Zimbabwe arrived at a monumental crossroads this morning as millions of citizens poured into polling stations to cast their votes in a crucial election, which seeks to break the country’s relationship with dictatorship and corruption.
When a polling station made out of four tents opened up in Mbare, a vast and sprawling slum just five minutes outside Harare, Saviour Mufaro was the first to cast his ballot in one of the tents.
“We are hoping for the best. Maybe, just maybe, things will be different this time around. I have been voting since 2002, but as you can see, my living conditions have deteriorated.
"No human being deserves to live in a place like this. It’s humiliating. My money is on the MDC, but this is Zimbabwe, and anything is possible here.”
Mufaro and the estimated 300 000 residents of Mbare lead lives which are filled with incredible peril.
Mbare is a rundown maze of flats with clogged sewerage systems, broken windows, rutted gravel roads and thousands of makeshift trading stalls made up of battered wood and corrugated iron.
The settlement is characterised by putrid mud puddles, violence, prostitution and contagious infections such as malaria and typhoid.
The Mbare and Mapati high-rise flats, which are home to about 100 000 people, were reportedly designed to accommodate 11 000 people.
In worst cases, a single toilet is shared by up to 100 people. The area is also infested with rats and cockroaches.
Another resident of Mbare, Ntombikayise Ncube (35), said if the MDC Alliance does not win the election, there will be little or no changes.
“We are tired of Zanu-PF and it doesn’t matter who is at the helm. As long as the party is still in power, you can expect the same”.
Of Mbare, she said the incoming government has to evacuate the area, destroy everything and build decent houses and flats for the area’s residents”.
Nelson Chamisa, leader of the MDC Alliance, cast his vote at the Kuwadzana 1 Primary School, west of Harare.
He told a group of voters at the school that an MDC Alliance victory was certain.
“We have won this victory and we are already celebrating. We are ready to govern and we are ready for a new Zimbabwe.”
Current president Emmerson Mnangagwa who voted at the Sherwood Primary School in Kwekwe said, “I am happy that the process for campaigning was peaceful, voting today is peaceful and I have no doubt that end result of the entire electoral process will remain peaceful.”
Earlier today, the Chronicle, an online news site in Harare reported that the Free and Fair Foundation, an independent pollster, had predicted a landslide victory for Mnangagwa.
The foundation, the Chronicle said, reported that Mnangagwa would win by 74.4% while his rival, Chamisa, would only manage 20.1%.
The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) told journalists at a media conference that the election was progressing well with little or no friction.
Polling stations are expected to open until 7pm.
The ZEC is expected to announce the results on Saturday.