Zimbabwe’s voters express their hopes

2013-07-31 18:12

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“Look, I brought my own pen,” the youthful man with the plaited dreadlocks (let’s call him Richard) says, displaying just the cap of his blue ballpoint pen in the pocket of his blue work trousers. “Ever heard of invisible pens? You know, you go and vote, and then later you find out your vote’s been spoilt? I brought my own pen.”

Richard, a tobacco and potato farmer, is an MDC-T voter. Distrust has very much been the theme of the elections for the MDC-T, which has questioned the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) unwillingness to make available an electronic copy of the voters’ roll.

Still, despite claims by the MDC-T that the ZEC was incompetent or even trying to rig votes in favour of Zanu-PF, the voting process was reported to have gone smoothly in most places.

When City Press visited Dotito, 180km northeast of Harare, elections officials and observers reported things were going well.

Dotito is a rural constituency with a primary and high school, and a few general dealers and shops selling basic foodstuff like rice and maize. Violence erupted there after the 2008 elections, which saw the MDC-T under Morgan Tsvangirai get more votes than Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.

There is a queue of about 15 people outside the primary school classroom that serves as a polling station, but people are reluctant to talk.

Nobody is in party colours, which means it’s difficult to tell which way their sympathies lie.

Those who vote leave the place immediately and only one or two people hang around waiting for friends who voted.

Dotito is the home of Zanu-PF vice-president Joice Mujuru, who went to vote there earlier in the day.

Zanu-PF support is strong in the area.

A few kilometres back, in Mount Darwin, people voted in a white tent next to the A11, the slightly worn highway that connects the capital to the northeast of the country.

They are friendly but prefer to keep their voting preferences to themselves. “We are happy, life is good,” a Mr Chiboyiwa said, echoing the sentiments of most others in the queue.

This is very unlike the statements by outspoken MDC-T supporters who say they want change.

Most of the people in the queue said they’re vendors, selling clothes and hardware next to the road or in the somewhat dilapidated shops in the small town.

Outside town another woman at a large pump works the lever up and down to fill containers she pushes to her home a few hundred metres away.

Sporting the indelible pink ink on her little finger to show that she’s voted, she said she was happy. “I want the power-sharing to end. Ever since the power-sharing government, development has slowed down. If Mugabe is in power again, it will be smoother,” she says, adding that Tsvangirai has spent a lot of money on courting women.

Tsvangirai’s chaotic love life has been in the news and Mugabe has used this to campaign against him.

“We have fought this war and won, so Zanu-PF must continue,” she says.

About 60km back towards Harare, past hawkers selling sweet potatoes in buckets and tomatoes in bowls next to the road, is Bindura, the administrative capital of Mashonaland Central with more than 20 000 residents. There are some nickel, cobalt and copper smelters nearby but the full prosperity isn’t showing up in the town.

The queues at the local school is long, but Dumi Sibanda, a commodity broker who imports maize from other countries (Zimbabwe used to be Africa’s breadbasket, but challenges mean it has to import food now), says he asked someone to keep his spot as he went to buy airtime for his two phones.

Sibanda wants change. “Everyone around here is a dealer (vendor) and they sell things to each other. You can’t run a country like that. You need industry,” he says.

But he is confident that things could change soon. “I went up to Mount Darwin three days ago and even there I saw some red T-shirts. There is penetration even there,” he says.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai claimed victory even before the first ballot was cast. The next few days will prove which one was right.

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