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Archive for March, 2008

Take your victory onto the pavement

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Sunday, March 30th, 2008 by Amanda Atwood

All of Zimbabwe’s radio stations are state run, and at some point, they’ll start announcing some results for yesterday’s election. So I’ve been listening to Power FM, what I find to be the most tolerable station, all night, and it’s a wonder I’m still sane. There’s nothing announced yet, and people are getting increasingly anxious. Our SMS subscribers are texting us regularly – where are the results? Why the delays? Power FM must be getting similar inquiries, as every now and again the DJ mentions that yes, the results will come out eventually, but they haven’t yet. Meanwhile, the hourly news broadcast has been updated from saying that results will start to be announced “early today” to “starting today.”

But the MDC isn’t waiting. Ballot papers were counted at polling stations, and many of these have finished. Based on these preliminary results, the MDC is claiming victory.

The few results we’ve had emailed in from polling stations support this.


Chiredzi Gvt A Primary Sch. Polling Station
Presidential: MDC 99 / ZPF31 / SM25
House of Assembly: MDC83 / ZPF 28 / IND 38 / MUT 7
Senate: MDC 89 / ZPF 44 / IND 23

Chiredzi Gvt B Primary Sch. Polling Station
Presidential: MDC 110 / ZPF 44 / SM 22
Parliamentary: MDC 79 / ZPF 44
Senate: MDC 102 / ZPF 19 / IND 21

Marondera Urban

Godfrey Huggins Polling Station
Presidential: MDC 144 / ZPF 39
Parliamentary: MDC 137 / ZPF 48 / Mutambara 7

Borradaile Polling Station
Presidential: MDC / 254 ZPF / 74 Makoni 40
Parliament: MDC 250 / ZPF 8

Good on the MDC for not waiting around. Their proactive approach is a good first step in combating a stolen election. But claiming a win at the Meikles Hotel is one thing – communicating it to the people, and converting it to victory, is another thing altogether. It’s time to the MDC to get out of the press conferences, and onto the pavement.

Elections aren’t won through posters, t-shirts and press advertisements

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Sunday, March 30th, 2008 by Bev Clark

Some MDC activists that I’ve spoken to have said that the economy – the deteriorating economy – will make victory at the polls pretty much a done deal. Who would vote for a man who has presided over our economic free fall? But one of the first steps in winning an election is making sure that your supporters are registered to vote. An article that we posted on Kubatana.net recently called No joy for pregnant women during economic crisis comes to mind. The author interviews a woman who says that even though a birth certificate is a vital document she can’t afford the nominal amount that she owes the hospital. So they are withholding the birth certificate because of her nonpayment of the medical fees associated with the birth of her child.

With regard to the election, in this environment where transport is incredibly expensive and where you can hardly access any public service without paying a bribe, many Zimbabweans would have thought twice about the cost of registering to vote when their other basic needs like buying food come first. Clearly the deteriorating economic environment has been a thorn in the side of both political parties. The opposition finds “more” Zimbabweans need to be in cash or bread queues, than in freedom marches or voting lines. This might be short sighted but a belly full of hunger needs to be sated, even temporarily.

I went to one of “More” Morgan’s star rallies a week ago. I was surprised by how many people in the crowd were wearing MDC t-shirts. And I questioned the ratio of members of the public (voters) versus MDC campaign workers and their hangers-on. The Mail & Guardian interviewed Kennedy Shoko, a barber at a downtown salon in Bulawayo

He says his only major worry is that the opposition might not be able to turn the crowds it has been attracting in campaign rallies into votes. “Most of these youths who have been running around are not registered voters.”

Another Mail & Guardian article entitled A Day At The Polls made me think of my voting experience yesterday:

If this was the day that the big change would take place, Harare did not look the part. If it weren’t for the posters and the tent structures for polling stations on open land, one would be forgiven for thinking this was just another sleepy public holiday in the capital of Zimbabwe.

Elections aren’t won through posters, t-shirts and press advertisements.

With reports of a low turnout I’m wondering if the MDC leadership can multi-task; whether they can operate outside of election fever? Has the MDC engaged a sustained voter registration campaign since the last election, or have their eyes been solely fixed on negotiations?

The electoral playing field is unequal and unfair – the MDC has been criticising this since the 2000 election – so I, like many others, am sick and tired of the opposition crying “foul play”. That multi-tasking question comes up again: with the certainty of Mugabe rigging the election in his favour, has the MDC been preparing their supporters for Plan B, or does a phrase like “defend your vote” equal their idea of a Plan B?

