Friday, 21 March 2008

Ziso: 'Hushed Expectation in Harare'

From today until the elections on the 29th we will be posting a series of articles direct from the election campaign trail in Zimbabwe. Written by Ziso, who is following events from the ground, we will try and convey some of the unseen aspects of the elections as they affect those immediately involved and those directly affected by them.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 21 March

Harare waits in hushed expectation for the 29th. The atmosphere in the city is amazingly peaceful. Before other elections, the city has been charged with fear of intimidation and an angry frustration bordering on riot, but in 2008 there is an uncanny quiet. On one street corner MDC supporters leaflet. A few streets down Makoni is holding a rally to a cheerful crowd. A happy yellow is the campaign colour and a confidence surrounds the team. It is Easter Friday and leaving the rally an equally large crowd of churchgoers sing their way down the street behind a cross. Political posters and graffiti line the streets. Whispers are a foot. Will more party heavyweights swing over in the last seven days? Its been calculated that for everyone on the voter’s roll to complete their ballot paper (filling in four different votes) each person will have to take less than 9 seconds at the polling booth. It’s going to be chaos. And the new constitution states that the presidential votes will not be counted on site but at central headquarters. The probability of free and fair elections undermines the positive determination of this opposition camp.

A Zimbabwean woman and campaign posters of the three presidential candidatesEveryone has their analysis of how the vote will breakdown – a runoff for the presidential election is inevitable, but who will it be between? Some say Makoni has saved the day by pulling votes away from Mugabe who would otherwise win through his hold of the rural areas. Others say Makoni is taking votes away from Tsvangirai who should win as Zimbabweans are surely fed up with the lack of food, clean water, electricity, fuel, soap, toilet paper, milk, seeds, drivable roads and money that works. But all opinions are speculation. On the one hand the Zimbabwean people are exhausted at the concept of elections; they have voted before with passionate determination without any change taking place. On the other hand, in this glum and hopeless atmosphere, there is a genuine interest in Makoni’s challenge and hope that it might mean that change is possible. The truth is that nobody knows what will happen, and thus the hushed silence in anticipation of the 29th when the match kicks off and those who are quietly hedging their bets will finally have to take sides.

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