Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lessons from Zimbabwe

It was 29th March 2008 at the harmonized Zimbabwe elections. Someone found out where President Robert Mugabe would vote that morning and I, and a group of journalists from SADC member countries, rushed to the voting station at a primary school in one of Harare's suburbs.
Reuters/SABC News were already there
Reuters/SABC News were already there; it seems you do not get to the top of the news business by chance. The wait was long, prompting some to find space to rest.
A place to rest...
As time passed it seemed word spread around Harare on where the president would vote that morning and the crowd of reporters kept growing.
Crowd of reporters
TV Mozambique was represented, revealed by the logo on a reporters microphone.
A reporter's microphone...
And so was the Xhinhua News Agency, advertised on the back of one of the photographers.
The back of one of the reporters...
Every one lost concentration on how long we waited and some began to disperse and find other places for resting, until an old woman came out of the voting booth. Then most of the reporters pounced on her to find out which party she voted for.
Reporters pounce on the old woman...
Long after the old woman was interviewed and left the president's entourage arrived. President Mugabe arrived with his wife and children and proceeded into the voting room. As we surged towards the room behind the entourage, the entrance was blocked by serious-looking police and security personnel and we were all blocked from entering.

An individual who I gathered was the junior minister for Information appeared at the entrance and said when the time was right, he would allow photographers only to enter the voting room to photograph President Mugabe casting his vote.

Another several minutes of waiting passed and the minister announced that all those with cameras should step forward. A heavily built photographer with a huge camera powered his way in front of me and was allowed in. When I stepped ahead with my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200...
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200
 the minister blocked me and asked:
"What is this? Are you taking personal photos?"
I did some quick thinking and said:
"No. I am a columnist from the Sunday News, Tanzania and......"
I believe mentioning Tanzania saved me and he said, "OK", and waved me through. First, I took the photo of the First Lady casting her vote.
The First Lady votes...
And then I took a photograph of the president casting his vote.
President Mugabe casts his vote...
After casting his vote, President Mugabe left the building and held a brief press conference before leaving. I had learnt my lesson. If you want to impress ministers in elections you have to hold large and impressive cameras and equipment; if you don't have the impressive equipment you might try mentioning the name of a country that remains in the host country's good books.
Facing sideways, in glasses, the minister who eventually let me through

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