6:38am (UK) Long Lines at Zimbabwe Polling
Polls opened today in parliamentary elections
which President Robert Mugabe hopes will prove the legitimacy of his nearly
Before any ballots were cast, opposition leaders and
independent rights groups said the vote had already been skewed by years of
violence and intimation.
Despite a light rain, long lines started
forming in the capital Harare hours before the polls opened. There were some
delays as electoral officials made final preparations under the watchful eye
At stake are Parliament's 120 elected seats. But Mugabe
appoints an additional 30 seats, virtually guaranteeing his party a
Downer fear for Zimbabweans March 31, 2005 From:
THE Australian Government was concerned for Zimbabweans on the eve of
legislative polls in the African nation, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
Mr Downer was pessimistic that Zimbabwean president
Robert Mugabe would allow democratic elections. "We have concerns for the
ordinary people of Zimbabwe," Mr Downer said today.
enormous problems with food shortages.
"There are problems with the
political process in Zimbabwe with political intimidation and
"We have concerns about the way the electoral roll was put
together, we have concerns about the independence of the Zimbabwean
Mr Downer was uncertain how Australia could
further press Zimbabwe towards democracy.
"Australia has taken a very
tough stand on Zimbabwe, I'm not sure there is much more we can do than what
we have been doing," he said, referring to Australia's support for
Zimbabwe's expulsion from the Commonwealth.
"It's good not to have the
Zimbabwean president in the Commonwealth until Zimbabwe becomes a genuine
The United States has also denounced Zimbabwe's ruling party
for using food supplies to win over voters in this week's parliamentary
"Our understanding is that ruling party candidates have given
out government-owned food to draw voters to rallies," US State Department
spokesman Adam Ereli said.
Mr Ereli said the campaign ahead of the
poll was already tilted in the government's favour through threats and
intimidation of the opposition and a crackdown on the media.
regretted that no independent election observers had been invited to oversee
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe has led his ruling party into elections against a weakened
opposition but in the face of relentless international criticism that he has
hijacked democracy to stay in power.
Hundreds of voters braved
early morning drizzle to queue hours before voting started at some stations
and polls opened in the capital Harare on time at 7 a.m. (6 a.m. British
"We have come to make a statement," said one young man,
grinning as he headed towards a polling station in the city.
There was no visible police presence in the centre of Harare but witnesses
said there were some patrols in outlying townships where there have been
anti-government protests in the past.
Veteran Mugabe, 81, told
loyalists of his ZANU-PF party on Wednesday that the poll would be fair and
urged voters to reject the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
which he calls a puppet of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
ZANU-PF is widely tipped to win the parliamentary poll although the MDC,
despite crying foul even before polls open at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), has put on
a brave face.
"The MDC is confident of victory," MDC
Secretary-General Welshman Ncube said in a statement on
"The people are behind us. If the MDC does win the
election it will be because the will of the people will have prevailed over
attempts by Mugabe and ZANU-PF to rig the ballot."
Nevertheless, the MDC, cowed by government pressure, appears weaker than in
two previous elections over the last five years when it came close to shock
The MDC and Western observers said both those votes were
rigged and Thursday's election -- whose results are expected within 48 hours
of polls closing -- has already been branded unfair by both the United
States and the European Union.
The EU blasted the polls as
"phoney" and warned it would take unspecified steps against Zimbabwe after
Mugabe says Washington and European governments led
by former colonial power Britain want to topple him over his seizure of
white-owned land for landless black Zimbabweans.
Critics blame the land seizures, which began in 2000, for
ruining the commercial farming industry, leaving the once prosperous country
short of food and triggering a wider economic collapse that has seen
inflation and unemployment skyrocket.
Mugabe, who has led the
former Rhodesia since independence in 1980, denies his mismanagement is to
blame and accuses Western and domestic opponents of conspiring to sabotage
On Thursday he defended the land redistribution
programme, telling supporters at his closing rally: "We are not anti-white,
but we are anti-racism."
A clear victory would keep ZANU-PF
firmly in control as its ageing leader approaches planned retirement in
The party hopes to win back urban voters who rejected it in
parliamentary and presidential votes in 2000 and 2002, while the opposition
MDC, which emerged from urban trade unions, has targeted several rural
districts to broaden its voter base.
Mugabe has come under
regional pressure to abide by new election standards adopted last year by
the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and although the MDC says
Zimbabwe falls far short of full compliance, the opposition party says
violence this time is much reduced compared to 2000 and 2002.
Results are expected within 48 hours of polls closing.
