Zimbabweans voted today in critical elections that will determine if longtime leader Robert Mugabe will remain at the helm of the African country or if one of his four challengers, including current Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, will take over.
The peaceful elections were the first since the formation of a coalition government between Mugabe's Zanu PF party and Tsvangirai's The Movement for Democratic Change. The coalition was formed following the last disputed and bloody elections in 2008.
Mugabe, who is 89 years old and has been in power for 33 years, has promised to give up power if he loses. Coming to rule in 1980, he is the only president the country has had since its independence from Britain.
Mugabe ignored protests from his coalition partners and Zimbabwean citizens after he unilaterally declared 31 July, 2013 as the date the country will hold elections. The Constitutional Court ordered Robert Mugabe to hold elections by 31 July following a successful application by Jealousy Mawarire, director of the Centre for Elections and Democracy in Southern Africa (CEDSA).
Zimbabwe election reports are trending on Twitter under the hashtags #ZimElections, #ZimbabweDecides, #ZimDecides and #ZimbabweElections.
Social entrepreneur Sir Nigel (@SirNige), emphasised the importance of traditional media during the elections:
Social media will play a role with #ZimElections but ultimately we'll use traditional media to get our election info – @ChiefKMasimba
— Sir Nigel (@SirNige) July 23, 2013
Realist Diva (@Da4RealDiva) in Bulawayo wrote:
So far,so good. Bulawayo is quiet….ppl r voting n going home. No riots no drama peaceful #zimelections #zimbabwe
— RealistDiva (@Da4RealDiva) July 31, 2013
Bonny K'ochieng (@orengbony) wrote that free and fair voting is the most important:
As an African i would welcome Mugabe's victory if its free n fair!!bt he shld accept defeat if Tsvangirai defeats him #ZimbabweDecides
— Bonny K'ochieng (@orengbonny) July 31, 2013
Southern Eye (@SoutherneyeZim), a local newspaper, reported:
Quite a sizeable number at Stanley Square, queue is trudging away slowly @Welshman_Ncube expected to vote here shortly #ZimbabweDecides
— Southern Eye (@SoutherneyeZim) July 31, 2013
Crisis Coalition, a conglomeration of more than 350 civic society organisations in Zimbabwe, asked voters to dispel the myth that votes do not count:
#ZimbabweDecides today.Hoping all registered voters will come out in their numbers. Dispell the myth that your vote doesnt count – it does!
— Crisis Coalition (@crisiscoalition) July 31, 2013
Idriss Ali Nassah (@mynassah) shared a touching story of a dedicated voter:
In Glen View, Harare, one man claimed he came at 3am to be first in line to vote #ZimDecides
— Idriss Ali Nassah (@mynassah) July 31, 2013
Gideon S.F. Moyo (@Giddo90), a student, noted that committed voters were prepared to queue as long as it takes:
People taking out their buttered bread in the queue… Even hunger will not deter them today #ZimElections #ZimDecides
— Gideon S. F. Moyo (@Giddo90) July 31, 2013
However, Mike Madoda (@mikemadoda) wrote the following about one polling station in the capital, Harare:
so far, less than 100 people have voted at Mt Pleasant High Sch- one may be inclined to believe the conspiracy theories are true #ZimDecides
— Mike Madoda (@mikemadoda) July 31, 2013
African Election (@Africanelection), a project that empowers reporters and citizen with new media tools for election coverage and monitoring, expressed fear that voters in some areas will be frustrated by a shortage of polling stations:
@ZimRights1 local observer says Chivhu has a popn [population] of 35 to 40000 with only 3 polling st. & this will frustrate voters #ZimElections
— African Elections (@Africanelection) July 31, 2013
Hopewell C (@hopewellc) complained about the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation:
While all news channels in world n First TV are showing live updates ….ZBC showing concerts and past galas #ZimElections ..smh
— Hopewell C (@hopewellc) July 31, 2013
Zweli on the Cusp (@Zwellibanzy) explained the fear that drives some voters to want to use their own pens:
‘Voters in Borrowdale bring their own pens amid rumours that the government pens use disappearing ink’ ZanuPF are technicians #ZimElections
— Zweli on the Cusp (@Zwellibanzy) July 31, 2013
Joseph Madondo (@jmad263) advised voters:
Before u vote know this the average Zimbabwean is living at under $1.14 a day.this has to CHANGE #ZimElections
— Joseph Madondo (@jmad263) July 31, 2013
Zimbabwean journalist Jessie Dendere (@jessiedendere) was critical of Tsvangirai's faction MDCT:
#MDCT is a confused party, why participate in an ‘illegal, illegitimate, unfree and fair election’ #ZimDecides #zimelections
— jessie dendere (@jessiedendere) July 31, 2013
Fore more coverage, please visit Vote Watch 263, a Ushahidi-based citizen platform for election analysis.