Following a campaign marred by the government’s crackdown on the opposition, concerns about vote manipulation, and public outrage over the economic situation, Zimbabweans cast their votes in the carefully awaited presidential and legislative elections on Wednesday.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the 80-year-old president who took office in 2017 following the overthrow of late dictator Robert Mugabe, is running for re-election.
Nelson Chamisa, the 45-year-old leader of the yellow-colored Citizens Coalition for Change party, is his main rival.
Casting his ballot in his hometown of Kwekwe, central Zimbabwe, a confident Mnangagwa told journalists: “If I think I’m not going to take it, then I will be foolish”.
“Everyone who contests should go into the race to win”, he added, sporting his trademark multicoloured scarf.
The opposition is seeking to capitalise on the nation’s economic troubles, which include high unemployment, rising inflation, and pervasive poverty.
Voters lined up early in the morning outside more than a dozen sizable green tents set up as voting places on a dusty field, facing dilapidated apartment buildings and vacant wooden market booths. Mbare is the oldest suburb of Harare.
Some people used the light from their smartphones as the sun rose to check that they were at the proper polling places by looking up their names on voter rolls that were hanging outside the tents.
“It’s important for me to vote,” said Diana Office, in her thirties. Asked if she was hopeful things would improve after the elections, she laughed, resting her head on the back of a friend queuing in front of her. “No,” she said. “I’m just here to exercise my right only.”