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Zimbabwe elections: Views from young voters

Zimbabweans braved the cold to to queue up at polling stations from the early hours of morning. Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Across Zimbabwe, voters have turned out in large numbers in presidential and parliamentary elections. Here young Zimbabweans share their experience of casting their votes.

Thandi, 26, from Harare writes:

Today I have this huge hope that in some small way I have been a big part of history in Zimbabwe. There is a certain “sneaky excitement” loitering around most corners in this nation today.

I think a lot of Zimbabweans today are being a little risky. I think there is this element of risk standing in the queues, waking up at 4.30 am to wait in the cold.

A flicker of hope stirring is the sound I could hear, on the winds longing for change and newness.

Election officials check documents as voting gets underway in Harare. Credit: Reuters/ Philimon Bulawayo

Read more: Zimbabwe at the polls

In all of the excitement I forgot my slip that proves that I did register earlier this month. I got to the front of the line only to find that my name had not been put on the voters roll, as it had not been updated. So, even with my proof of identity I had to go home and get my registration certificate.

There was general efficiency and I managed to vote within twenty minutes of waiting at a smaller polling station. This was a welcome surprise; I just hope that it is not a convenient masquerade for suspicious undertakings. We wait in hope.

Tsitsi, 27, from Harare writes:

As Zimbabweans we woke up today with a mixture of hope and trepidation. Hope because we are a positive nation and long for meaningful change and trepidation because we know that rigging is rife and our voice could well be stolen from us yet again. In Harare it is unlikely that you would see any violence or obvious intimidation, people are voting peacefully and on the whole without trouble. But in the rural areas it’s another story. Threats and intimidation there are rife.

An woman is transported on a push cart to cast her vote in Mbare township outside Harare. Credit: REUTERS / Siphiwe Sibeko

Today I went with my family to Chisipite Senior School in Harare East to cast my vote. Before going into the booth, an election official made me dip my finger into a pot of bright pink ink. In the cardboard voting booth I made sure that I used my own pen to mark my papers and voted for what I knew to be true in my heart.

This morning I heard what was described as a “massive hand washing “ at Harare's Belgravia Sports Club, enabling people to vote again. The pink dye comes off easily with a bit of soap and household cleaner.

President Mugabe prepares to cast his vote in Highfields outside Harare. Credit: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko

I also heard of an 80-year-old man who was a bit confused at his polling station at the David Livingstone School. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission official took his presidential ballot and marked it with an X and told him to put it in the box. The old man did not go into the voting booth and was very disturbed by what had happened to him.

Voters in Mbare township outside Harare. Credit: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko

I was told that in a village in Mashonaland province north-east of Harare, people were forced to hide en masse to prevent them from going to an MDC-T (Tsvangirai's party) rally. They were then made to attend “pungwes” - all night ZANU-PF(Mugabe's party) rallies - and were told that if they did not vote ZANU-PF they would lose their limbs.

This actually happened in 2008 so the fear is real.

Prime Minister and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai casts his vote with his wife Elizabeth. Credit: Reuters /Philimon Bulawayo

So although things seem to be going peacefully today with massive queues especially in the high-density areas, there is evidence of “soft rigging” and fear tactics being used. All we can do is hope that ordinary Zimbabweans can prevail despite the irregularities.

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