March 31, 2008 / 1:11 PM / 10 years ago

Rumors fly as Zimbabwe bloggers wait impatiently

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Bloggers mixed wild rumors with gallows humor on Monday as Zimbabweans waited on tenterhooks for the result of the most crucial election since independence.

A child walks past election posters in the Harare suburb of Epworth March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The opposition MDC and ruling ZANU-PF were running neck-and-neck in first parliamentary results issued by the electoral commission, 36 hours after polls closed.

Many bloggers shared opposition suspicions that the delay meant President Robert Mugabe was trying to rig the result to extend his 28 years in power.

"Across the country Zimbabweans agree that the MDC has trounced ZANU-PF but they don't believe (correctly) that this automatically translates into Mr Mugabe handing over the keys to State House, and his black Mercedes," wrote a blogger called Bev Clark on kubatanablogs.net/kubatana/ -- an online community of Zimbabwean activists.

Even in cyberspace the tension of waiting for the results began to tell.

"It's late and if I watch (MDC secretary general) Tendai Biti making the same comments on the same report they have been running since this morning I am going to do grievous bodily harm to the next person who walks through the door," one blogger wrote on thisiszimbabwe here

Writing on Sunday, poet Samm Farai Monro, better known as Comrade Fatso, told on his blog comradefatso.vox.com/ of wild rumors flying around the capital Harare.

“The streets are waiting. We woke today to rumors of Mugabe fleeing to Malaysia and news of the MDC press conference. We carried our bababarazi’d (hungover) selves to the conference after a night of ragga at downtown Harare’s Tube Nightclub. According to the MDC’s counting process they are way ahead in the polls. Victory is on people’s lips. But so is rigging.”

CRUMBLING ECONOMY

Zimbabwe’s crumbling economy was also widely discussed. Clark described searching for an Easter egg in Harare, where most shop shelves are bare. Official inflation is more than 100,000 percent and the currency is virtually worthless.

“A hunt like you’ve never seen before — I stopped at three supermarkets where there were no eggs of any kind, no bread, no milk. In fact not much of anything at all. What we do have on our shelves are very expensive South African imports when what we need are reasonably priced Zimbabwean products. Instead of an Easter egg I bought a packet of Simba Mexican Chili chips for Z$100 million ($2),” Clark wrote.

Many blogger comments on the Botswana-based news website zimbabwemetro.com related to fears that the elections may be rigged.

“I want to say to Mr Mugabe, this is your perfect time to say goodbye,” said comments by “Snoopy,” a Zimbabwean living in Australia.

“You can leave with a small amount of dignity if you leave now rather than no dignity at all in the next few weeks when there will be blood on the streets if you steal this election and again tell the people you do not care ... Go now Bob.”

Editing by Barry Moody

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