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Zimbabwe police jailed for 'bias'

BBC

21 March 2008, 14:58 GMT

Five police officers based in Masvingo, southern Zimbabwe, are serving
a 14-day prison term after being convicted of breaching the Police Act.
They were accused of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Police Act bars officers from actively participating in politics.

But critics say the law has been applied selectively, with supporters
of the ruling Zanu-PF going unpunished ahead of the 29 March election.

Police chief Augustine Chihuri has publicly stated that he will not
allow "puppets" to take power in Zimbabwe - widely seen as a reference to
the MDC.

Four police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID)
based at Zaka district police station - including the deputy officer in
charge, Assistant Inspector Denis Ngwabi - are serving sentences at Fair
Bridge police prison in Bulawayo after they were seen boarding the motor
vehicle of local MDC parliamentary candidate Harrison Mudzuri.

Mr Mudzuri is the younger brother of Elias Mudzuri, a former Harare
mayor and current party national organising secretary.

The officers were said to have been offered a lift, but colleagues in
Masvingo later accused them of actively participating in politics and they
appeared before a police disciplinary hearing - reportedly without legal
representation - which gave them the 14-day sentences.

Another police officer, who is based at Renco Mine police base in
south Masvingo, is serving the same sentence after he too was convicted of
actively participating in politics.

The officer reportedly waved an open hand - a symbol synonymous with
the MDC.

Police vote early

The commanding office of the police in Masvingo province, Assistant
Commissioner Mhekia Tanyanyiwa, confirmed the developments.

"The officers concerned were seen moving around in MDC vehicles while
another one was seen chanting an MDC slogan.

"We do not want police officers to be involved in politics but instead
they should serve the people."

However, several police officers have been seen boarding Zanu-PF
vehicles without being punished.

Meanwhile, police officers who will not be in their wards and
constituencies on polling day have started casting their votes - under the
watchful eye of their superiors.

The MDC fears that Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is planning to rig the
polls - charges his supporters deny.


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Defy commanders, Zimbabwe rights group urges security forces

africasia

HARARE, March 21 (AFP)

A rights group on Friday urged Zimbabwe's security forces to defy commanders
who have vowed they would support only President Robert Mugabe to rule the
country after next week's poll.

"You have heard your commanders declare that they would not support and
salute anyone other than the current president," the National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA), a coalition of rights groups campaigning for a new
constitution for Zimbabwe, said in a statement.

"But it is this president and his elite that have made the lives of you,
your families and all of us a daily misery.

"Go against the orders of your commanders, lay down your arms and rally
behind the people of Zimbabwe to foster reconstruction and development."

"It is not too late to refuse to be used as pawns by those who hold no
allegiance to you and your families and whose only interest is in their own
personal greed and ambition," the text said.

Police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri was quoted by the state-owned
Herald newspaper last week as saying his force would not allow "a puppet" to
rule the country.

President Robert Mugabe, 84, seeking a sixth term at the helm of the
country, has often referred to his challengers in presidential elections as
puppets of the West.

The commissioner of prison services, retired major-general Paradzai Zimondi,
also vowed last month not to accept anyone other than Mugabe as head of
state, as he instructed prison staff to vote for the veteran leader, who has
been in office since the nation's independence from Britain in 1980.

Zimondi said he would not salute presidential aspirants Morgan Tsvangirai or
former finance minister Simba Makoni should either of them emerge victorious
from the March 29 joint presidential and legislative polls.

In the run-up to 2002 presidential elections, widely condemned as rigged,
Zimbabwean defence chiefs declared they would not support a president who
did not participate in the war of liberation in the 1970s, as Mugabe did.

Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Friday in
a statement deplored new electoral regulations passed this week by Mugabe
which allow police officers into polling stations during the elections.

The regulations allow policemen in polling stations to assist illiterate or
physically challenged voters.

The southern African country's police have often used brutal force against
opponents of Mugabe and the police boss recently warned that his force could
use firearms if necessary to crush protests after the polls.


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Mugabe warns rivals against Kenya-style violence

Reuters

By Cris Chinaka

ZVIMBA, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe warned the
opposition on Friday against Kenyan-style violence if they lose next week's
election, saying security forces stood ready to crush such protests.

The 84-year-old leader faces a stiff challenge from former ally Simba Makoni
and long time rival Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main faction of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), amid a desperate economic
crisis.

Mugabe said security forces would put down any violence similar to clashes
in Kenya that killed more than 1,200 people after the opposition challenged
the results of an election in December.

"If Tsvangirai and his (MDC) group have such plans, they must stand warned,"
Mugabe told about 20,000 cheering supporters in his rural home area of
Zvimba, 100 km north-west of Harare.

"That will never happen here, never, never. We will never allow it. We have
enough security forces to handle that."

Political analysts say Mugabe, who earlier this year looked assured of an
easy re-election, faces a serious bid from Makoni, who says he is working
with some senior officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party and a resurgent
Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai on Thursday accused Mugabe of abusing his position to win next
week's poll by invoking presidential powers to amend electoral laws to allow
police officers -- whose superiors have publicly backed Mugabe -- to assist
illiterate and disabled voters in polling booths.

Previously, the law did not allow police officers within 100 meters (yards)
of polling stations.

The opposition has not said it would call violent protests if it loses.

In Marondera town, 60 km (40 miles) east of Harare, Makoni told reporters
after a campaign rally that the electoral playing field was not even, noting
limited coverage by state media and that his supporters were being
intimidated by ZANU-PF.

THREAT TO BRITAIN

"We remain hopeful, certainly desirous of an outcome reflecting the will of
the people but remain anxious and concerned as to the integrity of the
process," said Makoni who was forced to hold the rally outside a stadium
because ZANU-PF officials were distributing farm equipment there.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has said the party was using handouts of farm
equipment as a tool to gain political advantage.

Mugabe said he would romp to a landslide victory to shame former colonial
power Britain, which he accuses of funding the MDC and Makoni.

The veteran leader threatened that his government could in future retaliate
against British interests in Zimbabwe, saying sanctions -- designed to
target Zimbabwe's leaders -- were hurting his country.

"To the British, your sanctions will demand that in future we retaliate and
when we reciprocate, we will hit your businesses," Mugabe told his
supporters.

He said he was disappointed that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had
taken over from predecessor Tony Blair by pursuing a hostile policy against
Zimbabwe.

Mugabe also rejected comments by British officials casting doubt on whether
next week's presidential, parliamentary and council polls would be free and
fair. The European Union has also raised doubts over the process.

"We had hoped for a repair of relations but Blair and Brown are both
blooming fools."

"They have already rejected our elections and prejudged the process, these
devilish liars" said Mugabe.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)


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Opposition Says Zimbabwe Election Conditions Favor Mugabe

VOA

By Peta Thornycroft
Harare
21 March 2008

Zimbabwe's independent election observer network says that the political
climate and conditions on the ground have given an unfair advantage to
President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF for polls due March 29. Peta
Thornycroft reports from Harare that although these elections are not as
violent as previous polls, conditions for free and fair elections according
to regional ground rules, are not there.

Along the Enterprise Road, linking Harare to northeastern Zimbabwe, three
groups of ZANU-PF youth were pulling down opposition election posters.

Friday is a public holiday and the road is largely deserted except for the
youths who clenched their fists in defiance as motorists passed by.

The independent Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network notes some violence and
intimidation of opposition supporters in various parts of rural Zimbabwe.

ZESN also notes improper use of state resources in parts of the ruling
ZANU-PF campaign.

Last week President Robert Mugabe used his executive powers to issue a
decree allowing policemen in to the polling stations. South African
mediation of inter-party talks last year produced a law specifically banning
policemen, who have long been seen by the opposition as partisan, from being
inside polling stations on election day.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change faction
loyal to founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, has strongly criticized the
Zimbabwe Election Commission.

It is chaired by Judge George Chiweshe who has so far refused to criticize
or even act against evidence taken to him by independent critics of
irrefutable breaches of guidelines drawn up by the Southern African
Development Community , or SADC.

Biti says the commission is the public relations division of the
government's registrar-general which always ran elections and will continue
to do so.

Biti and other opposition leaders have a long list of allegations of
electoral misconduct by ZANU-PF.

Welshman Ncube, secretary-general for the other MDC party faction said he
had discovered that at least two people in every house in his constituency
in a suburb of Bulawayo, who were listed on the voters roll were dead.

He said the voters roll was massively inflated. In previous elections,
investigators for the opposition claimed that ZANU-PF had used the
overstatement of voters to rig the polls during announcement of results.

Joseph Mkatazo, director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in
second city Bulawayo described the shortcomings in election preparations so
far as a 'litany... of uneven and unfair processes."

He said that the shortage of polling stations in opposition urban
strongholds, Harare and Bulawayo, was a form of election rigging. He said
however that in southern Zimbabwe the campaigns so far had been "very
peaceful."

Western diplomats generally concede that there is less violence now than in
the previous presidential and parliamentary elections from 2000.

For the first time Zimbabweans will vote simultaneously for a new president,
parliament, senate and local government.

So far the only foreign observers in the field are from the Southern African
Development Community. Few have been seen in the field, and so far those who
have spoken out have said that election preparations appear to be
satisfactory.


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More Rigging As Zanu-PF Uses Councillors As Polling Officers



SW Radio Africa (London)

21 March 2008
Posted to the web 21 March 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

Despite the announcement this week by the chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC), George Chiweshe, that teachers would not be used as
polling officers during the elections, it has been discovered that several
headmasters will be acting as polling officers in the Lowveld area. But that
is because many of them are actually ZANU-PF councillors.

Chiredzi farmer and activist Gerry Whitehead has exposed the fact that at
least three councillors are serving as presiding officers in the Chiredzi
area. He said these ZANU-PF officials have all, in the past, received
benefits from the ruling party, including farms and vehicles. They still
have access to scarce fuel and food supplies from the government's Grain
Marketing Board.

Whitehead has provided the names of these presiding officers. In the
Chiredzi South Constituency there is a headmaster named Mugwadia at Sengwe
Secondary School, who is also a ZANU PF councillor for Ward 15. Boli
Secondary School's headmaster is named Ndebele, and he is the ZANU PF
councillor for Ward 12. Then there is Amos Ndirowe, headmaster at Malisanga
Primary School and a former ZANU PF councillor.

Whitehead believes that close scrutiny of the people that THE ZEC has hired
would reveal that this is happening countrywide.

He said that a letter exposing these people and objecting to them as
presiding officers was handed to ZEC officials in Chiredzi, by the MDC
Chiredzi South Candidate Joseph Chirovi on Thursday. We were not able to
contact ZEC officials for comment.

There is much evidence of rigging in these elections and a lot of it is
being documented by opposition parties and civil organisations.

There is growing dissent within the ranks of ZANU-PF and the economy has
totally collapsed. Under these pressures, observers believe Mugabe is
panicking and trying to manipulate as many electoral mechanisms as possible
to ensure victory on March 29th. The consensus is that he has no chance of
winning any election that is free and fair.


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'Mugabe's fist has been hammering Zimbabwe'

IOL

March 21 2008 at 11:26AM

Masvingo - President Robert Mugabe is urging Zimbabweans to 'Vote For
The Fist'.

His campaign posters - portraits of Mugabe wearing an olive green
military-type shirt and holding a clenched fist aloft - reflect his hardline
politics, and remind voters of the crack troops who have helped keep him in
power for 28 years.

Mugabe is again counting on his army of war veterans and ruling party
youth brigades, known as "green bombers" because of the military-style
clothes they wear, to crank up support in his rural power base ahead of the
March 29 vote.

The veteran leader is facing his strongest challenge in nearly three
decades because of defections by senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials and a
deepening economic crisis.

The opposition charges that the "green bombers", war veterans and some
members of the Zimbabwean army were behind violent campaigns that helped
Mugabe's party retain power in elections in 2000 and 2002. Mugabe denies the
allegations.

