First Sitrep - 15.00 hrs

I have been out since early morning - watching the poll after actually voting at a local school. We are also in touch with MDC structures across the country. At 15.00 hrs my read of the situation is as follows: -
1. There has been a nationwide effort to restrict MDC presence in the polling stations. Many different methods were used and we might yet see efforts made to expel them from the polling stations before vote verification and counting begins. This effort has by and large been overcome and my estimate is that well over 90 per cent of the 8 300 polling stations now have at least 2 polling agents present.

2. The poll is heavy and turnout excellent - by mid day I estimate that up to 2,5 million votes had been cast and we will therefore see at least 3 million genuine votes cast during balloting. My read of this is very positive for the MDC.

3. There have been very few incidents - perhaps a dozen of violence at the polls but police intervention has been acceptable. We have had at least two reports of people voting twice - one arrest.

4. I expect polling to finish on time in all rural constituencies but may have to be extended in urban constituencies. It is clear again that Bulawayo, Gweru and Harare do not have enough polling stations and at this time there are still long queues at certain stations.

5. A large number of rural polling stations do not have adequate lighting and this will present a problem this evening as verification and counting gets under way. Each MDC polling agent has a candle and this will help but more light is needed.

My read overall is that a major upset may be underway. The media is still predicting a Zanu PF victory but I think they have it wrong. The only way they can win this is by ballot stuffing on a massive scale and in many places - very difficult this time round.

Many MDC activists were up all night getting poling agents into place last night - tonight we will be up all night and will send out a sitrep every 4 hours or so.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 31st March 2005