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Page last updated at 08:28 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 09:28 UK

Harare diary: Shell-shocked

Members of the ruling party Zanu PF militia, beat unidentified people at the venue of the proposed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party rally in Harare, Sunday, June 22, 2008.

Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is writing a regular diary on the challenges of leading a normal life.

Zimbabwe is suffering from an acute economic crisis. The country has the world's highest rate of inflation and just one in five has an official job.

Can you picture a whole nation being shell-shocked?

We started getting the news that (opposition leader) Morgan Tsvangirai was pulling out of the June 27 run-off via text messages around 3.30pm on Sunday and that was the reaction - shock, dismay, then denial.

It became only too true after watching "breaking news" flashes on the BBC, Sky and the SABC etc.

So all the deaths were in vain?
Harare resident

I watched the broadcasts with some friends in Harare, and I tell you, the reaction was one of dismay, betrayal and even anger at the opposition.

One man asked us: "So all the deaths were in vain?" and another: "What of all the displaced people who vowed to vote no matter what?"

Then a little while later the press conference was broadcast, we listened as Mr Tsvangirai enumerated his reasons for pulling out.

As we listened, our reaction changed.

I suppose that when one is living in an impossible situation, one has a choice - view the situation as normal or go insane.

So we all thought the election would go ahead, despite all the atrocities.

Aborted rally

I saw for myself that crowd of ruling party Zanu-PF thugs, pictures shown around the world, yielding sticks and chasing anyone who came within any distance of the proposed opposition Movement for Democratic Change rally venue on Sunday.

As we were leaving church around midday they were toi-toying (military-style traditional dancing) themselves into a frenzy at the Zanu-PF headquarters.

A Zimbabwean woman waves as she walks past a poster (R) showing Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai fall-torn off a wall in Harare on June 22, 2008
The authorities have clamped down on MDC campaigning
It became clear that even in Harare, an opposition stronghold, Mr Tsvangirai could not hold a rally.

One argument all along was that he did not really need to campaign, that the economy was doing that for him.

But we started hearing reports of how rural voters were told the government would check how they voted - ballot papers have serial numbers, and are given out in sequence, for cross -checking purposes.

Voters were told that election officials would note the serial number each voter was given, and thus check how they voted as the ballots were counted.

So it was very unlikely that the rural folk would have voted for the MDC.

Besides, quite a number of them are living in the bush, too scared to sleep in their homes.

Apparently the police voted last week, one officer at a time, watched by three superiors.

So we can safely assume the entire police force voted Zanu-PF (in the last election, 90% voted for Mr Tsvangirai).

In the cities Zanu-PF militia have set up roadblocks and are harassing city dwellers at will, it is as if the entire police force is on holiday as we have not seen these roadblocks being disbanded.

Quite a number of my friends spent last Saturday at Zanu-PF rallies, chanting songs, learning slogans, and leaving with a T-shirt and a headscarf.

At least they will be safe at these roadblocks; they have all the passes - the newest slogans plus the party regalia.

None of them are fans of President Robert Mugabe by the way; youths just turned up at their doors and "asked" them to proceed to the rally venue.

A change of heart

On Monday, people were a lot more optimistic.

Most people in my circle feel that there was no other choice but for the MDC to pull out.

In fact, they view Mr Tsvangirai as a hero, letting go of a chance, however slim and unlikely, of becoming the president of Zimbabwe.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe gestures at a press conference in Harare, Sunday, June, 22, 2008. Tsvangirai announced he was withdrawing
The opposition MDC say 86 supporters have been killed

He is the gentleman in this case, and Mr Mugabe the villain who declared war on an unarmed people.

Besides, leaders of the world are already making a lot of noise about the MDC pull out.

Finally, even African leaders can be heard among them.

There is talk of a United Nations peacekeeping force coming to monitor the situation, protect the rural folk, and stay until an election can be carried out at a later date, in a more conducive environment.

One lady told me once peace and order were restored, she would volunteer to work as a psychotherapist anywhere in rural Zimbabwe as the population there is so severely traumatised.

So we are looking ahead already.

I hope the UN comes through for Zimbabwe.

Our situation stopped being "an internal affair" when the police and army became partisan, and chose to do whatever they could to maintain Mugabe's reign, looking aside as atrocities were carried out, and worse, taking part in committing them.




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