This week, Human Rights Watch said Mugabe's supporters, including
police and central intelligence, had used violence in the run-up to this
month's poll to intimidate opponents, undermining chances of a fair vote.

ZANU-PF denies its militant supporters are guilty of intimidation but
Zimbabwean rights activists say they have documented years of systematic
violence.

"We have heard some horror stories. In 2000 and 2002 ... we had people
being dragged out of buses, after being identified as opposition activists,
and getting assaulted with clubs and machetes," said an official with
Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum.

"We had cases of people being stabbed by mobs at open markets, and ...
youth brigades moving around in large groups, disrupting opposition rallies,
singing war songs and sowing fear in townships and villages," said the
official, who did not want to be named.

"Fortunately, it's not happening at the same level this time round.
But the fear remains," he added.

Mugabe, an 84-year-old former guerrilla leader, is facing a fierce
fight from ex-ally Simba Makoni and longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai in his
bid for another five-year term.

Both Makoni, a former finance minister, and Tsvangirai, who heads the
main faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), say
Mugabe has ruined Zimbabwe's economy.

Mugabe says the mounting problems Zimbabweans are battling, including
food and fuel shortages and the highest inflation in the world, are a result
of sanctions imposed by Western powers.

"They want to turn back this country into a British colony again, and
I urge you to demonstrate to the world again that their chosen puppets have
no support and will never rule this country," Mugabe said at a rally in
southern Zimbabwe.

SENSE OF FEAR

The ZANU-PF party planted its roots in rural areas - where at least 60
percent of Zimbabwe's population lives - during the 1970s war for
independence from Britain and left behind a mixture of military and civilian
structures.

Critics say that for some of Mugabe's loyalists, the image of their
leader's clenched fist is still a call to war.

At least 50 000 people died during the 1970s war and ruling party
militants constantly remind voters that they will go back to the bush if
ZANU-PF loses power.

Members of the youth brigades who act as security guards at ZANU-PF
rallies are seen in the countryside as the party's eyes, ears - and fists.
Critics say the "green bombers", graduates of a national youth service, have
become a private party militia.

"Although it is wearing off, I think there is still a pervasive sense
of fear of the party, of youth brigades, the war veterans, the ZANU-PF
militants," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the
University of Zimbabwe.

"There are some notable cracks and divisions in their ranks now, but
these people have kept ZANU-PF structures alive despite the economic
crisis," he added.

Analysts say Mugabe, who is accused of rigging previous elections, is
keen to win regional endorsement of this year's poll as free and fair, and
has kept ZANU-PF militants on a short leash. But critics maintain that many
of the tens of thousands of people turning up at his rallies do so out of
fear.

FIST OR HAMMER?

In the past few weeks, a combative Mugabe has travelled to his
traditional rural strongholds to drum up support as his rivals pile pressure
on him, largely in urban areas where people are bearing the brunt of the
economic crisis.

Zimbabwe's inflation rate is over 100 000 percent, and its towns are
suffering severe water, power and transport shortages and choking on
overflowing sewers.

The message his supporters are taking to rural voters has not changed
since the last vote in 2005: they say ZANU-PF is the only trustworthy
custodian of black interests and that the opposition is made up of stooges
sponsored by Britain and ZANU-PF's Western enemies.

Mugabe is also trying to woo voters with massive government handouts
of farm equipment, including tractors and ox-drawn ploughs meant to support
his controversial land reforms which included confiscating land from white
farmers.

In the countryside, villagers privately say life has become harder but
there is little overt criticism of the government.

And although this year's election campaign has been relatively
peaceful, opposition leader Tsvangirai, who was beaten up by security forces
at a rally last year, says "for Mugabe, political thuggery is always an
option."

In a response to Mugabe's "vote for the fist" campaign, Tsvangirai's
MDC said in a newspaper advert: "The war is over. We cannot feed people with
clenched fists".

The other challenger, Makoni, has been even more direct.

"Don't vote for the fist. The fist has become a hammer smashing the
country."


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WOZA members arrested for putting up election posters

zimbabwejournalists.com

21st Mar 2008 16:14 GMT

By a Correspondent

BULAWAYO - Eight members of WOZA, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, were arrested in
Pumula this morning while putting up election posters in the high-density
suburb, the pressure group has said.

The group of women were putting up posters encouraging Zimbabweans to stand
up for their child and vote in next week's elections. They were taken to
Pumula Police Station and questioned for 30 minutes before being released
without charge.

Questions included why they were wearing T-shirts telling people to vote and
what Stand Up for Your Child, which is incsribed on the T-shirts meant. They
were finally told to stop encouraging people to vote and to leave that to
the politicians and released, a WOZA statement said.

"With one week left before the election, the arbitrary arrest of citizens
who were not campaigning for any political party but merely exhorting people
to exercise their democratic right to vote is yet another indication that
next week's polls are being held in an
environment that is not free or fair.

"Nonetheless, WOZA continues to encourage Zimbabweans to be ready to stand
up and be counted on 29 March - make your
choice, cast your vote, register your protest," said WOZA in the statement.


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MDC candidate's house destroyed

Zim Online

by Prince Nyathi Saturday 22 March 2008

HARARE - An opposition election candidate for Zvimba West constituency has
fled his home, fearing for his life after suspected ruling ZANU PF party
militants attacked his homestead and damaged his house.

Knox Danda of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party led by
Morgan Tsvangirai said about 20 youths raided his home last Monday night and
broke down doors and windows to his house, as well as part of the roof. He
was not injured because he was not at home at the time of attack.

Danda is contesting against Nelson Samkange of ZANU PF for the Zvimba West
seat. Zvimba is President Robert Mugabe home district and has long been a no
go area for the opposition.

"Fortunately, when they attacked I was not at home. I had put some youths to
guard the premises because I had gathered information that they wanted to
attack my home," said Danda, who has since sought refuge in Harare.

Danda said he reported the incident to police at Murombedzi rural business
centre near his home. But a police spokesman Andrew Phiri said he was unable
to comment because he was yet to be briefed about the matter.

MDC national director of elections Dennis Murira accused ZANU PF of
preaching peace in public but engaging in violence under the cover of
darkness.

"When people are being attacked and houses destroyed in Mugabe's backyard it
shows that those who are doing it have the blessings of the President," said
Murira.

ZANU PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira was not immediately available for
comment on the matter.

Zimbabweans, grappling with their worst ever economic crisis, will chose a
new president, parliament and local councils in elections next week.

Both the MDC and ZANU PF have called for peaceful elections. But the
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum last Tuesday said there had been a huge
increase in cases of politically motivated violence with more than 300 cases
of politically motivated violence and human rights abuses recorded in the
month of January alone. - ZimOnline


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Film maker arrested over Makoni posters

Zim Online

by Tafirei Shumba Saturday 22 March 2008

HARARE - Zimbabwe state security agents on Wednesday arrested and detained a
local film-maker, O'brian Mudyiwenyama, for several hours for allegedly
filming campaign posters of presidential aspirant Simba Makoni.

Mudyiwenyama was arrested in central Harare while filming pictures for an
oncoming movie, Super Patriots and Morons.

The movie is adapted from a stage play of the same title that was banned
about five years ago on the grounds that the play was a direct attack on
President Robert Mugabe's administration.

State agents from the feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) however
swooped on Mudyiwenyama as he zoomed on a campaign poster of Makoni, one of
four presidential candidates seeking to wrestle power from Mugabe in next
Saturday's presidential election.

Speaking to ZimOnline yesterday, Mudyiwenyama said he was bundled into a car
and was whisked away to the CIO headquarters in central Harare.

"They (CIO) approached me from nowhere and before I knew it, I found myself
bundled in their car and headed for Chaminuka Building where I was
interrogated by different officers each time I was moved to four different
offices in all.

"The officers accused me of siding with Makoni and said I was merely
dreaming if I ever thought Makoni would be president of Zimbabwe one day,"
said Mudyiwenyama.

The film-maker said state agents also accused him of being an enemy of the
state adding that his actions to film Makoni's campaign posters were
punishable by death.

Mudyiwenyama said he was only released several hours later after the
intervention of a senior CIO officer who warned him "to
stay out of trouble".

State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa who is in charge of the CIO could not
be reached for comment on the matter.

Mutasa has however in the past refused to comment on matters involving the
state security agency.

Zimbabweans go to the polls next weekend to elect a new president,
parliamentarians and local government representatives.

The elections have generated widespread interest from international media
with hundreds of foreign journalists applying for accreditation from the
state's Media and Information Commission (MIC) to cover the polls.

Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba last week warned that state security
agents were ready to fish out "spies" disguised as journalists seeking to
cover the elections political analysts say Mugabe could lose because of a
severe economic crisis gripping the southern African country. - ZimOnline


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Zimbabwean Observers Voice Concern About Pre-Election Confusion

VOA

By Carole Gombakomba
Washington
21 March 2008

Local observers in Zimbabwe expressed concern Friday about the uncertainty
and confusion surrounding the electoral process one week before national
elections.

Reports this week from Human Rights Watch, The International Crisis Group,
the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO
Forum predicted a flawed election. They cited procedural irregularities,
political intimidation and violence, and partisanship among top security
officials, among other factors.

The International Crisis group said the failure of crisis mediation talks
sponsored by the Southern African Development Community set the stage for
the problems.

Human Rights NGO Forum said conditions are not present for free and fair
elections to be held because the ruling ZANU-PF party is resorting to
intimidation.

Civic groups are also concerned that the mass media remains firmly under the
control of ZANU-PF though the law requires them to cover all political
parties.

Reports said the public media continues to cover ZANU-PF favorably, giving
the opposition about 20 percent of coverage, mainly negative.

For perspective, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe
turned to Xholani Zitha, coordinator the of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition,
and Noel Kututwa, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.

Kututwa said Zimbabwean observers are concerned about governmental changes
in electoral rules, and mismanagement by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.


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Zimbabwe opposition castigates Mugabe's new electoral rules

Yahoo News

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's main opposition on Friday deplored new electoral
regulations passed by President Robert Mugabe allowing police officers into
polling stations during next week's general polls.

Endorsed by Mugabe this week, the regulations would allow police in polling
stations to assist illiterate or physically-challenged voters.

"It was argued that it was intimidatory to have illiterate or
physically-incapacitated voters vote in the presence of a police officer,"
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary-general Tendai
Biti said in a statement.

As part of negotiations brokered by the regional Southern African
Development Community (SADC) last year, the MDC and ruling party agreed that
police should not be allowed within 100 metres of a polling station.

"What President Mugabe has done therefore is to bring the old order and
allow police officers back into the polling station. It is quite clear that
Mugabe's actions are an assault on the SADC dialogue therefore an assault on
SADC itself," Biti said, charging the country's leader had changed the rules
midway through "the game" and acting as both referee and player.

Mugabe faces a challenge from MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former
finance minister Simba Makoni in joint presidential, legislative and local
council elections on Saturday the 29th.

The southern African country's police have often used brutal force against
opponents of Mugabe and the police commissioner-general recently warned that
his force could use firearms if necessary to crush protests after the polls.


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Reporters without Borders Press Release



Zimbabwe21 March 2008

One week ahead of elections, African observers urged not to minimise
importance of government control of media

Reporters Without Borders urges the Southern African Development Community
observer mission to resist the temptation to minimise the importance of the
government's and ruling party's control over the media in the 29 March
general elections. The SADC yesterday said "the climate is right to hold
elections" even if there were "concerns" about "inequality of media time
given to different candidates" and other "irregularities."

"The euphemisms being used by the SADC observers contrast with the appeals
for help from Zimbabwean civil society and independent journalists,"
Reporters Without Borders said. "Even if there is a logic to not confronting
President Robert Mugabe and his government head on if you hope for change,
you cannot act as if the conditions are in place for these elections to be
free and fair."