Change in Zimbabwe has to come from an inspired political leadership backed by courageous citizens. But we do need leadership. We need leaders who do more than spout vague slogans like “defend your vote”.

Snapshots from a failed state

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Saturday, March 29th, 2008 by Bev Clark

Okay so maybe it’s not such a good idea to go and watch a film about the Rwandan genocide a week before Zimbabwe’s umpteenth election, and with groups of Zanu PF trawling Harare’s streets wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Mugabe’s face and the slogan “Fists of Fury”, but a girl’s got to get out of the house, and it was Francophone week after all. After the film, to calm my nerves, I trundled through dimly lit Harare to have dinner at a little Portuguese place called Cascais Cascais, otherwise known as Cash Cash because they don’t, like everyone else, accept cheques anymore. My partner and I sat down and looked at the menu, and then we looked at each another knowing that we didn’t have enough cash on us for the house special – peri peri chicken and chips. Gideon Gono, the Governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, recently ruled that Zimbabweans can only withdraw Z$500 million (less than US$10) a day. Yip, that’s right. As we were counting our wad to see what we could afford the lights went out. And the candles came on but luckily this power cut was a short one. In the end I opted for cheap pork chops which arrived at the table quivering with floppy fat looking like they’d been grilled over a one bar heater. Nearby a group of Southern African Development Community (SADC) election observers chowed down like there was no tomorrow.

On Easter Sunday I thought I’d pop in on a rally organized by Morgan Tsvangirai, the president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). I was spurred into action by a text message from a friend: This is Big, it read. So I threw on my bright green and yellow Brazil t-shirt, donned my Fendi sunglasses and headed across the city to an open space next to the Sheraton Hotel. I arrived to find a couple of thousand MDC supporters chanting and dancing in anticipation of the fat man arriving. To my delight the throngs thought I was some Brazilian diplomat and stepped aside to let me pass unhindered shouting “This is how we do things in Zimbabwe!”

I didn’t hang around for the political speeches which are always terrifically boring and went, instead, in search of an Easter Egg. A hunt like you’ve never seen before – I stopped at three supermarkets where there were no eggs of any kind, no bread, no milk. In fact not much of anything at all. What we do have on our shelves are very expensive South African imports when what we need are reasonably priced Zimbabwean products. Instead of an Easter Egg I bought a packet of Simba Mexican Chili chips for Z$100 million. But speaking of what’s available, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of the local brand of condom – Protector Condoms. Granted they’re really cheap but often I see men making sure to buy protection. The staff of life – the odd loaf of bread and a packet of condoms. Walking and running the streets of Harare its common to find discarded used condoms on the road side and on cycle tracks. Zimbabweans are fucking their pain away.

I was running my dog along a road in Greendale and I came upon a group of Mugabe’s Zanu PF youth busy putting up posters of the old dictator shaking his fist. I let them know what I thought of them pasting their Bob posters over all the MDC and Simba Makoni election posters, saying it’s evident that their boss is fearful of legitimate and credible opposition.

At a recent dinner party people joked about Zimbabwe’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. We have the Bob Triangle – people have lost their livelihoods, farms, vendor stalls, businesses, their sanity and their self-esteem. We Zimbabweans might be on our knees but where there’s an election, there’s hope. There is much to hold dear in Zimbabwe, even still, even now after all these years of repression. Novelist John Berger sums up how I feel in one of his dispatches on survival and resistance:

With hope between the teeth comes the strength to carry on even when fatigue never lets up, comes the strength, when necessary, to choose not to shout at the wrong moment, comes the strength above all not to howl. A person, with hope between his or her teeth is a brother or sister who commands respect. Those without hope in the real world are condemned to be alone. The best they can offer is only pity. And whether these hopes between the teeth are fresh or tattered makes little difference when it comes to surviving the nights and imagining a new day.

We have to turn our dreams into action

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Saturday, March 29th, 2008 by Bev Clark

Comrade Fatso is keeping us inspired and fired UP with his daily election blog. He is one of Zimbabwe’s leading activist spoken word poets – you can find out more about Comrade Fatso by visiting his web site. In the meantime here is his post from the streets of Harare.

