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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March 2005, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Zimbabwe voters: Freddie
Zimbabweans have voted in the country's fifth parliamentary election since independence. A panel of eight people told the BBC News website who they supported, and gave their hopes and fears for the future.



Finance director Freddie (not his real name), 38, from Harare told the BBC News website why he is against going to the polls.

I am against participating in the elections as it will only serve to legitimise the rigged polls.

The fundamental issue is that there is no way that we can have a free and fair election in the current circumstances.

I am not associated with the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) led by Dr Lovemore Mudhuku, who oppose the election.

Rural voters queue to cast their ballot in Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential election
Freddie says that rural opposition voters are treated as outcasts

I am not affiliated to those guys but I do agree with them on a number of issues.

I am not going to bother voting because in my opinion the result is already pre-determined.

The ruling party already has 30 seats in the 150-seat parliament as the president has the power to appoint 30 members of parliament.

Obviously he will not choose those from the opposition.

The two parties are not starting from the same level and so it is impossible for the election to be fair.

There is also no truly independent electorate commission. They are all hand-picked by the president.

They are his cronies so how can they be independent?

There has been a politicisation of the traditional leaders here in Zimbabwe.

The ruling party has taken the chiefs on board - whether you call it bribing them or buying their votes and allegiance, it is neither here nor there.

All the chiefs have access to motor vehicles and they receive handsome salaries, and that also includes the village headmen.

Map of Zimbabwe showing Harare and Masvingo province
Freddie's mother lives in the Masvingo rural area

Electricity is now going into the rural areas, targeted at the homesteads of chiefs.

This information is not a secret. It is in the news. Everyone knows it.

In turn the chiefs and headmen make sure that all their subjects get together to go and vote.

They lead a procession to the polling stations where everyone casts their vote.

The chiefs monitor everyone in their area.

They influence people.

My mother lives in the south of the country in Masvingo province.

There is only one day, namely Thursday, to go and vote and so in our village the people are sort of commandeered into going to vote at the same time, in the same place.

The local school serves as the polling station.

Everyone is expected to be there.

It varies from area to area depending on the traditional leader. Some are very aggressive about the whole thing but then some are not.

In the rural areas if it is found out that you voted for the opposition you become an outcast.

That is how you are made to feel and the ruling party encourage this behaviour at their rallies by deriding the opposition.

I cannot vote because of my conscience.

Honestly I feel that it is not proper for me to vote for anybody at the moment simply because it will only legitimise what is going on.

Your comments:

I can understand Freddie's reasons for non participation in this election but that kind of stance is a hindrance to the efforts to restore democracy in our county. We can never build a truly democratic society without people exercising their civil right (and duty) to cast their vote, regardless of who they vote for.
Simbome, Chapell Hill, USA

Freddie's comments are very pertinent to this election. The comments from the others interviewed all suggest that this election campaign has seen much less violence and no-doubt Mugabe will point this out to all the critics who say the election was not free and fair.

But what Freddie has told us above clearly shows how the government has manipulated the electorate into unfair advantage. With the press muffled and the rural masses largely ignorant, they have no choice but to follow the orders of their village headmen and vote for Zanu-PF. The consequences to them of any rumour of dissent are dire.

They still don't believe their vote will remain a secret and they are probably petrified of the consequences of a strong MDC showing in their constituency. Mugabe doesn't even need to rig the results, all the groundwork has been done through intimidation. As we see above, Freddie isn't even bothering to vote. What a farce!
Frank, London

Well said Freddie! I believe too many people in the West take freedom for granted. I hope someday Zimbabwe will be able to freely elect its leaders.
Joe, Chambersburg , United States

Well said, but I still think that you should vote. We in London cannot vote, but you at least have the opportunity. I know that it will be rigged, and we all know that Mugabe will win again. However, every vote is one more that they have to hide. Remember there are millions of us around the world praying for you.
Ali, London, UK

It is high time Zimbabweans stopped moaning all the time, all we hear is unfair this, unfair that. Change only comes if we want it not wish for it and change is not brought by someone else but by each individual who wants it, so do your bit if you are in a position to.
Shelton, UK

If I was in Zimbabwe, I would vote for Zanu-PF. All the people saying that they would vote MDC are forgetting what Mugabe and his party did for us before independence. Morgan Tsvangirai is just an uneducated puppet for the white British who know they can gain from Zimbabwe's resources if Tsvangirai was to win this election, which I hope he doesn't.
Maria Themba, London, UK

Go to the polls and vote for Zanu-PF. No European or neo-Europeans (MDC fellows) will develop Africa. Prevent Zimbabwe from European/British re-colonisation.
WSK Wasike, Denmark

It's a pity that Freddie feels they way he feels and yet voices to address his concerns are silent. I hear many people's pronunciation that they cannot vote for MDC because they will be watched. I take this as a cry for help, people need an assurance that it will be okay if they vote MDC but I don't hear that assurance from the opposition.

People need assurance from the international community that its okay for them to vote their conscience but the international community is quiet. Zimbabweans need help and I ask the world leaders to render that help.
Denford Madenyika, NC, USA

It is a pity that some people are discouraged in casting their votes. In Namibia, we had an election at the end of last year. We know that it was free and fair. If I want my opinion to be heard here, I need to vote. What I want to say is, that every vote is counting, even the minority vote of the oppositions. A single vote is like a single brick that contribute to building. If you a change or new beginning in Zimbabwe, you should vote, my fellow African!
Freedom (not my real name), Windhoek, Namibia

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