The press freedom organisation added : "There are real, structural anomalies
behind these 'irregularities' - including in the news media - that will not
be changed by prudence and discretion. The SADC's final judgment should be
based on the principles and rules which it decreed in 2004 for all its
members, without exception."

Zimbabweans are to elect a president, senators, house of assembly
representatives and town councillors on 29 March. Mugabe, the 84-year-old
incumbent president and head of the Zimbabwe African National Union -
Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), is standing for a sixth term.

The government took a series of measures to tighten its grip on society and
the press for the last general elections, in 2002. They included adoption of
the AIPPA, an extremely repressive law for regulating independent news media
such as the privately-owned Daily News, whose growing influence posed a
challenge to the government's hold over the country.

After the bombing of its printing presses and an unfair prosecution, the
Daily News was forced to close in 2003. It has not been able to resume
publishing since then, despite several favourable court rulings. The AIPPA
also regulates journalists very strictly, placing them under the authority
of the Media Information Commission, a political entity closely controlled
by the government.

Biased state media

The state media, including the national TV station, the Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), are well-known for their biased and
one-sided coverage of Zimbabwean politics. The bias has been well documented
by independent organisations such as the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
(MMPZ).

In its report on the week of 3-9 March, the MMPZ said : "The government
media's relentless complicity in the creation of a highly uneven electoral
playing field ahead of the March 29 elections was overwhelmingly evident
again this week." It said ZBC had 148 positive reports on ZANU-PF against 19
for all the opposition parties. In air-time, this represented 1 hour 9
minutes for Mugabe allies against 17 minutes for all the others.

The MMPZ acknowledged that new rules issued on 7 March had given the
opposition a little bit more air-time but it pointed out that references to
presidential candidate Simba Makoni, a former finance minister and ZANU-PF
dissident, were systematically accompanied by reminders of his "betrayal" of
the ruling party.

An SADC delegation met with representatives of the electoral commission and
state media on 14 March but the outcome of the meeting is not known.

Climate of repression and fear

Meanwhile, there has been no let-up in the threats hanging over the
independent press. Not content with imposing draconian legislation, the
authorities have ensured that a climate of suspicion and fear of arrest
prevails among Zimbabwean and foreign journalists.

Even if amendments at the end of 2007 supposedly relaxed the press law,
foreign press accreditation requests have been closely examined by a
nit-picking inter-ministerial committee that is meant to ensure that "spies"
do not "pass themselves off as journalists." Hotel reservation made by
foreign journalists were cancelled by the foreign minister on the grounds
that priority had to be given to the African election observers.

Repression and surveillance of Zimbabwean journalists have continued. Brian
Hungwe, a famous Zimbabwean journalist who works for the South African TV
network SABC, was stripped of his accreditation - without which a journalist
cannot work - last year by the Media Information Commission without any
explanation being given.

When Hungwe asked the high court to overturn the MIC's decision, it finally
responded that his appeal was not "urgent" although the decision has
prevented him from working and earning for more than six months. In
desperation, he appealed to the supreme court on 18 March.

The climate for journalists in Harare has been made all the more oppressive
by the murder of freelance cameraman Edward Chikomba, a former ZBC employee,
who was found dead on 31 March 2007, two days after being kidnapped by
suspected intelligence officers. His colleagues think he was killed for
providing foreign news media with footage showing opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai with his face badly swollen after being beaten in detention.

In September 2007, the Zimbabwean press published what appeared to be the
leaked first page of a multi-page intelligence service memo listing at least
15 journalists working for independent news media who were to be subject to
"strict surveillance," arrest and other unspecified "measures" in the run-up
to the 2008 elections.


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Mugabe's rival evokes memories of demolition blitz

Yahoo News

by Susan Njanji Fri Mar 21, 12:22 PM ET

EPWORTH, Zimbabwe (AFP) - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's rival at the
polls, Simba Makoni, evoked memories Friday of a widely condemned urban
demolition blitz as he took his campaign to a well-known shantytown.

"Let us remember the suffering we endured in 2005 when they (Mugabe's
government) felt the city was dirty and needed a clean-up," Makoni told a
rally ahead of the March 29 elections.

"But when we all thought they would collect the garbage accumulating on the
street corners, they held people at gun point, ordering them to demolish
their own houses. Just imagine the severity of the cruelty.

"Zimbabwe does not deserve an oppressive government," he told supporters at
the rally held under a tree on the side road of this semi-urban slum, some
15 kilometres (10 miles) southeast of the capital Harare.

Makoni, a former finance minister, is standing as an independent against
veteran Mugabe, 84, who has ruled the former British colony since
independence in 1980, and who is seeking a sixth mandate.

After the demolitions Harare promised to rehouse thousands of people, all
who had been left homeless.

"And now where are the houses you were promised?" he asked.

Zimbabwean authorities launched Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Filth) in
May 2005, calling it an attempt to rid the capital of crime and filth.

But a United Nations report afterwards said the mid-winter drive left
700,000 people -- the country's poorest -- homeless and destitute when
shacks, houses, market stalls and shops were razed.

The operation, known locally as "the tsunami," also deprived at least a
million people of their means of livelihood in an economically ravaged
country grappling with six-digit inflation and over 80 percent unemployment.

Despite a much-vaunted follow-up operation called "Live Well", meant to
rehouse those whose homes or shops were destroyed, tens of thousands are
still living in makeshift homes at various locations across the country.

Only a small fraction of Zimbabweans have been given new houses.

"It was just as good as telling a person in tatters to take off his clothes
promising to buy him new ones, but only in years to come. Where are the
houses we were promised after Murambatsvina?" said Makoni.

Tendai Simbi, 35, an unemployed divorcee who survives on importing basic
goods in short supply back home, lives with her parents in the shantytown
after she lost her house during the 2005 clean up campaign.

A firewood vendor, Lydia Mbirimi, 53, is also squatting with her parents.

"Imagine that at my age, I am still a squatter," she told AFP.

New squatter settlements have sprouted in parts of the country worst
affected by the demolitions campaign.

Makoni last month broke ranks with the ruling Zimbabwe African National
Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), a party whose symbol of a fist, he says,
has "turned into a sledgehammer that has destroyed the country".

The leader of the main opposition Movement for Democractic Change (MDC),
Morgan Morgan Tsvangirai, is also a presidential candidate in the election.

He charged on Thursday that the poll could be rigged in favour of Mugabe
because of a separate vote counting system after the polls.

He threatened to pull out of the elections if the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) if presidential ballots were going to be counted at a
separate venue.

He also told a news conference that independent investigations had revealed
that 90,000 names appearing on the roll for 28 rural constituencies could
not be accounted for.


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Political Violence Rocks Housing Complex On Gold Mine



SW Radio Africa (London)

21 March 2008
Posted to the web 21 March 2008

Lance Guma

Political violence ahead of the March 29 election shows no sign of abating,
and a housing complex on a gold mine near Bulawayo, has played host to the
latest round of Zanu PF thuggery. After an MDC meeting on Wednesday that
lasted about 3 hours the home of the district organising secretary was
destroyed by youths and war vets.

The violence took place on the housing complex for employees of How Mine.
Our correspondent Lionel Saungweme reports that the house looked like it had
been struck by an earthquake with shattered windows and broken down doors.
The MDC leader, whose first name is Professor, and his family escaped
without any harm. The Zanu PF mob shouted obscenities as they stoned the
house and accused Professor of bringing MDC supporters to a 'Zanu PF mine'.

In Bulawayo urban itself 3 MDC activists wearing party t-shirts were beaten
up at Renkini Bus Terminus by a group of Zanu PF thugs that included a
member of the Crime Prevention Unit in the police force. The thugs took away
the MDC t-shirts and tore them up in front of bemused bus travellers. Magnet
House, which serves as the CIO headquarters in Bulawayo, was also the scene
of more harassment and intimidation. MDC youths Tapiwa Chinhame, Shingirai
Gomba, and Mtokozisi Mlilo were locked inside the building and made to eat
the campaign posters they were posting around the city. Saungweme says
despite the presence of Mugabe and Makoni posters outside, officers there
are detaining anyone who tries to put up a Tsvangirai poster at Magnet
House.

Mugabe meanwhile is reported to be planning on donating computers to several
schools in Bulawayo on Saturday. One of those will be Milton High School.
With the Zanu PF leader struggling to draw crowds to his rallies, especially
in Matabeleland, the donations appear to be an attempt to buy votes. In
previous polls, such as the 2005 parliamentary elections, donations made to
rural schools hardly ever remain with the intended beneficiaries. In 2005
the explanation given for some of the computers being taken back, was that
the schools had no electricity.


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Is there hope for Zimbabwe?

From The Pretoria News (SA), 21 March

Harare - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai threatened on Thursday to
withdraw from elections next week, if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's
government fails to follow electoral law on the vote count. The head of the
larger faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change claimed at a
press conference that electoral authorities were planning to carry out the
count in a "national command centre," instead of in each of the country's 11
000 polling stations. "We now hear the counting of house of assembly and
senate (the lower and upper chambers in the legislature respectively) votes
will be in constituency centres, and the presidential vote will be counted
in a national command centre," he told a press conference, without
elaborating on the source of the information. "If that happens I will not
participate in such a process." According to election watchdog groups, the
"national command centre" was the final stage in the result process, staffed
largely by military officers, and where results in previous elections had
been changed to suit Mugabe. The command centre does not appear in electoral
law.

Tsvangirai also said that the election would not be free and fair, but
added, "we accept all that", and said the MDC had been hoping to "minimise"
abuses and irregularities. Presidential, house of assembly, senate and local
council elections are due to be held on a single day on March 29. Zimbabwean
electoral law prescribes counting of ballot papers for candidates in each of
the elections to be carried out in the polling stations where the ballots
were cast. The totals for all candidates then have to be written out and
stuck on the door of the polling station as public notices. This law, and
several others, are part of reforms that were agreed in negotiations,
sponsored by the Southern African Development Community, the 14-nation
regional alliance, and held under the chairpersonship of South African
president Thabo Mbeki. Opposition parties and human rights organisations say
Mugabe has abrogated all the significant reforms. Tsvangirai also
highlighted Mugabe's use of extraordinary "presidential powers" published
Wednesday that abolished a new electoral reform that excluded police from
being present in polling stations. "We know that they will be CIO (Central
Intelligence Organisation, Mugabe's secret police), military and militia
(ruling party youth militia) in police uniform," he said. He described the
voters' roll as "a shambles", and said investigations had revealed
irregularities where football fields and empty housing lots were used as
addresses for fictional voters.

He also cited an analysis by a local research body of the number of voters
in 28 constituencies which showed that the total number of voters claimed in
the constituencies by the state-appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,
which is meant to run the elections, was 90 000 more than were on the actual
roll. "With 210 (parliamentary) constituencies, you can imagine the total
number of people that don't exist. He also produced a letter which he
claimed was a copy of an order from ZEC to the state mint to produce 600 000
postal votes. Mugabe has banned ordinary Zimbabweans residing outside the
country from casting postal votes, and given the right only to diplomats and
members of the uniformed services. "The total number of army, police and
diplomats (abroad) do not exceed 20 000," he said. Tsvangirai also said that
the mint had been ordered to print 9 million ordinary ballot papers, when
there were 5,9 million people on the voters roll. "What for?" he asked
rhetorically. Mugabe has won all three national elections since 2000 when
the country's new pro-democracy opposed him, but independent observers say
the victories were all the result of brutal intimidation in which over 100
people have been killed, electoral and security laws severely skewed in the
regime's favour and outright cheating.


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Zimbabwe Civic Leaders Meet South African Election Observers

VOA

By Patience Rusere
Washington
21 March 2008

Representatives of Zimbabwean civil society groups met on Friday with South
African election observers to express concerns about the electoral process
just over a week before March 29 elections that some analysts are already
calling compromised.

