer, tobacco exporter and happy country. Zimbabweans always smile in the face of adversity and carry on, Mr Mugabe do them all a favour and move on!.
Craig Jones, Barry, Wales
I will vote as I have done in the past four general elections. My only plea is for the media to stop creating exaggerated stories about the political atmosphere in our country. I do not know of any country that has attracted so much attention as Zimbabwe. It's obviously the land issue. But the attention has always been negative however much the authorities try to improve the situation. Right now all political parties are campaigning in peace in all corners of the country, and our enemies are not happy, why? Please give credit where it is deserved.
Mundiya Frank, Zvishavane, Zimbabwe
If I could cast my vote from over here I could do so more than once if possible just to change the regime. Those fortunate to go and cast please do so for your vote makes a difference and who knows what might become of the elections. It's good to hear that there hasn't been any violence in the campaign toward the upcoming elections, it's a sign of hope. No need to fight each other over different political opinions for we are all one people. Whether you are for MDC or ZANU(PF) carry your party's emblem with pride, put violence aside and learn to tolerate and respect the next person.
King Kong, Jeffersonville, USA
There's no need to vote when you know the winner is. We are worried more about food on the table than politics.
Petso, Harare, Zimbabwe
We have never had it so good in our country, especially with elections coming. This weekend the two main political parties - MDC and ZANU PF - actually held rallies on Saturday, MDC at Chipadze Township and ZANU PF at Bindura Primary school. I am happy that no incidents of violence took place, even afterwards when people were returning to their homes wearing different party regalia. It is really a big change in that everybody talks about zero tolerance on political violence. Zimbabwe surely is a mature democracy. My wish is that, if only all those people from abroad could acknowledge this truth and stop writing fiction about my small country. My main worry is not so much about who wins in this election, but the pending drought.
Joachim Nguvo, Bindura, Zimbabwe
I feel that voting is not only a right but an obligation. What matters is that you actually vote
Zimbo, Harare, Zimbabwe
I would like to vote in the upcoming election but, unfortunately, the current government does not allow Zimbabweans living outside the country to vote. This is possibly because the majority of Zimbabweans living outside the country are opposition supporters and are no longer living in Zimbabwe for that very reason, or they have access to impartial media exposure and can form unbiased opinions of the ruling party. The opposition does not stand a chance and unfortunately Mugabe will get away with it again. Let's just hope there is not more murder and violence against the opposition like there was after independence and the last elections.
Zane Brown, London