Sitrep 2. 02.00 hrs

Polling died in the afternoon at most poling stations in Zimbabwe. Only in the urban high-density areas did the queues persist into the evening and even them most were cleared by 19.00 hrs when the official period for voting closed.

The counting at all stations has taken much longer than expected - with only an anticipated 300 or so votes per station, it was anticipated that verification and counting would be over in an hour or two at most. In fact the process has taken much longer - for reasons that are not clear at this stage.

Then when the counting was complete - instead of declaring the result and posting on the door of the stations as required by the law, the people who did the counting were locked in and held incommunicado until the results were carried to the constituency control center and only then were the results released. Some have come out early - for different reasons, leaks and sneaked out in some cases, other just officials doing what they were told not to do. But these are in a minority at this stage.

So here we are at 2 am and very little to tell. We have had many instances of minor rigging - double voting, the use of false ID's and so on but only after we have had a close look at the results by polling station will we be able to zero in on those where serious rigging was implemented. In the station where I voted the staffing structure was very interesting - 11 teachers, 4 policemen and one police woman, one CIO operative who was labeled a Poll Observer, with a name tag with her photo on it. She sat with the returning officer all day and the Police did the special clearances of voters. 295 votes cast with 11 people turned away. Pretty typical I thought.

At 01.00 hrs we had the first result - Zengeza (Harare) was won by the MDC - first blood. Otherwise at this stage it looks pretty similar to 2000 - heavy wins for the MDC in the south and in the cities and Zanu a strong showing in rural constituencies and in Mashonaland. But that apart it also looks as if fewer people voted overall than in 2000 and that the MDC is doing better across the country than in 2000. Still too close to call, but I still think Zanu will have a headache in the morning.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 1st April 2005