Civic groups represented at the meeting at a Harare hotel included the
Zimbabwe Election Support Network, the National Association of
Non-governmental Organizations and the Zimbabwe Peace Project, among others.

Issues discussed ranged from the election environment, which has seen
intimidation of and violence against opposition candidates and supporters by
alleged militants of the ruling ZANU-PF party, a lack of transparency in
postal balloting, and the proposed counting of presidential ballots at a
national command center in Harare.

Around 30 South African observers were present including members of South
Africa's ruling African National Congress, opposition members, and
parliamentarians.

Board Member John Chitekuteku of the National Association of
Non-Governmental Organizations told reporter Patience Rusere that the
responses by the observers to their comments and concerns ranged from
sympathetic to skeptical.

The International Crisis Group this week issued a report concluding that the
elections are "already flawed by pre-poll misbehavior" by the government,
and warning that the international community should be prepared to provide
"concerted backing" to an intervention by the African Union when the outcome
is "heatedly disputed."

The ICG said President Robert Mugabe, 84, "probably has the means to
manipulate the process sufficiently to retain his office, though possibly
only after a runoff, but there is little prospect of a government
emerging...capable of ending the crisis."

Should the post-electoral situation deteriorates, "the African Union needs
to be ready to offer prompt mediation for a power-sharing agreement between
presidential contenders and creation of a transitional government with a
reform agenda."

It warned that, "If the elections go badly, so that violence increases, the
humanitarian crisis grows worse, and the population exodus puts the
stability of regional neighbors under greater pressure, the (U.N.) Security
Council may yet need to take up the deteriorating situation. For now, the
wider international community must be ready to provide concerted backing to
an AU-led mediation," the ICG report concluded.


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Enough is Enough!

swradioafrica.com

By: Tafadzwa G. Gidi
As election day comes closer, I cannot help myself but believe that I should
play a key role in this election. Zimbabwe, my country whom I love so much,
is on the verge of being thrown to the dogs for yet another six long years
unless we all act. Since I cannot have my say at the ballot box, the least I
can do is help those wielding the axe to know who to stick it to.

Of course, we all want ZANU (PF) and especially Robert Mugabe to go. Many of
us genuinely feel that this might be one of those 'now or never' situations.
He and his party have presided over the nation for 28 years with little or
no success at all. Credit to them for their health and education policies in
the early eighties. It saw Zimbabwe being rated one of the most literate
countries in the developing world and indeed, the world at large. We had
some of the most comprehensive healthcare systems in Africa. That is, until
greed, corruption and lust for power eroded all the ground we had covered.
To date, our health system is skeletal, with doctors and nurses leaving
enmass for a better life elsewhere. The education system, likewise, has also
gone southwards. Schools are barely managing to stay open, and universities
have gone out of reach of the ordinary man/woman on the street. There is no
reason to try to diagonise the problem any longer. We all know that Mugabe
and his cronies have fed the country to the dogs just so he could stay in
power for a while longer.

Therefore, it stands to reason that we should choose between Mr. Morgan
Tsvangirai and Dr. Simba Makoni in this predential election. A trade
unionist versus a businessman. An O'level graduate against a doctor of
medicinal chemistry. And I say we pick the O'level graduate....

I can understand the euphoria surrounding the candidacy of Dr. Makoni for
the presidency. He has always been the fair-haired boy of the nation. Most
of his appeal though has been based on myths and legends rather than fact. I
say this because aside from being the youngest deputy minister (and then
subsequently minister in 1981) ever when he was appointed, to me, Makoni has
never done anything tangible and visible within Zimbabwe. He was shipped of
to the continent soon after his appointment to become Executive Secretary to
SADC. God knows what he was doing over there. The fact is, we really do not
know whether he was successful or not over there. And then he came back.
After a stint out of politics, with Zim Papers, he was appointed finance
minister and as usual, his appointment was met with applause from all over
the country. I, like many others, believed he could turn the economy around.
The fact is, however, he did not. Some might say he was never given the
resources nor the time to implement his policies. It is true he was at
loggerheads with the rest of the ZANU (PF) elite, but thats about all we
know. How then can we know if he is as great as we have always percieved him
to be?

What makes my skin crawl is not that he is more educated or that he is
largely untested. Makoni wanted to run for a parliamentary seat under the
ZANU (PF) banner in this very election that he now says he wants to be an
independent presidential candidate. If you believe the newspapers, he swore
that he was not going to run for the office of the president when the
rumours first surfaced. This gross betrayal can not be excused for any
reason at all. He is like a chameleon which changes its colour to match its
surroundings. In other words, he is a wolf in sheep skin. Politics is about
trust. That is the only way we can believe that when we elect our
politicians into office they will do what they promised us. By changing his
position several times in a period of weeks (not months or years), Makoni
failed that trust.

And then there is the issue of who he will bring into cabinet if he becomes
president. Makoni has declared that he is not leaving ZANU (PF), but just
providing an alternative. He is being backed by the likes of Dabengwa, known
ZANU (PF) stalwarts whose loyalty to this eveil regime is unquestionable. Of
course, he has the likes of Dr. Nkosana Moyo and Fay Chung backing him as
well. Dr. Moyo has proven himself to be true to his principles by walking
out on Mugabe and for that I salute Makoni for bringing him in. However, I
doubt that Moyo will have much clout. And then there is Edgar Tekere,
Margarett Dongo and other disgruntled former ZANU members whose support of
Makoni is most likely revenge on Mugabe rather than a change in political
philosophy. In short, there is no way of telling who Makoni will bring into
cabinet and what they will do. I fear it will be the "same script different
cast".

Which brings us to Mr. Tsvangirai. The Gutu born man rose to prominence for
leading the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and breaking their traditional
alligiance to the ruling ZANU (PF). A man of the people. A working class
fellow like most of us in this country. I like Tsvangirai because he has
been selfless in giving himself to the struggle against Mugabe. He has been
constantly persecuted by this regime and has more than once walked the thin
line between life and death. And yet he has not faltered in his commitment
to the cause. He has continued to call strikes and continues to go to march
with the masses even at the risk of imprisonment or his own life. Contrary
to what you may believe, I am not disillusioned into thinking Tsangirai has
not gained anything from all this. He has certainly become more prosperous
since becoming leader of MDC. For instance, moving from Malborough to
Strathaven is a noticeable change in lifestyle. He obviously drives a better
car now and has probably made some important business connections through
his affiliations with the MDC. I happen to believe that politicians deserve
such luxuries for their sacrifices. Afterall, they have families to feed. I
am not one to condemn the Tony Blairs of this world for benefiting from
their international profile so long they do not steal from the people and
their gains are legitimate.

Some have called his strategy of resistance a failed policy and believe
Morgan should find a different way. Others like Dr. Mutambara and company
have said he should be replaced because he is turning into another Mugabe,
refusing to yield power to others. I think he has persevered in a very
difficult environment and his stubbornness has kept the opposition alive. Do
I think he is the greatest leader to ever come out of Zimbabwe? Certainly
not! I however feel that he has been genuine and true to his political
philosophy. I believe he has been an outstanding labour leader who
understands what the people on the ground really want. His knowledge is
borne of experience and not education. He knows what we are all going
through. As far as trust is concerned, he has hardly faltered. As far as his
hold on leadership, I believe it is necessary to have some consistency in
the party especially now. Call me an optimist, but I can see Morgan letting
go of power after a short while if he becomes president. He may not be a
technocrat or a doctor of some sort, but I believe he is the best chance we
have of success, post Mugabe. I think it is time we let a labour leader who
came from the very grassroots we hail from ourselves run our country,if only
for a little while.

The bottom line though, is that this travesty must not be allowed to go on
any longer. Mugabe must go now. Whether Makoni or Tsvangirai takes over the
presidency is a secondary issue. For all our sakes, and the sake of our
children, we must make a bold and unfaltering stand on March 29th 2008.
Mugabe believes the people of Zimbabwe are timid and cowardly. That we will
not fight for our freedom. That when the going gets tough, we, the people of
Zimbabwe, will run like hell.

Well, we, the people of Zimbabwe say ENOUGH! Enough of this corrossive
corruption that has eaten the core of our nation. Enough of the lawlessness
that has seen murderers go unpunished and thieves rewarded with cabinet
posts. Enough of this strangle-hold on power which has seen one man cling to
power for almost 3 decades. Enough of the decline in healthcare which has
caused so many needless deaths and made our country into a nation of
starving orphans. The ghosts of the millions of children, women and men who
have been casualties of this government are crying out for us to act now.
They torment us and haunt our dreams night after night calling on us to stop
this massacre of innocent souls. Enough, they say. ENOUGH!!


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Mock Election to Be Held in the Diaspora



SW Radio Africa (London)

21 March 2008
Posted to the web 21 March 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

Having been denied the right to vote in the elections on March 29th,
Zimbabweans living outside the country have organised mock elections to be
conducted on the same day. Zimbabwean groups in the UK, New Zealand and
South Africa will set up polling booths where voters can cast their ballots
for parliamentary, senate and presidential candidates.

In the UK, the Zimbabwe Vigil group are planning mock elections outside the
Zimbabwe Embassy in London, that have a twist. Coordinator Rose Benton said
they would be setting up a plastic ballot box and have invited the press to
witness some scenes they will be acting out.

One character, played by popular activist Patson Muzuwa, will wear a Mugabe
mask and act as though he is stuffing ballot boxes. Benton said other Vigil
members will portray "dead people" who have come to vote. This is meant to
mock the discovery in Zimbabwe that the voters' roll contains the names of
many dead individuals.

Other Vigil members plan to wear army and police uniforms. Benton explained
that they are trying to show what the situation is like in Zimbabwe, as it
was announced this week that the police would now be allowed to enter
polling stations to "assist" voters who are illiterate. Benton said the
votes will be counted and results announced before they disperse.

In South Africa, the President of the Zimbabwe Revolutionary Youth Movement,
Simon Dreadman Mudekwa, said their members would occupy the grounds of the
Zimbabwe Embassy in Pretoria for 3 days, starting on March 27th with mock
elections on the 29th. Mudekwa said they were doing this because Zimbabweans
in the diaspora were denied the right to vote so the Embassy was "useless".


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AU urged to plan for possible Zim post-election violence

Zim Online

by Own Correspondent Saturday 22 March 2008

JOHANNESBURG - The African Union (AU) should have contingency plans ready to
intervene if Zimbabwe's election next week degenerates into violent
conflict, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said this week.

The ICG said in a report released Thursday that embattled President Robert
Mugabe still had the means to rig the March 29 polls which could spark off a
violent reaction by a populace desperate for change.

"If the election leads to further confrontation, the African Union (AU)
should be ready to promptly offer mediation for a power-sharing agreement to
produce a transitional government with a reformist agenda," said the ICG, in
the report titled, Zimbabwe: Prospects from a flawed election.

The Brussels-based ICG is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental
organisation covering over 50 crisis-affected countries and territories
across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level
advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

It said the wider international community should also stand ready to provide
concerted backing to AU-led mediation.

The ICG said the European Union and the United States that have shown little
appetite to re-engage with a Harare administration dominated by Mugabe's
ZANU-PF party should not hold back from backing a genuine effort to achieve
a negotiated agreement that aims at national reconciliation and renewal.

The think-tank warned regional leaders, who have stood by Mugabe, not to
support an illegitimate government in Harare saying doing so could only
exacerbate Zimbabwe's economic meltdown while there was possibility that the
"inevitable next round of the struggle over Mugabe's succession could easily
provoke bloodshed."

Zimbabweans go to the polls next week to elect a new president,
parliamentarians and local government representatives amid vehement protests
from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party that
Mugabe's government was out to steal the elections.

On Thursday, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a media briefing in Harare
that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in charge of the polls,
intended to count the ballots at a national command centre in violation of
the country's electoral laws.

