Saturday, March 29, 2008

ZIMBABWE VOTES : AT A GLANCE !

Zimbabweans are going to the polls to choose a president, members of parliament and local councillors.
Contributors across the country are sending the BBC their observations of the day.
If you are voting, send us your experiences by text on +44 7786 20 50 85 or use the form below - and let us know if you do not want your full name to be published.
0837 GMT: Cleopas, 38, in Marondera - a town about 70km east of the capital Harare, emails: "Voting is going on. People started going to the polls as early as 0530 local time (0330 GMT). Everyone is in high spirits and texts like these are doing the rounds among friends: 'Make sure the old man leaves the keys for state house - if he is shy, tell him to drop them at the robots [traffic lights] on the corner of 7 ave and samora machel ave.'"
0826 GMT: Clarence, 27, at a polling station in the eastern city of Mutare, says: "I got here about 20 minutes ago and am in the middle of the queue. People are just being cool - everyone is relaxed. Then as soon as they have voted, they leave straight away and return to their homes. There are not that many police around. I can't see any observers - maybe they are only inside."
0824 GMT: From Mazowe in Mashonaland Central, Stephen told the BBC that people have been voting peacefully but turnout is still low as most miners in the area have gone to work despite it being a public holiday. As he went to cast his ballot at 0630 GMT in a mining compound, he says he noticed that there was "a minor hiccup" with the ballot box labels. The written label and colour coding lid on the boxes for the presidential vote and senatorial vote did not tally. The president's box had a green lid instead of a blue one. Stephen says he notified the poll officials and the error was rectified.
0809 GMT: Sandra, 23, told the BBC over the phone from a polling station in Bulawayo: "I'm in the queue - there's seven people in front of me. I only got here an hour ago and so it's all going very efficiently. There is a long queue behind me but it is moving. People around me are quiet and are waiting patiently to cast their vote. People are just waiting for their turn."
0748 GMT: A voter in Mbare, Harare, texts: "The situation is calm and peaceful and voting is going on smoothly."
I did not want to miss this opportunity - Mlungisi Mabhena, Zimbabwean teaching in South Africa
0736 GMT: Sandra in Harare says she is standing in line waiting to vote and the atmosphere is peaceful "though tinged with a kind of scepticism". "We don't know whether our votes will count or rigging will occur as in 2002," she texts. "I think the opposition should have done more to mobilise people to register. While most of my friends are very vocal about their desire for change, most failed to meet the registration deadline."
0723 GMT: Stuart Valintine emails from Mutare that voting has been peaceful and efficient with large numbers turning out, although it started 10 minutes late. "An old man over 70 who has always voted was turned away because his ID document says he is an 'Alien'," he writes. "He was born in Mozambique, but has live and worked all his life in Zimbabwe."
0715 GMT: The usual voter apathy in Hwange, in the north-west, is not in evidence, says Joel Gore. Many people have come out to vote and even Zimbabweans living from South Africa are in the area in large numbers to cast their ballot. He says campaigners can be seen removing election posters to save them as many people are anticipating a presidential run-off .
0714 GMT: A texter from Harare, who has just voted quietly and peacefully, emails, "Some registered voters turned away because name not on voters roll. I saw the name of someone I know who emmigrated years ago was on."
0710 GMT: Themba Nkosi in Bulawayo says at polling stations he has visited in the townships, there were thousands of people, both the young and the old queuing to vote. Those in the queues were in jubilant mood, chatting to one another regardless of which political background or affiliation they came from. At Cowdray Park township, voters started queuing as early as 0300 (0500 GMT) - most of them Zimbabweans working and living in South Africa who started arriving on Friday. "I did not want to miss this opportunity," Mlungisi Mabhena, who works as a teacher in Johannesburg, told our contributor. Mr Mabhena has never voted in Zimbabwe but this year he made sure he came to register to vote because he wants change, he says. Our contributor says no violence has been reported so far and police and soldiers are patrolling the townships where the majority of the city's 1.6m residents live.
0640 GMT: Presidential contender Simba Makoni votes at a Mandara shopping centre in Mashonaland East. "I feel good, I voted for the best candidate," he told AFP news agency.

Some people arrived as early as midnight to book their place in the queue -Owen Chikari, Masvingo.
0620 GMT: Ben, a voter in Harare, texts to say he has cast his vote: "The atmosphere is peaceful and the polling officers seem keen to make the process efficient."
0619 GMT: A 30-year-old male voter in Kwekwe, south-west of Harare, texts: "I have just voted after an hour but the lines are now moving faster. The people are just relaxed and making jokes in the queues."
0610 GMT: A male voter at Highfields, a Harare suburb, says the queue he is in is moving. People are chatting, it is peaceful and police can be seen monitoring the situation. But people are worried about tomorrow, he says, and on Friday the shops were packed with people trying to stock up in case of trouble.
0540 GMT: Naume Muza in Karoi, north-west of Harare, says: "It took me almost 10 minutes to cast my vote. They had to check my name in the voters roll and then I was given four ballot papers: presidential, senatorial, member of parliament and councillor." He says so far voter turnout has been low. At the 10 polling stations he has visited, there have only been a handful of people waiting to vote.
So if you won't take note of electors' complaints why are you here at all?
Disabled voter in Umwinsidale, Harare
0539 GMT: Voting started 30 minutes late in many polling stations in Masvingo as ballot papers arrived late, says Owen Chikari in Masvingo. But the long and winding voting lines are now beginning to move. Some people arrived as early as midnight to book their place in the queue, he says.
0530 GMT: From a Harare polling station in a large marquee between a petrol station and police outpost in Umwinsidale, Festus says voting has been progressing peacefully and the whole process of voting takes just under five minutes. There are no uniformed policeman inside and the one patrolling outside did not enter when a disabled lady entered, he says. However, although she had on previous elections been on the electoral roll for this ward, she was told her name was not on the roll and she must go elsewhere. She tried to complain to the observers both inside and outside the tent, but no-one paid any attention or took any note of her complaint. She told a chap wearing a yellow jerkin which read Regional Faith Observer: "So if you won't take note of electors' complaints why are you here at all?"
0525 GMT: Themba Nkosi in Bulawayo says polls have opened with many people queuing, eager to vote. Zimbabweans from South Africa are still pouring into the city, arriving by minibuses, coaches and private cars, he says.
0518 GMT: A voter in Harare at a polling station in Roosevelt School says there is a queue of about 50 people, where the atmosphere is "party like", with police around but standing away from the queues. "Everyone is in a very positive mood," the texter says.
0516 GMT: Freelance journalist Brian Hungwe in Harare says the doors to the polling station at Alfred Beit Primary School have just opened - about 15 minutes late. People had been getting a bit agitated, but now the atmosphere is cheerful. There is a long queue of about 3,000 people.
0503 GMT: Farai, a voter in Harare, says the queue at his polling station in Borrowdale is short, with about 100 people, and he is about to go in and vote.
0311 GMT: A male voter, 25, from Harare, texts to say the queue at a polling station is already 30-plus deep, nearly two hours ahead of the polls opening.

The BBC has not been allowed to send reporters into Zimbabwe. Some names have been changed to protect their identities.
BBC NEWS REPORT.

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