CHITUNGWIZA, Zimbabwe (AFP) – Wrapped in blankets, Zimbabweans braved chilly weather Wednesday and turned up in droves to vote in a fiercely contested presidential election.
Voters started lining up outside polling stations in the darkness of winter, hours before voting opened. As day broke, queues had already snaked across the capital Harare.
Many of the early birds were young Zimbabweans in their late teens and early 20s who have known no other leader but President Robert Mugabe who has ruled for 33 years.
But the elderly, and even those who had difficulties walking were arriving to vote.
Visibly in pain, 76-year-old Lucy Munemo held onto walking frames and slowly walked up to cast her ballot at Chitungwiza, south of Harare, -- as the grassy field on which polling booths were located defeated the traction of her wheelchair.
"I wish for a good government and a president who respects his people whether they are women or youths," she said, before going on to echo Mugabe's party slogans.
"We don't want our land to go back to the whites. We don't want foreign interference," she said.
At a crowded Mbare township polling station, one 80-year-old woman was brought in on a cart.
Young voters were also out in numbers.
First-time voter Gamuchirai, dressed in red track suit pants and a pink sports jacket, pulled out her left hand from her pockets to proudly show off her index finger that had been dipped in purple ink for the ballot.
"A good Zimbabwe, that's all we want, where there is electricity, jobs and water. I hope it will come," said the 20-year-old college student.
Amid allegations of vote rigging, with the court ordering the electoral list to be provided to the opposition by midday Wednesday, some were turned away because their names did not appear on the list.
In Epworth, election officers repeatedly flipped through pages of the roll looking for names of voters.
Those who signed up to vote are allowed to use their registration slips as evidence they are eligible, even if names might be missing form the roll.
But at a school in the capital, a man who says he has voted in all elections since 1980, is turned away because his name was not on the list.
His children's names, however, were there and they are able to vote, according the independent newspaper NewsDay.
Scores were travelling long distances to their previous places of residency where they are registered to cast their vote, because they failed to transfer their details during the chaotic voters registration.