Tsvangirai said he would not be prepared to accept results of such a flawed
electoral process raising fears that a contested election result could
trigger violent protests like those witnessed in Kenya last December.

The think-tank said South African President Thabo Mbeki's mediation to end
the eight-year crisis in Zimbabwe had virtually failed after Mugabe
unilaterally announced the election date and ruled out the adoption of a new
constitution before the polls as demanded by the opposition.

"The important point is for the region to be prepared to act quickly if the
elections do not produce a legitimate government that can deal with a
national crisis whose consequences are increasingly being felt beyond
Zimbabwe's borders," said the ICG.

Mugabe is facing his biggest electoral test in the elections from his former
finance minister Simba Makoni and the popular Tsvangirai.

Political analysts fear Mugabe could resort to outright rigging to stay in
power with opinion polls suggesting that the veteran Zimbabwean leader was
lagging behind Tsvangirai. - ZimOnline


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8 Days to GO!


What a roller coaster ride the past three months have been. Just look back
for a bit - three months ago we were still struggling with the SADC process,
hopeful that Mbeki and the SADC leadership would force Mugabe to play ball
and allow a free and fair vote. Then came the blunt refusal by Mugabe to go
along with the reforms negotiated over 9 months between Zanu PF and the MDC.

Then the desperate attempts to get the opposition to unite - fresh
negotiations, a deal is struck and then rejected by the political structures
(not the top leadership) of the MDC and we were faced with an election in
six weeks, no money, a divided opposition and widespread disbelief in the
electoral process - why vote, was the most frequently asked question.

Then came the Makoni bombshell. I was about to go onto a radio talk show in
South Africa when friends called me to say Makoni was holding a press
conference in Harare and was coming in as a new Presidential candidate. I
knew that was a most significant development and I broke the news on SA
radio and said that in my view this event would shake up the whole
establishment here and might change the outlook for the elections.

It did both; it was the first senior defection from Zanu PF in recent years.
The Makoni decision was followed by a number of others as rumors of his
support base in Zanu PF spread. But you can never predict what will happen
in a situation like this because the law of unintended consequences always
follows through. What we did not expect to happen was the impact it made on
the outlook of the general population towards the election. Skeptism was
immediately transformed into expectation.

People began to register to vote again, interest in the political process
stepped up and the national debate grew to a crescendo. Whatever the truth,
people thought that with Zanu PF divided and the armed forces clearly in two
minds, that Mugabe would not be able to rig this election the way he had in
2002 and 2005. Money began to flow into the political process; people got
off the shelf and threw themselves into the fray. MDC was able to field
nearly 2000 candidates and demonstrated a degree of preparedness that took
all by surprise.

A short campaign has ensued. MDC rallies and meeting across the whole
country have attracted large audiences - record attendance in many cases
when compared to the past 8 years of almost continuous political activity.
But more than that - people suddenly gained the confidence to flaunt their
party regalia and demonstrate their support.

For Makoni et al the situation peaked about two weeks ago and their support
as reflected in the polls being conducted among the voting populations shows
that their support is now waning - at the last count Makoni had 8 per cent
of the national vote with 27 per cent saying that would not disclose who
they would vote for and 17 per cent saying they would not vote. Morgan
Tsvangirai is now well in the lead in the polls with Makoni still trailing
Mugabe. How anyone who is not nuts can still support Mugabe is a mystery to
me!

So here we are - 8 days to go and what can we expect? Pretty much everything
and everybody is behaving according to our expectations. The SADC observer
mission is here led by Angola where democratic elections are still a distant
dream. They have already stated that the conditions are free and fair! What
a hoot! I am looking forward to all the other "democratic" States arriving -
China, Libya among them. Morgan said that the observer missions were a waste
of time and money; Zimbabweans are on their own.

Still no international press here, still no programming on State controlled
media, still full-page ads from Zanu PF in every daily newspaper. But Zanu
PF has not held one meeting in Bulawayo and the Presidential rally has been
cancelled. Just to show them what might happen if they did come to Bulawayo,
a local Party hack sponsored a football match with a substantial prize plus
free beer and was rewarded by the crowd roaring their approval when a MDC T
shirt walked into the Stadium and sat near the dignitaries. Then at the end
of the match the crowd sang rude songs about Zanu PF and the actual sponsors
of the event. Great to see people not afraid any more.

I sense a real shift in the Police - perhaps its because I have had more to
do with them this time - normally the closest I get to a Policeman is a
confrontation at a rally or march. This past week we had the CIO arrest
three volunteers putting up posters - they took them into custody, cuffed
them around and forced them to eat a poster. The Police officer to whom we
complained phoned the CIO and said that if the MDC people were nor released
immediately he would charge them with assault - he then instructed the
victims to go to a doctor and get a medical report and lay charges against
the CIO. That has not happened before - I do not know who was more shocked,
the CIO operatives or us!

I am exhausted and wonder how Morgan is coping - he is in the rural areas
most days, speaking and traveling continuously. The pressure is enormous.
Sunday he speaks at a Star rally in the Zimbabwe grounds where Simba
launched his campaign three weeks ago before a small (3000) crowd. I am
going up for that and expect to see a massive crowd if the recent weeks have
been anything to go by.

We should all now prepare for the election itself. We intend to declare the
result from our own field reports and I am sure we will be the first to say
what has happened - so watch your news on Sunday morning. We have had
threats from the military and a clear statement from South Africa that they
would not tolerate any military intervention, but anything is possible. Lets
just pray for a landslide that no one can argue with. Then comes the hard
part - coping with the complete mess Zanu PF leaves as its legacy of 28
years of failed and corrupt government.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 21st March 2008


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A girl's presidential guide

Comment from The Mail & Guardian (SA), 21 March

Everjoice Win

I've had it with elections. Zimbabwe has been in election mode since 1999.
No fundamental change seems to come from any of it. So I am changing
tactics. I have looked at everyone's manifesto for 2008 and it's all same
old hot air. I am tired. But I am still going home to vote: this time for
the man who will rev my engine. Yes, I am voting for a presidential
candidate who I can bear to look at for five years. We have three
presidential candidates, Bob, Morgan and Simba. This whole nonsense in
Zimbabwe of calling the leader of a two-person party "the President" is what
gets to their heads. Three years ago I parked my car outside Harvest House
(MDC HQ), only to be shooed frantically away by a rather aggressive pimply
youth: "Get away, that's the president's parking spot." I wondered why Bob
needed yet another parking spot, but I discovered this is what they call
Morgan. Similarly, Arthur Mutambara had barely led his MDC faction for five
seconds when I heard a friend in his party say: "Let me talk to the
president first." As another friend put it in utter frustration, when a
country has three presidents and none of them can end this mess you know you
are f*$%*d! But I digress, back to the line-up.

Bob

Bob is just too ancient. Despite guzzling Lucozade and obsessive exercising,
he has become terribly unattractive to look at. Not that he ever was, with
that little Hitlerite moustache. Saville Row suits - or is it now Shanghai
flea-market row? - won't make him look better. As they often do on terribly
old men who can't behave their age, the suits look oversized and
ostentatious in the middle of such poverty. Around election time though, Bob
dons those awful Mobutu-style shirts with his mug all over them. I will
never forgive Bob for foisting this style of dress on women in his party.
Somehow the tailors who make those clothes always manage to get his picture
smack in the middle of a woman's ample bosom, or worse, on equally ample
buttocks. Though it must be said there is something quite satisfying about
squashing that face as one sits down after being forced to attend a long
rally in the 37-degree heat of Muzarabani. Failed governance aside, Bob as a
man is quite frightening. His tendency to bang tables like Nikita Krushchev
doesn't say "come closer". Neither does his foul mouth. Seven university
degrees just haven't bought him good manners. The most important reason I am
not voting for Bob is the way he never acknowledges his wife in public.
Notice how he often leaves Grace a few steps behind. Granted Bob was born in
the days when men had to walk in front of their wives so they could protect
them from lions, but now?

Morgan

Let's look at Morgan. A president should dress well, so Morgan please lose
the ugly cowboy hat. Morgan just hasn't got the message that those hats are
so . thuggish, so tacky. They don't do anything for us girls. They make
short men look like ducks with a disability. By the time the man emerges
from under that hat - after talking interminably on his cellphone - I, for
one, will have lost any inclination to listen to his economic plan. Those
hats breed cowboyish unilateralism; we saw it with George W, Jonathan Moyo
and now Morgan. Coupled with the Papa Doc routine that Morgan and his
security men have now adopted, my heart just sinks. He will arrive at a
rally in a convoy of 4x4 vehicles - a statement of the party's values if
ever there was one - with a dozen or so young men hanging out from open
doors, wearing dark flea-market shades. Dreadfully unattractive.

These same tontons macoute will proceed to shoo the poor working masses out
of the way. Even some of us who still regard him as our "Comrade Boycott",
former chair of the NCA (National Constitutional Assembly), are too scared
to come anywhere near the tontons. Morgan has an equally foul mouth,
especially at his rallies, and in Shona. There is something quite crass
about a president "shouting," as we say at home, like that. Thankfully some
of Morgan's rough edges have been smoothed by a glammed-up wife. Susan looks
ever so refined thanks to facial treatments from Theresa Makone, Morgan's
mate's upwardly mobile wife. But, like Bob, Morgan always forgets that Susan
is right beside him. Not a touch. Not a smile.

One who got away

I am so sorry Arthur dropped out of the presidential race. If nothing else
the fellow knows his Pierre Cardin from his Yves St Laurent. I am sure he
took the grooming and sartorial elegance module at university. Oh, and our
prof can use power point! I don't think Bob can turn on a computer. Can he?
Every time he goes to donate computers to schools he always stands a safe
distance from the critters. Arthur so loves his laptop. Takes it everywhere.
His presentations might lack substance, but they are so well accessorised
his audience is always agog. Sadly there is not much electricity in Zim
these days, so he has to resort to his student politics ways of shouting -
too stridently. Perhaps it is a good thing Arthur has dropped out, he needs
to grow up a bit. The last thing Zimbabwe needs is a Thabo Mbeki. Too much
book is not good. Look at where Bob got us having "eaten so much book".

Simba

The man of the moment is Simba. I for one don't care how many gallons of
Zanu PF milk he was reared on. I will ignore that his manifesto barely talks
about women's rights. I just want his picture hanging in my office for the
next five years. Who doesn't want to walk into a government office and be
greeted by that smile? Those funky little glasses just do it for me. Arthur,
please pass on to Simba the power-point skills, and I am sold. And he ate
just the right amount of book. Simba speaks calmly. Diplomatically. As a
president should. He acknowledges his wife, Chipo. Since that day he
lovingly held her hand as he went into Parliament to present his first
budget as minister of finance, I just knew this man was going to go far. At
his campaign launch the message I got was, this is my partner and we share a
life.

My big problem with Simba is his so-called backers, who love the Morgan-like
big hats. Their looks and their politics just scare us girls off. Lose the
men with the hats and big tummies, they are bad for your image and your
future, Simba. On the plus side Simba has so far eschewed the convoys and
the insignia with his visage and other undesirable paraphernalia on women's
anatomy. Long may it stay this way. Ideologically, the men on that ballot
paper are interchangeable. So technically, Bob has nothing to be afraid of.
There is no regime change in the offing, just a photo change. I am voting
for the man whose looks and habits I can live with for the next five years.
At least when he messes up, I have set the political bar so low it won't
matter. After 27 years of the ugly and ancient one, give me a younger and
better-looking man, in a PINK shirt. Got ticket, will vote.


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ZESN: Background to the Election in Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)

Pre-election Update No. 6

THE CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE

INTRODUCTION

For an election to be free and fair the entire process must be free and fair
and the body running the election must perform its duties efficiently and in
a scrupulously impartial manner. The effectiveness of any electoral reforms
depends on how the electoral laws are applied and enforced in practice.
Legislation alone cannot prevent malpractices. The best remedies against
them are an impartial, efficient and active Electoral Commission; rigorous
observation and monitoring of all stages of the electoral process; and
impartial and professional enforcement of the laws by law enforcement
agencies.

