Page last updated at 07:36 GMT, Sunday, 30 March 2008 08:36 UK

From hope to lethargy

By Farai Sevenzo

Dzingai Karidza in Harare after voting
Voters showed fingers stained with red ink

Voting has finished without incident in Harare and throughout Zimbabwe.

The day was an ordinary Saturday first, an election day of perceived importance second.

The constituency of Mabvuku and Tafara, in the suburbs of the capital Harare, has 32 polling stations.

The sheer number of tents into which people have been filing since 0700 reflects the number of new constituencies established for these elections, and the easy passage of voters.

The youngest councillor running nationwide is 27-year-old Enias Gengezha, standing for Morgan Tsvangirai's opposition MDC, as his candidate card proudly proclaims.

It is a card that once belonged to a chief election agent, but resources are stretched, and he now pins his card to his shirt with the election agent tab crossed out.

Poor neighbourhood

At 27, he is a year younger than the country, which achieved its independence in 1980, and he has had the same president all his life.

Mabvuku and Tafara is one of those places that has fought running battles with the authorities at one time or another, whose people have consistently refused to vote anyone else in but their own people.

The elections have seen white tents spring up all over the constituency's rough rocky landscape, providing impromptu polling stations.

Enias shows me around the area he hopes to represent at council level.

I don't really know where my vote is going to go, or whether it will count or whether it will be declared a spoilt ballot
Zimbabwean voter

Sewage is streaming downhill from a burst pipe. The heat is distracting and relentless, and the sewage invades the senses.

"Yes, the voting here has been very peaceful, but we are having a lot of problems with our people being turned away from the polling booths because their names are not appearing on the voter's roll. They were there some time ago, now they are not there".

This is a poor area with extremely high rates of unemployment, and I've been told that since I last visited in November 2007, the electricity has only just come back on for the last three days.

The problems of national power supply are many and well documented, but the residents of this area feel particularly neglected.

The last year has seen cases of cholera, and a large unemployed group of young men clashing with authorities over their open support for the opposition.

For them, some sort of expectation that turning up to vote would get them something new is keeping them going.

Hope and belief

It is not just the tents. Primary schools and local halls were also converted into polling stations.

But with the new rules and demarcations, poll observers from the MDC are nervous.

In Tafara 5, the young councillor is told that "things are not standing right".

I follow him and his team and the police are friendly and allow them in.

They tell me they are worried that so many people in their constituency are being declared aliens, men and women not deemed natural citizens of this country.

Enias Gengezha's candidate badge
Enias Gengezha had to use a recycled candidate card

With only a couple of hours or so to go, the voting lines are getting shorter and shorter.

The youths at the shopping centre all proudly show off their red stained fingers, proof that they have made their mark to vote.

Road blocks leading in and out of Mabvuku and Tafara are casual, as officials keep their distance and let everyone through.

So where is the problem? All sides are running on large tanks of hope and belief.

The young councillor and his lieutenants cannot contemplate the idea of defeat in these polls.

"No we are not losing these elections. Come Monday our president will be president."

But there has to be a loser.

And it is how the losers take defeat when the tallies are made that will be more interesting than the thinly spread lines at a multitude of polling booths.

By Monday, the whole exercise of collecting votes from the biggest number of polling stations since independence may not be over.

"No, voting wasn't very exciting," one woman tells me. "I went in, voted and left. After talking about voting for the last three months, it was a bit of an anticlimax."

"And what's more, I don't really know where my vote is going to go, or whether it will count or whether it will be declared a spoilt ballot".

After the excitement, the build up, the last few hours to the close of the polls have given way to an inexplicable lethargy.

The counting begins and there are those, like Enias, whose neighbourhoods have dropped everything for the next few days to wait for the result.

If you voted on Saturday, send us your experiences by text on +44 7786 20 50 85.

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Robert Mugabe casting his vote


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