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Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 18:12 UK

Zimbabwe bloggers react to delays

By Juliet Njeri
BBC Monitoring

MDC supporters celebrate in Harare
Some MDC supporters are already celebrating

Zimbabwe bloggers are mirroring rising tension and frustration over the delay in the announcement of results for the 29 March elections.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has claimed an early victory, but the ruling Zanu-PF says it is confident of victory for President Robert Mugabe.

Anxiety

Still here, a contributor to the This is Zimbabwe blog, captured the mood on the ground a day after the polls.

"The world may be frustrated at the vacuum in the news, but Zimbabweans are simmering - the lid on the pressure cooker about to blow. There is an eerie quiet in the streets, the eye before the storm.

"The world is desperate for Zimbabweans to hit the streets in protest, but I believe this would be just the thing the little maggot [Mugabe] wants, for then he could declare martial law and it would be game over for democracy. The most important thing now is to reach deep down and find patience."

On the same day, Comrade Fatso described a "strange energy" on the streets as Zimbabweans waited for the results.

"The streets are unsure. Hopeful. Young police recruits patrol the streets trying to stamp an authority they are no longer sure that they have. The cigarette vendor apologises for the high cost of her cigarettes. 'Tichadzikisa maprices mangwana'. We will reduce the prices tomorrow. When change comes. The streets are waiting."

"Victory is on people's lips. But so is rigging. Because the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has yet to announce its 'official' tally of votes. It has yet to work out how to turn our dream into a nightmare," Comrade Fatso concluded.

Rigging

Some bloggers share the opposition's fears that the government is using the delay to rig the polls.

"Everyone is now convinced rigging is in place," said Still here on This is Zimbabwe.

"Zimbabweans are waiting for Morgan Tsvangirai to claim victory (we have seen the results outside the polling station doors) and do not understand why it is taking so long" said the blogger.

The blogger added, "People have gone to work, life is back to 'normal' but is it? Nobody knows what the reaction will be if and when ZEC announces Zanu-PF victorious."

On This is Zimbabwe, contributor Dad berated ZEC chairman Justice George Chiweshe over the commission's "almost total blackout of information".

"Maybe someone should tell him that we all know that they were playing for time while the government decided how to convert a massive defeat into a comfortable win?" he wrote.

Opposition's claims of victory

Amanda Atwood, writing on Kubatana.net - an online community of Zimbabwean activists - reacted to the MDC's claims of victory, urging the opposition to take its victory "onto the pavement".

"Good on the MDC for not waiting around. Their proactive approach is a good first step in combating a stolen election. But claiming a win at the Meikles Hotel is one thing - communicating it to the people, and converting it to victory, is another thing altogether. It's time [for] the MDC to get out of the press conferences, and onto the pavement. "

On the same blog, Bev Clark also called on the opposition to move its celebrations to the streets.

"Where are the MDC trucks and vans and cars filled with campaign workers roaming the cities hooting up a storm of resistance? They were very active and visible pre-election - now where have they gone? Enough with Press Conferences for Change; let's have some open air celebrations," she wrote.

"Morgan Tsvangirai should be doing victory laps around high density suburbs, inspiring and preparing Zimbabweans for the next round of the fight for democracy."

In another entry, the same writer wondered what lay ahead for the MDC.

"What will the MDC do when ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) announces Mugabe the winner? Across the country Zimbabweans agree that the MDC has trounced Zanu-PF but they don't believe (correctly) that this automatically translates into Mugabe handing over the keys to State House, and his black Mercedes.

"So what can the MDC, showing decisive political leadership, and the Zimbabwean people activating their courage, do to seal the victory and challenge our collective disbelief that we can actually have change in Zimbabwe?" asked the writer.

"All of us have to ask ourselves how willing we are to get up and get out and support the political change that is happening in Zimbabwe. My fear is that the MDC leadership and the Zimbabwean people will once again, wait for each other to make the first move."

But a Kubatana.net reader urged the opposition to follow the law.

Commenting on Bev Clark's entry, BM said: "The ZEC has to announce the results. If the MDC and people 'do' anything before that point it is very likely that Mugabe will have them arrested, perhaps even declare martial law. Don't give him the excuse."

The reader added, " No doubt there is rigging going on but in fact Zanu-PF don't have much room to rig."

Neck and neck

On Zimbabwe Today, an anonymous blogger wrote that the race was "officially neck-and-neck!", and claimed to have unofficial results which showed the opposition in the lead.

"My information is that Tsvangirai is leading with 58 per cent of the vote counted so far, with Mugabe on 37 per cent and Makoni with a disappointing five per cent.

"All these figures, however, mean nothing, because they and those to come are in the hands of the two expert poll rig-masters, who have undertaken the job of swapping the figures around to give Zanu-PF and Mugabe a totally false victory," the writer added.

In the entry, the writer alleged that some of the country's security chiefs had warned of possible violence over election results.

"The Joint Operating Command (JOC) - a security unit chaired by Mugabe and comprising the country's service chiefs - met at five this morning, and last I heard was still in session. And what his generals, etc., have had to say has shocked Mugabe.

"It has been put to him that if his defeat at the polls is simply reversed, and called a victory, there will be a very real chance of violence at or above the scale seen in Kenya at the beginning of the year."

Mugabe 'plans to flee'

Several bloggers wrote about rumours that Mugabe was planning to flee the country.

"We woke today to rumours of Mugabe fleeing to Malaysia and news of the MDC press conference," Comrade Fatso wrote on his blog.

"The rumours are exhausting; a few minutes ago I was told that Bob is still here, he was spotted at ZPF [Zanu-PF] headquarters. But others insist he has fled to Malaysia, Mozambique, Libya," Still here wrote on This is Zimbabwe.

On Zimbabwe today, an anonymous entry spoke of plans being made to allow Mugabe "to slip safely away to Malaysia where he has huge business interests".

Empty win

CM, the blogger behind Zimbabwe Review, warned that "another Mugabe term would be an empty 'win' for him".

He opined that while an opposition victory would be widely well-received, a Mugabe win would elicit a very different reaction.

"The results of a Tsvangirai victory are not hard to predict: there will be an outpouring of relief and celebration at having kicked out the oppressive, ruinous Mugabe. Even people like me, who have deep misgivings about Tsvangirai and the MDC, will join in the elation of the passing of the Mugabe era," the blogger said.

"If the outcome that is announced in the coming hours and days is a Mugabe victory, it would be a strange 'win' for him. I can imagine outrage and disbelief, but I cannot imagine any significant widespread joy beyond his inner circle and the elite whose privileges depend on Mugabe's tenure.

"Even among those who buy his oft-stated mantra that the country's economy is in such pitiful straits because of a Western conspiracy, it will be obvious that hardship and the nation's poor prospects will only intensify under Mugabe," the blogger added.

"The crown of presidency that he is desperate to hold on to will be more ill-fitting, awkward and meaningless than it has ever been in Mugabe's long reign."

Hope, writing on This is Zimbabwe, responded to an email from a reader about alleged plans by the ZEC to declare President Mugabe the winner.

"We haven't heard this yet and will be as appalled as everyone else in the country if the theft is that blatant. Appalled, but not surprised. Zanu-PF's capacity for election theft is incredible," she wrote.

"Let's hope the people of Zimbabwe, who have seen the results outside the polling station doors with their own eyes, will not let this happen!"

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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