Implementation of reforms will be patchy. For electoral reforms to be
effective, a climate must be created before, during and after elections in
which voters will believe that they can vote freely to a change government
through the ballot box, and that the elections will be conducted fairly. It
will take time to restore voter confidence in the electoral process. It is
therefore essential that there should be a sufficient period between the
coming into operation of reforms and the elections. Only when voters see the
new laws being enforced will their confidence be restored. The political
parties contesting the elections will also need to test the efficacy of the
new laws and satisfy themselves that they are being properly implemented.

METHODOLOGY

As ZESN continues to monitor the pre-election period ahead of the harmonized
elections in March 2008, this update id intended to give an overview of the
legislative framework under which the election will be held. This update is
based on an analysis of the Constitution of Zimbawe, the Electoral Act
[Chapter 2:11]; the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act [Chapter 2:12] as
amended by the Electoral Laws Amendment Act of 2008 and relevant regulations
ZESN's various recommendations for reform are also included.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK

The Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act of 2004 and Regulations and
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act of 2004 provide the framework for the
conduct of elections in Zimbabwe. The Constitution provides generally for
elections, the delimitation of constituencies and the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission.
Pursuant to the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act (No. 18) of 2007,
parliamentary, presidential and local authority elections are to be held
every five years commencing with the harmonized polls scheduled for March 29
2008.

In terms of the Constitution Parliament consists a lower house made up of
210 directly elected House of Assembly members and an upper house of 84
Senators. 60 members of the Senate are directly elected. The remaining
members are appointed and consist of 18 chiefs elected by the Chiefs
Electoral College; 10 provincial governors appointed by the President as
well as 6 other members appointed by the President.

The Electoral Act among other things provides for a Registrar-General of
Voters and constituency registrars; the registration of voters; the
preparation, compilation and maintenance of voters rolls; the qualifications
of voters; the nomination and election of candidates to Parliament, the
office of President and local authorities. It also establishes the Electoral
Court and provide for its functions, which include the hearing and
determination of election petitions. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act
establishes the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and provides for its functions
in detail.

THE ELECTORAL FRAMEWORK

For the election of parliamentary and local authority representatives,
Zimbabwe practices the 'first past the post' (FPTP) electoral system
inherited from the Westminster-type plurality or single-member district
(SMD) system, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes wins.
It must be noted that a winner may be elected on the basis of less than 51
percent of voters in constituency.

ELECTION MANAGEMENT BODIES

1. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

Following the enactment of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act (No.
17) Act 2005 and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act No. 22 of 2004, the
management and supervision of elections in Zimbabwe is now the
responsibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Its functions are as follows:
To prepare for, conduct and supervise all elections and referendums and to
ensure that such elections are conducted freely, fairly, transparently and
in accordance with the law.
To supervise the registration of voters being conducted by the Registrar
of Voters
To compile voters' rolls and registers
To ensure the proper custody and maintenance of voters' rolls and
registers
To design, print and distribute ballot papers, approve the form of and
procure ballot boxes, and establish and operate polling centres
To conduct voter education
To accredit observers of elections and referendums
To give instructions to the Registrar-General of Voters in regard to the
exercise of his functions
To instruct other persons in the employment of the state or local
authority in order to ensure efficient, proper, free and fair conduct of
elections, and
To exercise any other functions the Electoral Law and any other law may
impose that on the Commission.

Further reform was introduced through the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment
Act (No. 18) Act of 2007. This effectively abolished the Delimitation
Commission whose function was to determine the limits of the 120 house of
assembly constituencies and 50 senate constituencies into which Zimbabwe was
previously divided.

The Commission is given functions in addition to those set out in the
Constitution. In particular, the Commission will be enjoined to undertake
research into electoral matters, to promote co-operation between the
Government and political parties and other bodies concerned with elections,
and to inform the public about all issues relating to elections.
Composition of ZEC
The Commission's composition is dealt with in section 61 of the Constitution
rather than in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act, and amendments were
made by the Electoral Laws Amendment Act to reflect this fact. Making the
Commission a constitutional body, rather than one which owes its existence
to an Act of Parliament, should theoretically make the Commission more
independent, and for that reason is a welcome move.

Staff of the Commission
The Electoral Commission obviously needs a substantial body of staff to
carry out the work needed on the ground to fulfil the Commission's onerous
functions in connection with elections. It is vitally important that these
staff members be properly trained and they must perform all their duties
professionally and without political bias.

In terms of the Electoral Laws Amendment Act of 2008, employees of the
Police Force, Defence Forces and the Prison Service can no longer be
seconded as staff of the Commission except where their services are required
for the provision of security. (Section 17 of ZEC Act as amended)

The pool of persons who can now be seconded to the Commission has been
expanded. Now not only persons employed by the Public Service Commission may
be seconded; the Commission can also call upon the Health Services Board and
responsible authorities of any statutory or local government body to make
their employees available for election service.

Recommendations
However, it is hoped that seconded persons such as recently retired members
of the armed forces will not circumvent this provision. It should also be
pointed that on the staff of the Commission there are already a number of
ex-military officers dealing with electoral management. Even though these
persons resigned from their military positions when they were engaged, there
is a perception that the management of elections has been heavily
militarised. The law should also explicitly exclude members of intelligence
services. Members of these forces are now viewed, as being politically
partisan and the use of such personnel in connection with elections is
intimidatory.

None of the changes made by the Act will have much effect on the functioning
of the Commission unless the Commission's members are perceived to be
politically independent, efficient, and dedicated to ensuring that elections
are held in accordance with the law.

ZESN continues to emphasize the importance of the Electoral Commission's
impartiality, all-inclusiveness, competence and accountability. The method
of appointment of Commissioners should be changed to reassure political
parties and the electorate that Commissioners will be impartial. ZEC should
be appointed with the participation of opposition parties and key
stakeholders. The selection process of commissioners should be transparent
and engender confidence in all stakeholders. These selection processes
should also ensure that gender and youth participation or representation is
achieved.

Adequate, qualified personnel should also staff ZEC. It is necessary to
ensure the independence of the ZEC, including financial autonomy
Commissioners could each be given areas of responsibility to enhance
accountability. The law could require the commissioners to divide among
themselves responsibility for the Commission's different activities so that
each commissioner would be responsible for a particular activity. This would
promote equal participation of all Commissioners. An alternative way of
distributing functions between Commissioners would be to give each
Commissioner the responsibility for a particular Province

2. The Registrar General

The Electoral Act establishes the office of the Registrar-General of Voters
and gives it extensive powers to deal with the registration of voters,
prepare the voters roll and take measures to prevent electoral fraud.

The Electoral Laws Amendment Act (2008) will make the Commission, rather
than the Registrar-General, responsible for keeping and maintaining voters
rolls. While this is a welcome change, but the Amendment seems to fail to
make a clear demarcation between the functions of the Commission and the
Registrar-General in regard to voter registration. Thus, while the
Commission will "keep and maintain" the rolls, the function of registering
voters and updating the rolls will remain with constituency registrars, who
are under the control of the Registrar-General. The Amendment also requires
the Registrar-General to get permission from the Commission, rather than the
Minister, before delegating his functions to some other member of the Public
Service. To the extent that this gives the Commission greater responsibility
over the electoral process, it is to be welcomed.

VOTER EDUCATION

Under the current Electoral Act, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has
primary responsibility for conducting a programme of voter education. The
Amendment Act includes further provisions on voter education (Section 13,
15, 15A and 15B of the Electoral Act as amended). The Commission must
commence a programme of voter education not later than 90 days before the
polling day of an election. The Amendment Act provides that the Government
must give the Commission whatever assistance it may require to conduct voter
education.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act obliges the Commission to conduct
accurate and unbiased voter education. Thus in conducting its programme the
Commission is be expected to ensure that those it employs have sound
knowledge of the electoral laws and processes and that they remain
scrupulously impartial and do not show bias for or against any particular
political party.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act contains various provisions regulating
the conduct programmes of voter education by civic organisations and other
interested stakeholders. The Commission may require a civic organisation to
furnish it with copies of all the proposed voter education materials; the
materials must be adequate and not misleading or biased in favour of any
political party; and only the Commission may receive foreign funds for voter
education, although it may distribute these funds to other organisations
involved in the provision of voter education; the persons providing voter
education must be citizens or permanent residents, domiciled in the country
and they must, operate through an organisation with a specific mandate to
provide voter education.

The Electoral Laws Amendment Act of 2008 contains further provisions
allowing the Commission to control voter education by other organisations.
The Commission is empowered to close down a voter education programme being
conducted by a civic organisation if it considers the organisation is
providing materially false or incorrect information that is unfairly biased
in favour or against a contesting political party, and the programme
therefore is likely to prevent a substantial number of voters from making an
informed choice in an election. Before closing down a programme the
Commission must give the affected organisation an adequate opportunity to
make representations in the matter.

ELECTORAL PROCESSES
1. Delimitation of electoral boundaries
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is now responsible for delimiting
constituencies and other electoral boundaries. The Commission will be
obliged to give public notice before embarking on a delimitation exercise,
and "so far as is practicable within the time available" will have to
entertain representations from political parties and other interested
parties who are likely to be affected by its decisions. Prior to the
Electoral Laws Amendment Act 2008, only the President has the power to
require the Commission to give "further consideration" to its report before
finalising it.

2. Voter Registration and Voter's Roll

Registration will be continuous, with citizens entitled to apply for
enrolment at any time. Rolls will not be regarded as closed for new
registrations in any election until the day before nomination day in the
election concerned. Persons who claim registration on a particular roll will
be able to produce any satisfactory documentary evidence reasonably proving
where they live. This is a welcome change because at present the Act makes
the process of establishing residence difficult, particularly for urban
residents in high-density suburbs.

Copies of voters' rolls
The Commission is now obliged to provide, on payment of a fee, one
electronic copy of a voters roll to each political party contesting an
election. The copy will have to be provided within seven days after the
calling of the election concerned, which means that the copy will never be
entirely up to date since as indicated above -additional voters may be
registered until the day before nomination day in the election. Printed
copies of voters' rolls will be made available to interested parties on
payment of a reasonable fee. It may be noted that there does not seem to be
any requirement that the fee for the electronic copy of the roll must be
reasonable. It is also notable that while the Electoral Laws Amendment Act
requires the Commission to provide printed copies of voters roll on request
at any time, its obligation to provide electronic copies is restricted to
the period after an election has been called. If voter registration is
continuous and the rolls are stored electronically, they should be available
at any time in both printed and electronic form.

3. Electoral offences

Intimidatory Practices

The Electoral Laws Amendment Act 2008 introduced new provisions (Section
133A of the Electoral Act) specifically criminalising a range of practices,
which will constitute the offence of intimidation. The provisions spell out
in detail what constitutes the offence of intimidation. For example,
inflicting or threatening to inflict bodily harm, causing or threatening to
cause bodily harm or abducting a person is an offence if the person doing
these things compels a person or persons generally to vote for a political
party or to refrain from voting or to attend a political meeting. The
offence will also be committed by a person who, in order to compel another
person to vote for a political party, withholds or threatens to withhold any
assistance to which that other person is entitled or illegally does or
threatens to do anything to the disadvantage of another person.

There are further provisions, which seek to stamp out other forms of
intimidation. Thus it is an offence for a person to use intimidation to
prevent or obstruct or attempt to prevent or obstruct a political party or
candidate from campaigning in any election. It is also an offence for a
person to prevent or discourage a person from voting by taking, destroying
or damaging another person's proof of identity, voters' registration
certificate or other document by which that person may be identified as a
voter.