Today is peaceful. Calm. Like an anesthetised patient having her stomach slit open. We drove from the elite suburbs of Borrowdale to the peopled townships of Highfields. The queues of the morning had tired into afternoon strolls into empty polling stations. All over this expectant, pregnant town there was a feeling of calm. ‘Peace’. The vote happened. We went through the motions. But it’s a tense peace. Inside each polling station is an agent of oppression – a police officer. Youth militia parade townships ‘peacefully’. As I write on the calm street outside the Book Cafe there are twenty police officers sitting menacingly underneath a tree. Waiting. Yes, there is peace. As long as you vote and shut up. As long as you don’t disturb this fragile shack they have painted ‘peace’. Peace is not the absence of war. Peace can also be the presence of rigging. This is where we stand today. In a peaceful election where my comrade, Godobori, registered to vote in the town of Chitungwiza, had to go to different polling stations in various suburbs of the next door town of Harare after he had been ‘moved’ on the voter’s roll. He finally voted at 6:15pm. It is a calm election of ghost voters and living human beings who are dead to the voters’ roll. The rigging has already begun as dreams are stolen while dreamers sleep. But democracy isn’t about putting an X on a piece of paper every five years. Democracy means people reclaiming their lives and running their communities. Democracy means power at the grassroots where decisions are made face-to-face in neighbourhoods. Democracy means fighting to reclaim your power. So these elections will be determined not by the rigged result but by the people’s reaction. ZANU (PF) want to steal our dreams and tell us it was a nightmare. We have to turn our dreams into action.

For Daily Election Blogs by other MAGAMBA! poets and activists see www.myspace.com/magamba

Ballot papers and bribes

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Saturday, March 29th, 2008 by Bev Clark

Gerry Whitehead based in the Lowveld has sent in a situation report to keep us up to date with how the election went. Here’s what he has to report:

Polling stations run out of ballot papers
The following polling stations had run out of ballot forms by 11.30 am and were turning people away: -
Chiredzi West constituency.
Mukwazi Polling Station
Chigwiti Polling Station
Mkwasine Secondary School Polling Station
SD Adventist Primary School Polling Station
Polly Clinic Polling Station

The MDC (TSV) Chief election agent Nelson Muzamani spoke to the Chief Election Officer in Chiredzi and he said “it is out of my control”. He was aware of how many ballot forms he required. The rally that was held in these areas indicated that these were strong MDC (TSV) areas.Thousands of people were turned away from these polling stations and never got to vote, many were very angry.Also in this constituency ZANU PF were distributing maize 300 meters from the Chisamiso Primary School Polling Station.

Voting equipment and materials arrive late
Chiredzi North Constituency. Voting material and ballot boxes arrived late at many polling stations which meant that the people only started voting after 8.30am. There was a mix up with two polling stations getting the wrong voters lists in this constituency which resulted in some 800 people being unable to vote. In 7 hours only 4 people managed to vote. The police chief and the Chief Election Officer in Chiredzi were advised but by 6.30pm nothing had been done about it.

The Chiredzi constituencies are huge and mostly without communications so this is just a little of what is really going on. I believe that ZANU PF have planned this very carefully and believe that the SADC observers and the international communities will just accept it. All indications are that the Zimbabwean people will not accept ZANU PF winning.

Not one pink finger

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Saturday, March 29th, 2008 by Amanda Atwood

Alright. So my cynicism is officially unsuspended. As Zimbabwe’s election day has progressed, reports indicate increasingly that, aside from a few areas in Harare and Mutare’s high density suburbs, voter turn out has been low- or at least the queues have been very short, despite the fact that analysts predicted long queues in urban areas due to a dearth of polling stations. The MDC’s Director of Elections, Tendai Biti, is asking for voting to be extended, but it sounds like there is only a small number of polling stations for which this might be necessary.

I went for a run this evening, and found myself checking people’s little fingers for the tale-tale sign of pink ink – to indicate that someone had voted. I was dismayed to see not one pink finger.

I bumped into a neighbour of mine who had moved house some time back. I was surprised to see her, and I asked if she had come back because she had registered here and wanted to vote. She’s 19, so this would have been the first election she could vote in. She just laughed at me. She didn’t vote, she said, because she never had time to register.

Listening to ZBC (Zanu PF Broadcasting Corporation) news on the radio, it sounds like they’re claiming high turn out in the rural areas, but low turn out for the cities. The MDC has scheduled a press conference for 1am – apparently they think some results will already be in by then. Is apathy going to end up the biggest winner in this election?