Zimbabwe's restive south glum over Mugabe victory
Matabeleland voters, still bitter over an army offensive 20 years ago which rights groups say killed 20,000 civilians, voted heavily for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), giving it all but 5 of the province's 19 seats.
But as with elections in 2000 and 2002, Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF took the national vote -- this time extending its dominance with a two-thirds parliamentary majority that will permit it to change the constitution at will.
The victory was labelled a fraud by the opposition and western governments, who charged Mugabe with stealing his third election in five years.
In Matabeleland, there was grim resignation.
"As you can see, we are trying to drown our sorrow. We thought there would be change this time but it's the same old story," said 40-year-old Dan Tabisa as he sat in a bar in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo, listlessly sipping a beer with a couple of friends.
"This means five more years of suffering for us here in Matabeleland. Industries are closing down so unemployment is high and I don't see any hope of a change now," he added.
His sentiments were echoed by scores of people in Bulawayo and surrounding areas, with most shrugging their shoulders despairingly when asked about ZANU-PF's victory.
"I'm very unhappy because my party lost. There's no development in this region and people are suffering. I haven't had a real job for five years now and I'm just scratching around for a living," said a 42-year-old man in Nyamandlovu, 40 kms (25 miles) southeast of Bulawayo, who gave his name as Diba.
Analysts say Thursday's election will worsen a crisis that has ruined the once-prosperous nation and which critics blame on Mugabe's mismanagement and his chaotic seizure of white-owned land for redistribution to landless blacks.
Unemployment is 70 percent, inflation at about 130 percent and food and fuel are in short supply.
Matabeleland has been a thorn in Mugabe's side ever since a rebellion against his rule two years after independence in 1980.
The army assault followed government accusations that Matabeleland supported plans for an armed revolt against Mugabe's rule led by a rival nationalist leader, Joshua Nkomo.
The crackdown in the minority Ndebele-speaking region fuelled ethnic tensions with the Shona who dominate Mugabe's government that only subsided with a 1987 peace pact.
For many in Matabeleland, the ruling party's victory was no surprise, although the opposition's poor performance did leave many questioning the way forward.
"I think the
MDC needs to change its tactics if there is to be any hope of defeating
ZANU-PF because we keep voting for them but they keep losing,"
said a store security guard in Bulawayo who declined to give his name
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