Rumors, Reports and Riddles

Today is not a good day to take too many pictures.

On a "normal" day, Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, reminds me of Chicago or any other American urban metropolis filled with people who are racing here and there. On a normal day, you will find young mothers walking with blanket-bound babies on their backs, motorcycle deliverymen weaving in and around traffic or uniformed school children chasing one another.

But today is not a normal day, for it has been four days since the 2008 "Harmonized" all-government elections. Days later, announcements of election results are trickling down to an increasingly impatient public.

Today, the only groups of people you will find on the street are huddled around cars and trucks as the hourly election results are broadcast over the radio.

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After each broadcast, people on the street respond with the word "handidi." In Shona, the national language of Zimbabwe, the term translates to: "I don't want."

Of course no one on the street dares to declare their opinion too openly while groups of uniformed riot police patrol nearby. Most people just walk away from the radio broadcast as silently as they approached it.

But some have vehemently decided to publicize their words in the form of graffiti. The familiar theme concerns thievery by the current ruling party, Zanu-PF. "No Money Zanu-PF Mbana" is prominently sprayed in black paint across numerous buildings and guard walls in the city.

"The old man has many tricks," says 20-year-old More Blessing, a maid at a large hotel in Harare. "He wants to teach us a lesson, and he is playing with minds."

Early on Sunday, the morning following the elections, more reports or rumors swirled around the results.

A Web site dedicated to tracking the outcome of the highly contested elections, www.zimelectionresults.com, declared that Morgan Tvsangrai, the presidential candidate for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the major opposition to Robert Mugabe, who has served as headed of the government since 1980, had received 67 percent of the vote.

But with no official declaration by Zimbabwe's electoral commission, these results currently reflect only the hope that can be seen on the faces of people walking the streets here today.

"People will cry or celebrate," says Mamoka, a Harare taxi driver. "We know the truth. They promised the elections to be free and fair. But look at what is happening, he is making us wait, for what?"

As we drive in his taxi we pass more graffiti on the walls. Seeing me snap pictures, he pauses, "What are you doing? If they catch you they will wipe your feet — they will beat you and blame you for those words."

And so, every hour people make their way to the closest radio to listen the official results. I sit in the taxi and listen. I look at Mamoka's face; it changes as more parliamentary seats are announced in Zanu-PF's favor.

At the end of the broadcast there is still no announcement concerning the presidential race. "What can I do?" he asks rhetorically as he starts the car and we drive off.

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