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Harare diary: Ups and downs of 2008

Soldiers of the Presidential Guard bow their heads as President Robert Mugabe delivers a speech

Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, has been writing a diary throughout the year, describing her struggle to survive in a country with an economy in freefall.

Here, we look back at the frustrating lows and the one euphoric high of an eventful year, marked by controversial elections.

Click on the links below the quotes to read each full version of Esther's diary entries:

6 FEBRUARY 2008: THE SHOES THAT GOT AWAY

I miss the Harare of old: Where pot-holes were patched up as soon as they appeared, when you could walk into a supermarket and buy milk without joining a stampede to a supermarket where it has just been delivered (I witnessed one yesterday).

And hey, you could budget and save for that divine pair of shoes.

26 MARCH 2008: ELECTION EXCITEMENT

The mood is light, no-one will beat you up any more for wearing an MDC T-shirt or attending a rally so people are doing that in their thousands.

And ooooooh I am hearing so many stories - people are really talking again these days.

I am excited!

1 APRIL 2008: RESULT DELAY FUELS SUSPICION

Zimbabwean votes being counted

The results were displayed on the polling station so I'm quite concerned that there's been a delay when the results are quite obviously known.

I'm not the only one who is thinking this. I think I speak for every Zimbabwean when I say there is concern.

10 APRIL 2008: UNCERTAINTY DAMPENS MOOD

Had the ruling party won the election, they would have announced the results the Sunday after the election. This is the opinion that you will hear in the supermarket, in the queue for public transport, on the bus going home.

And that's what's different - there used to be this fear that an intelligence operative would hear you and pick you up and beat you up.

14 MAY 2008: LIVING IN LIMBO

The other day I saw this simple pasta recipe, and thought I would buy the ingredients and try it out:
500g pasta: $750,000,000.00
500g minced beef: $560,000,000.00
200g cheddar cheese: $120,000,000.00
Bag of mushrooms: $480,000,000.00

So that is almost Z$2bn just to put one simple supper together.

5 JUNE 2008: JINGLES RING HOLLOW

Riot police in Harare

One does not hear people talking politics that much in public these days, I guess we have all seen the pictures of victims of violence from the rural areas, and no-one wants to end up like that.

No ordinary person that is - broadcasting your political views has once again become the preserve of activists.

12 JUNE 2008: DESCENT INTO VIOLENCE

Later, as I thought about what I had said, I realised I was becoming like the very people I blame for all our woes - full of hate, intolerant of views contrary to my own, seeing violence as a perfectly acceptable way of settling differences.

18 JUNE 2008: MILITIAS REACH TOWN

Zimbabweans chant slogans praising Mr Mugabe

We have all learnt an important lesson - not knowing the Zanu-PF slogan can cost you a beating or worse.

Youth militia have set up roadblocks on the outskirts of the city where they randomly stop vehicles, ask the passengers to disembark and chant the slogan.

Anyone who fails to cannot proceed with their journey until they have been 'taught'.

25 JUNE 2008: SHELL-SHOCKED

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?"

2 JULY 2008: ALL EYES ON EGYPT

Zanu-PF posters with MDC graffiti

Every Zimbabwean with media access is following the African Union summit going on in Egypt with baited breath following Friday's election.

The day itself was a non-event really - with only one candidate, the result was a forgone conclusion.

A friend told me he was so overcome with frustration in the polling booth, he gouged out Robert Mugabe's eyes on his ballot paper.

21 JULY 2008: CIRCUS LEAVES TOWN

The militia roadblocks and base camps have disappeared from most (but not all) areas, posters have come down from public transport vehicles, teenagers are back to wearing T-shirts with the faces of R&B stars rather than that of R G Mugabe.

1 AUGUST 2008: NO MORE TRILLIONAIRES

Zimbabwean holds a newly-unveiled Z$1,000 banknote on 1 August 2008

At midnight, my bank stripped me of my trillionaire status - the Z$5 trillion sitting in my account became Z$500.

So no more talk of trillionaires, quadrillionaires and quintillionaires.

At least, not for another six months or so.

1 OCTOBER 2008: DAY-DREAMING OVER

pizza

It is the little things I long for - the little things that are now luxuries... eating lots of different types of food, getting take-outs, buying clothes.

I can't wait to taste pizza again.

14 NOVEMBER 2008: NEW ABDUCTIONS

We were discussing our illusive government of national unity at work the other day.

Then the topic turned to the recent abductions; and whether or not the rumours about the renewed violence are true; and if it has actually started again.

One of my colleagues confirmed it was true - people in the rural areas are disappearing in the night, she told us.

2 DECEMBER 2008: 'TOO MUCH TO TAKE'

Zimbabwean soldier walks past looted shop

You would think that by this stage it would be normal for riots to break out. But normal is not normal in Zimbabwe; and the sight of soldiers rioting, ransacking and looting would be considered implausible...

But finally, no, it actually really, really happened.



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