The Amendment Act also contains provisions that are intended to ensure that
polling stations are not located at sites, which may be intimidatory to
voters. Thus polling stations may not be sited in premises owned or occupied
by a political party or a candidate; in a police station, barracks or other
place where police officers or Defence Forces are permanently stationed; at
any other place that may give rise to a reasonable apprehension by voters
that their votes will not be secret or that the integrity of the voting
process could be compromised.

An intimidatory practice will also constitute an electoral malpractice. This
will allow the Electoral Court to declare void an election where the Court
finds in an election petition that the intimidation was committed by or with
the knowledge and consent or approval of the candidate returned at that
election, or by or with the knowledge and consent or approval of any of his
or her agents, and the effect of such practice was such as to have
materially affected the outcome of that election.

The maximum penalty for most of these practices, except theft or destruction
of voter identification, is five years' imprisonment.

Other Offences

Other offences include personation, which is applying for a ballot paper in
the name of some other person. It is illegal to attempt to vote twice in an
election. [Section 137 of the Electoral Act]. It is also illegal for any
person to impede or prevent a voter from exercising his or her rights or to
compel a voter to vote or refrain from voting in an election. [Section 134]
It is also illegal to bribe voters as a way of persuading them to vote for
you. Bribery includes giving, lending or getting any money to, for or on
behalf of any voter at any stage of the election process from registration
to voting, including any procession or demonstration. [Section 136]

Recommendations
For these provisions to be effective they will need to be properly enforced
by the law enforcement agencies. Where complaints of political intimidation
are made to the Electoral Commission, the Commission should be given powers
to direct the Commissioner-General of Police to ensure that an urgent and
proper investigation is conducted into the complaints.

4. Polling

Sections 28(3) and 58(1) of the Constitution of the Constitution requires
presidential, parliamentary and local authority elections to be held
simultaneously, the Electoral Laws Amendment Act 2008 makes the necessary
amendments to the Electoral Act.

Voters will be entitled to vote even if they are not registered on the ward
voters roll, so long as they can produce a voters' registration certificate
(which, presumably, must show that they are entitled to be registered on the
roll) . Before being issued with a ballot paper, a registered voter will
have to produce a voters' registration certificate or proof of identity. It
should be noted that few if any voters have been issued with voter's
registration certificates.

Polling days
The Electoral Act allows polling to be held over one or more days. Polling
days will be regarded as public holidays, and presumably they will be fixed
so as to coincide with a weekend.

Conduct of poll
Before polling begins, every presiding officer will have to count and record
the number of ballot papers received at his or her polling station, and the
count will have to take place in the presence of candidates, election agents
and observers.

The number of voting compartments and ballot boxes to be provided in each
polling station is no longer fixed in the Act but is left to the discretion
of the presiding officer. However, presumably the Commission will be able to
specify the number through directives or regulations.

Role of Police
The Amendment Act provided that police officers would be excluded from
polling stations, except when they are voting or when they are specifically
summoned to assist election officers in quelling a disturbance.

However the exclusion of the police from the process was reversed by the
Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act)
Regulations 2008 gazetted on 17 March 2008, which provides that police
office on duty are restored to the list of persons authorised to be present
in a polling station.

Illiterate and physically handicapped voters The Electoral Law Amendment
2008 stipulates that illiterate and physically handicapped voters to be
assisted to vote by two electoral officers or employees of the Commission,
rather than by the presiding officer of the polling station in the presence
of a policeman, as was previously provided by the Act. This was in tandem
with the view that the presence of police could be intimidating to some of
these voters.

These provisions have however also been affected by the Presidential Powers
(Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act) Regulations 2008.
Illiterate or handicapped voters will be assisted by the presiding officer I
the presence of two other electoral officers and a police officer on duty.

Recommendations
The law should go further and require the Commission to disclose the total
number of ballot papers printed for each election. Only a trusted friend or
relative to safeguard the secrecy of their ballot and avoid intimidation
should assist assisted voters.

5. Counting and Tabulation of Results

The Electoral Laws Amendment made several minor changes to the way in which
votes are counted and the results of elections are collated and announced.

Counting of votes at polling stations
Candidates and their agents will no longer be allowed to put their
thumb-prints, signatures or seals on ballot boxes which are sealed in a
polling station at the close of polling. The rationale behind this
apparently that the new translucent ballot boxes have no space for
additional seals or signatures. However, this seems an inadequate reason for
abolishing a small but valuable safeguard against electoral fraud.

When the votes have been counted at a polling station, the presiding officer
will have to record them on a return and post them up outside the polling
station before sending them to the constituency elections officer. This must
be done in the presence of the candidates and their agents and will
certainly go some way towards ensuring transparency in the counting process,
so long as candidates and political parties are able to deploy agents at
every polling station to witness the counting of votes.

Recounts
The Commission is given power to order a recount of votes at any polling
station, either on its own initiative or at the request of a candidate or
political party contesting the election, if the Commission has reason to
believe that a miscount occurred which might affect the result. The
Commission's decision to order, or not to order, a recount will not be
subject to an appeal. It is however recommended that the decision be.

Recommendations
Although votes are counted at polling stations in the presence of monitors,
observers and polling agents, the Electorate sometimes is fearful of
retribution since polling station will be available. Voter education should
help in informing the electorate to ease fears such as the fear that that
translucent ballot boxes negates the secrecy of their ballots. The
prevention of electoral fraud is also critical.

6. Postal voting

In terms of the Electoral Act restricts postal voting to disciplined force
members and electoral officers who will be absent from their constituencies
on electoral duties; Government officials who are absent from the country on
Government service; and spouses of such persons.

Recommendations
The Electoral Commission should be given the power to establish a system
that allows Zimbabweans living outside the country to vote by post if they
are unable to return to Zimbabwe to cast their votes.

7. Election Observation

Under the new provisions of the Electoral Laws Amendment Act 2008, all
observers will have to be accredited by the Electoral Commission's
Observation Accreditation Committee. The observers will be accredited to
observe over the election period. Election period is defined as the period
from as from the calling of an election to the declaration of the result.

Previously the Observation Accreditation Committee had five members. The
chairperson or vice-chairperson of the now defunct Electoral Supervisory
Commission chaired it. The other four members were ministerial and
presidential nominees. Under the Amendment Act, this Committee will consist
of six members, three of them being commissioners (the Commission's
chairperson will chair the Committee.) The Commission's vice-chairperson
will also sit on it, together with one other Commissioner designated by the
Commission. The other three members are ministerial and presidential
nominees.

Previously the Minister of Foreign Affairs was responsible for the
invitation of individuals representing foreign countries or international or
regional organisations & foreign eminent persons to observe elections in
Zimbabwe. In terms of the Electoral Laws Amendment Act 2008 such persons can
apply to Electoral Commission & Observer Committee, which decides whom to
accredit. However, the Committee cannot accredit a person if the Foreign
Minister objects to such person observing the election. Thus the law gives
veto powers t the Minister. These provisions also apply to individuals
representing bodies in the region that exercise functions similar to those
of Commission, which are invited by ZEC to observe elections.

Individuals representing local organisations & eminent persons from within
Zimbabwe are similarly accredited, save that the Minister of Justice Legal
and Parliamentary Affairs in addition to veto powers, has the right to
invite such persons to observe the election

Observers will:
Observe the election process between the calling of the election and the
declaration of the result of the poll;
Observe the conduct of the polling at the election;
Be present at the counting or collating of votes cast at the election and
the verification of polling station returns by presiding officers;
Bring any irregularity or apparent irregularity in the conduct of the poll
or the counting or collating of the votes to the attention of the
Commission.

It is a criminal offence to obstruct the performance by an observer of his
or her duties.

Recommendations
The Commission should decide on which observers to accredit and there should
be no Ministerial veto power. The Electoral Commission must accredit
sufficient numbers of local and international observers to allow
comprehensive observation of elections. This function should lie solely in
the hands of the ZEC, which should not indulge in cherry-picking observers.

8. Dispute Resolution/Conflict Management

The Electoral Court has remained in limbo since the Supreme Court's judgment
in Marimo & Anor v. Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs &
Ors (S-25-2006) was delivered in July last year. The Supreme Court held that
the method by which judges of the Electoral Court were appointed contravened
section 92 of the Constitution. The Amendment Act corrects the Electoral Act
in this regard.

The jurisdiction of the Electoral Court is restricted to the hearing of
appeals and petitions under the Electoral Act. The court should be able to
resolve expeditiously disputes before the election has taken place. The
current Electoral Act requires the Court to determine election petitions
within six months of the date of its presentation. The determination of
pre-election disputes should be done fairly but within a very tight time
frame.

Recommendations
There is need for competent, effective, independent and impartial Judiciary
and electoral institutions. There is also need to complement the judges of
the Electoral Court with staff, equipment and adequate resources. This Court
should be given jurisdiction to resolve disputes before the election has
taken place.
MEDIA COVERAGE OF ELECTIONS

The Electoral Laws Amendment Act contains a number of provisions that seek
to ensure fair media coverage during the election period. The provisions
relate to public broadcasters and other news media.

Public broadcasters
The Amendment Act empowers the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, with the
approval of the Justice Minister, to pass regulations governing electoral
reporting by the public media. As the Commission should be independent of
political influence, the requirement that these regulations receive
Ministerial approval should be removed.

Public broadcasters are obliged to "afford all political parties and
independent candidates such free access to their broadcasting services as
may be prescribed" in the regulations. The regulations must provide for the
total time allocated to each political party or candidate; the duration of
each broadcast by the party or candidate; and the times when and areas to
which such broadcasts are to be transmitted.

The regulations must ensure that there is a fair and balanced allocation of
time between each political party and independent candidate; each political
party and independent candidate is allowed a reasonable opportunity to
present a case through the broadcasting service concerned.

The Commission is placed under an obligation to monitor broadcasters during
the election period to ensure that they observe these provisions.

Ideally, before the next elections in Zimbabwe more broadcasters should be
allowed to start to operate so that the public can receive a greater
diversity of information and viewpoints.
Print media
The Amendment Act also provides for various obligations on the print media
and broadcasters. During the election period such media must ensure that
They treat equitably all political parties and candidates in regard to the
extent of their coverage and the timing and prominence of their coverage;
Their reports are factually accurate, complete and fair;
They make a clear distinction between factual reporting and editorial
comment;
They rectify inaccuracies in reports without delay and with due
prominence;
They give a reasonable right of reply to political parties and candidates
where they claim that the reports about them are false;
They do not promote political parties or candidates that encourage
violence or hatred against any class of persons in Zimbabwe;
They avoid in their reports language encouraging racial, ethnic or
religious prejudice or hatred or inciting violence or likely to lead to
undue public contempt towards any political party, candidate or class of
persons in Zimbabwe.

Monitoring of media coverage
The Amendment Act imposes a duty on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to
monitor news media to ensure that political parties, candidates,
broadcasters, print publishers and journalists do not breach the new
provisions of the Act. The Act does not, however, address the issue of how
the Commission is to deal with any such breaches. It is not given any
explicit powers to sanction the media institution concerned by imposing
penalties.

The Amendment Act requires broadcasters and print publishers, when required
to do so by the Electoral Commission, to publish the Commission's statements
informing voters about aspects of the voting process. The Commission is
required to pay a reasonable fee for such publication. In its post-election
report the Commission is obliged to include a report on the coverage of the
election by the news media.

It is significant that the Amendment Act provides that these provisions
relating to the media will prevail even if they are inconsistent with the
Broadcasting Services Act, the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act or any other enactment.

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, without the requisite implementation of constitutional and
electoral framework, and the creation of an atmosphere in which persons can
campaign and vote freely, we will miss the mark as a nation and it is
unlikely that the result of the elections in March would be indisputably
free, fair and democratically expressive of the will of the people. ZESN
remains committed to values that ensure that citizens freely participate in
elections in an informed manner and in a free political environment. The
Network urges all stakeholders to work together to ensure participatory and
people-driven democratic processes in the governance of the country; the
security of citizens, their enjoyment of freedoms of movement, assembly and
association and the existence of a political and social environment that is
conducive to holding free and fair elections.

