With Zimbabwe's election day approaching the main presidential candidates continued to hammer out their messages to voters, but increasingly the debate seemed to be focusing in one way or another on whether the elections will be free and fair.
President Robert Mugabe told a rally Sunday in Stanley Square in the Makokoba section of Bulawayo, the country's second-largest city, that votes for the opposition would be wasted because “there is no way we can allow them to rule this country.”
The president appeared to be taking the same line as top security officials who said they would not recognize an opposition or even independent presidential victory.
Even as Mr. Mugabe warned votes for the Movement for Democratic Change would be “wasted,” opposition contender Morgan Tsvangirai was telling supporters at a Harare rally not to leave polling stations "but stand and defend your vote.”
He said elections were stolen in 2000, 2002 and 2005, but this one would not be.
The opposition says the government has printed 3 million more ballots than needed for the country's 5.9 million registered voters, intending to stuff ballot boxes.
But support for the democratic process came from an unexpected direction Sunday as the Standard newspaper carried an interview with Zimbabwe Defense Industries chief Tshinga Dube, a retired colonel seeking a parliamentary seat, saying ZANU-PF “must accept the election results” as a disputed election would not be in its interest.
Reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reached Dube, who said no one should run for office who is not prepared to accept defeat.
Meanwhile, on Easter Monday, Christians from different denominations held a prayer meeting in Bulawayo to ask for peace ahead of Saturday’s elections.
Rev. Raymond Motsi, an organizer, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that those who attended the religious gathering were beseeching God to help Zimbabweans elect leaders who will deliver the country from crisis and ensure peace and tranquility.