PROMOTING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE

FOR COMMENTS AND FURTHER DETAILS CONTACT Zimbabwe Election Support Network


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A letter from the diaspora

www.cathybuckle.com

19th March 2008

Dear Friends.
One story dominating the headlines this week has been the unrest in Tibet
and China's attempts to repress the mass protests led by the Tibetan monks.
China denies reports of excessive force and has attempted to keep foreign
journalists well away from the action. What is concerning the Chinese
authorities is the adverse publicity in the run-up to the Olympic Games; the
Chinese do not want pictures flashed around the world showing hapless monks
being beaten by Chinese troops. On the spot witnesses are the last thing
they need as they seek to portray China as a suitable venue for the Games
and - remembering China's economic muscle - world governments are for the
most part silent about China's human rights record.
It is another sporting event, the World Cup, that must be uppermost in the
mind of the South African government as 2010 approaches and the collapse in
Zimbabwe continues unabated, thanks largely to Mbeki's 'quiet diplomacy'.
With an estimated 3 million refugees on South African soil and chaos just
over the border, the question is will South Africa be ready to host the
prestigious event? This week for the first time the ANC called on top
service chiefs inside Zimbabwe not to take sides and to respect the outcome
of the March 29th election. It remains to be seen whether the ANC's call
will be heeded; Augustin Chihuri's statement that he 'will not allow'
Zimbabwe to be ruled by puppets demonstrates once again the regime's total
lack of respect for the people's wishes. In the ten days remaining,
Zimbabweans can expect more ruthless repression by the police and Green
Bombers.
Robert Mugabe certainly doesn't want anyone from outside to see what's going
on inside 'his' Zimbabwe. He has permitted only 'friendly' countries as
observers and from what I hear even they are nowhere to be seen and
certainly not in the rural areas where violence and intimidation increase in
intensity as the election draws ever closer. Zanu PF continues to muzzle
both local and foreign journalists, accusing the latter of being spies for
western governments. But no matter how hard they try repressive regimes like
Mugabe's cannot keep 21st century technology at bay.
This week the BBC World Service website carried a discussion between Wilf
Mbanga, publisher of The Zimbabwean and George Shire, the UK based
'academic' and ardent Zanu PF supporter. The subject of the two men's
discussion was the election in Zimbabwe although to read George Shire's
comments you could be forgiven for thinking he was talking about some other
country. True, he has lived in the UK for some twenty years, perhaps he has
lost touch with reality in Zimbabwe? At the start of the interview Shire
predicts that Robert Mugabe will win the presidency and Zanu PF will sweep
the board in House of Assembly and local elections. When confronted by Wilf
Mbanga with the very real prospect of Zanu PF rigging the vote by stuffing
the ballot boxes, Shire simply replied that 'Zimbabwe is not like that... It
will be free and fair' he says. 'It is in the interests of Zanu PF to make
it transparent'
There was much more of the same in the discussion that followed. ' One of
the things that Zanu PF has done so well over the last 10 years' Shiri
maintained, ' is to keep its membership base involved about what is the
reason for inflation.' Like Shire himself, I am thousands of miles away but
the only explanations I've heard for inflation blamed sanctions and the
western backed opposition. When asked by Wilf Mbanga why Zanu PF had invited
only friendly countries to observe the elections, Shire had no answer except
to reiterate that 'everybody in Zimbabwe is going to accept whatever the
result on March 29 will be.To the majority, what matters is whether the land
revolution continues - whatever imperfections there may be.' Strange, but I
haven't heard any calls from the hungry people of Zimbabwe for the so-called
land revolution to continue. What I, in common with the various NGO's and
aid organizations, have heard are desperate cries for food, for clean
drinking water and for decent schools and hospitals.
But it was Mbanga's last question to Shire that gets the prize for Zanu PF
idiocy. In response to a comment by Shire that Zimbabwe's political
landscape is 'much more open' Mbanga pointed out that radio, television and
newspapers are controlled by the government and ' up to now the government
newspapers are still refusing to take adverts from the MDC.' Shire answered
with the following gem of Zanu PF-speak: ' In 1980- there was no media
access to Zanu PF, (yet) it came up with 80% of the vote.' Of course Shire
omits to say that the 1980 election was held in very different circumstance
from those prevailing now in 2008.
George Shire, like his political master Robert Mugabe and Ian Smith before
him, is a political dinosaur, unable to adapt to a changing world.
They do the same thing over and over again and yet expect a different result
each time; that's a clinical definition of insanity, by the way!
Yours in the struggle. PH


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Abramovich DID enquire about Hwange, Zisco

New Zimbabwe

By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 03/21/2008 19:27:38
CHELSEA Football Club owner and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is keen
to invest in Zimbabwe's "minerals sector", despite recent denials, according
to Zimbabwe officials.

The Chelsea owner has spent two weeks in Zimbabwe, meeting officials from
the country's biggest coal mine, Hwange Colliery, and the country's leading
iron and steel manufacturer, Ziscosteel. Abramovich also made enquiries
about investing in platinum mining, government sources confirmed.

Abramovich's trip to Zimbabwe, explained as a "private visit" and "safari
tour" by his spokesman, has already drawn sharp condemnation from British
Labour MP and chair of the Chair of the All-Party Group on Zimbabwe, Kate
Hoey, who charges the Chelsea owner is "putting in money to sustain a vile
empire".

President Robert Mugabe, in power for 28 years, is accused of human rights
abuses and western governments have discouraged investment in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe and over 100 of his officials are banned from travelling to Europe
and are not allowed to own assets anywhere in the European Union.

Although reports indicated Abramovich might have left Zimbabwe on Thursday
last week after flying into the resort town of Victoria Falls on his private
jet, it emerged that he was still in Zimbabwe on Tuesday this week and had
scheduled meetings with Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono.

New Zimbabwe.com also understands from senior government officials that
Abramovich was "welcomed by the system" -- a suggestion that top government
officials, including President Mugabe, knew about his presence in the
country.

An official in the Ministry of Mines revealed: "He is mainly interested in
the minerals sector. Coal, platinum and iron and steel are some of the areas
that he is enquiring about.

"His desire to invest is very significant and it sends a strong signal out
there that where others are seeking to isolate Zimbabwe, others are sensing
opportunity and willing to help revive Zimbabwe's industries."

Abramovich's officials have denied that he is interested in investing in
Zimbabwe.

But Fred Moyo, the managing director of Hwange Colliery told the Sun
newspaper in England: "He was basically looking at general investment. He
was asking what sort of capital we were looking for if someone had money to
invest. He was expressing an interest in financing the mine.

"He said he had a market for coal - China and India. He was also interested
in meeting people producing steel."

Moyo also revealed that the regional police chief in Matabeleland North
province was aware of Abramovich's presence. Abramovich, travelling with 15
minders, would have sought police clearance for his security team's weapons.

Vauxhall MP Hoey blasted: "I find this appalling. As a businessman he can do
what he wants. But it's come to something when you find the owner of Chelsea
willing to back one of the most corrupt and brutal regimes in the world.

"If he invests, he will be putting in money to sustain a vile empire."
The Zimbabwe government owns 40% of Hwange Colliery Company (formerly Wankie
Colliery Company), but is seeking to sell its interest. Hwange provides most
of Zimbabwe's energy needs, with 72% of the coal mined from its coal fields
going directly towards the generation of electricity.

Ziscosteel, meanwhile, depends on coal from Hwange to keep production going.
The company is one of the biggest steel manufacturing firms in Africa but
has suffered from poor capitalisation, a shortage of raw materials, and poor
management practices. With contracts across Africa and Europe, the company,
however, sits on a large debt. It recently plunged US$240 million into the
rehabilitation of its steel plant, which included rebuilding the steel
furnace.

Abramovich is considered the 15th richest man in the world with a personal
fortune of about US$23,5 billion (11,75 billion).


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Players, money, credibility all gone but the Grinch who stole cricket lives on

Sydney Morning Herald

Alex Brown
March 22, 2008

PETER CHINGOKA is not the easiest person to interview; part obstinate, part
evasive, part combative. Then again, if you were being asked to account for
millions of dollars in missing funds - as well as a recent independent audit
that allegedly uncovered "serious financial irregularities" within your
organisation - you might be a little tetchy, too.

For those not aware of his place in the sporting spectrum, Chingoka is the
man who has presided over one of the most scandalous and sorry declines in
professional sport.

As chairman of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, the former batsman has watched on
as many of his country's best players have gone abroad, either out of fear
or frustration, and the national team has faded into insignificance.
Accusations of intimidatory practices and standover tactics against players
are widespread. So, too, allegations that he is the eyes and ears of
President Robert Mugabe within his organisation.

It gets worse. Chingoka is alleged to have siphoned money earmarked for
grassroots cricket in Zimbabwe and, along with aide Ozias Bvute, feathered
his own nest. While the country's cricketers are forced to play on
unprepared wickets, with no scorers to maintain proper first-class records,
Chingoka has stood impervious, safe in the knowledge that he still maintains
full voting privileges on the International Cricket Council - the same as
India, England and Australia - and therefore remains a sought-after ally. To
sport-loving Zimbabweans, black and white, he is the Grinch who stole
cricket.

But he is also a survivor. Domestically, Chingoka has ensured his own job
security by disbanding regional associations and systematically purging all
opposition. Internationally, though, he has had an altogether more difficult
time of it; most notably this week, when KPMG published its audit of
Zimbabwe's books and found more irregularities than your modern day Bulawayo
pitch.

Chingoka's response? Not one of shame or remorse, as you might expect. No,
this was a victory speech after auditors found no evidence of criminality on
his part. That, however, does not explain where the missing millions have
gone - an estimated $7 million in World Cup payments alone - which have
evidently not gone to player payments or cricketing infrastructure.

"Your company does its books, and sometimes money gets sent to the wrong
places," Chingoka told me. "We have adopted a new accounting protocol. We
have taken immediate measures and asked Cricket South Africa to send one or
two of its people to us and display their methods for keeping their accounts
in order.

"KPMG found that there was no misappropriation from any individuals. The
audit showed no single individual benefited from this. I am happy."

Happy? But what of the lost funds, the parlous state of the game in
Zimbabwe? The fact that, on your watch, a once-proud cricketing nation has
not played a Test since 2005?

What of the former players and officials who have told one of the few
remaining independent journalists operating in Zimbabwe, and who is on
Chingoka's hit-list, that you have had your fingers in the bikkie tin for
years?

"If players have these opinions, then they must produce evidence," Chingoka
said. "Our books are clean in that respect. Ask the players what the problem
is, not me. There is always going to be criticism. I am not going to run
around with a flag saying I'm innocent." Clearly, accounting and
accountability are not Chingoka's strong points.

Sensing that the interview, like Zimbabwe cricket, wasn't going anywhere
after hitting repeated brickwalls in inquiries about the KPMG audit, I
changed the point of the attack to Zimbabwe's self-imposed exile from Test
cricket. When does Chingoka envisage their return?

"We will announce it when we feel we are ready to return," he said. "We are
trying to get experience playing against A-teams and domestically in South
Africa. I will not say any more than that."

Australia's decision not to tour last year? "I will not comment on that."

Reports that he will be denied an entry visa to Britain before an ICC
meeting in London later this year?

"I will not talk about that."

His arrest on foreign exchange charges in 2006 after an investigation by the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (he was later cleared by the attorney-general)? "No
comment."

His feelings on the "rebel" players, some of whom claim to have been
threatened by Chingoka's cronies?

"That was their own decision [to boycott the national team]."

Inspiring stuff. And with no suggestion that the ICC intends to purge
Chingoka from its ranks, expect more of the same in the years to come.

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