ONLY a massive landslide victory by the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) in today's election in Zimbabwe will result in
President Robert Mugabe's Zanu (PF) losing control of the country's
Zanu (PF) will have to win only a little more than 38% of
parliamentary constituencies to stay in power, according to a report by
South African Institute for International Affairs researcher John
Mugabe, either directly or indirectly, appoints 30 MPs to
parliament over and above the 120 who will be elected today.
MPs have voting rights in the assembly.
He is hardly likely to appoint
MPs who will oppose him, and this gives him a head start in the race for a
76-seat majority. Mugabe already has 30 MPs in his pocket and a further 46
is all that he needs to retain control of parliament.
But for the MDC
the election race is dramatically different. It has to win 76 of the 120
constituency seats to take control of parliament.
"The president appoints
either directly or indirectly 30 (or 20%) of MPs. This is a major bone of
contention, at least from the point of view of the opposition political
parties since the appointed MPs tend to vote Zanu (PF)," Makumbe
The fact that 30 seats in parliament are occupied by MPs who are
not elected distorts the real meaning of the people of Zimbabwe's wishes,
"This makes a mockery of the government's claim that
Zimbabwe is a truly democratic state. A party winning a majority of the 120
seats could still find itself lacking an overall parliamentary majority," he
"Zanu (PF) will need to win only 46 seats to retain an absolute
majority in parliament."
Makumbe also reports that the electoral
system in Zimbabwe has always been controversial because while laws
governing elections were designed in accordance with the constitution,
subsequent amendments have been intended to erode civil
"The amendments share a single thrust: to whittle away at the
electorate's civil liberties. One set of changes, for instance, restricts
the use of mail-in ballots to absentee civil servants, diplomats, and
uniformed members of the military and security forces," he says.
obvious intent is to disenfranchise Zimbabweans living abroad - there are
thought to be about a million in SA and other southern African countries -
who tend to be hostile to Zanu (PF)."
Makumbe says that in the 2000
parliamentary elections Mugabe faced the real possibility of losing power to
the MDC, and "only careful manipulation of the electoral law and the
election process allowed Zanu (PF) to eke out a narrow win".
MDC's strength at the polls so frightened Mugabe and his party that they
resolved upon extreme measures as the only means of stopping an opposition
win in 2002.
"These included amendments to the electoral act of 1990,
promulgation of laws such as the Public Order and Security Act of 2000,
sharp cuts in the number of urban polling stations and physical assaults
against, or intimidation of, voters suspected of MDC sympathies," he
The study also explores the "politics of incumbency", which ensures
that Zanu (PF) has access to state resources denied to the
"The ultimate result has been the creation of a grossly
uneven political playing field in favour of the ruling Zanu (PF) and to the
detriment of opposition political parties," says Makumbe.
He says it
is ironic that Zimbabwe has one of the most impressive and better organised
legislatures in the region. "On the surface it would appear that Zimbabwe's
parliament is a competent institution that carries out its functions
effectively in the interest of the country.
"Serious investigation of the
workings of this august institution, however, reveals that it is little more
than a rubber stamp of whatever the executive and ruling political party
wish to do. Indeed, to the executive parliament is more of a necessary
nuisance than an essential partner in the governance of
Makumbe says a culture of tolerance should replace the current
political culture of fear if Zimbabwe is to develop along democratic
Rudd questions Zimbabwe 'silence' March 31, 2005 From:
THE Australian Government had lost its democratic voice by staying
silent in the lead-up to the Zimbabwe parliamentary elections, the federal
Opposition said today.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin
Rudd accused Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander
Downer of remaining quiet on Zimbabwe. "The Australian Government talks long
and loud about democracy in the Middle East, strangely, in recent months has
lost its voice when it comes to democracy in Africa, and democracy most
particularly in Zimbabwe," Mr Rudd said in Brisbane.
Mugabe is hoping to clinch a huge win tomorrow for his ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front party (ZANU-PF), in power since
independence 25 years ago, but civil groups and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) say he may be surprised.
The vote will cap weeks
of campaigning that have been surprisingly free of the bloodshed that marred
the previous votes in 2000 and 2002 when scores were killed and beaten in
Mr Mugabe's promise of fair and free elections has
raised eyebrows around the world.
Mr Rudd said today he agreed with
Mr Downer, who said Zimbabwe's elections would not be free and
Mr Rudd said he had witnessed "systematic violence on a grand
scale" when he monitored Zimbabwe's elections in 2002.
He said the
ZANU-PF party was one of the most violent and corrupt political parties in
"What I saw then was systematic violence on a grand scale
perpetuated by Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party," Mr Rudd said.
no confidence whatsoever that ZANU-PF will lift its game.
"On top of
that, ZANU-PF, after the criticism of the last parliamentary elections in
Zimbabwe, has barred international monitors from the European Union, from
the Commonwealth, and from elsewhere.
"This is a very retrograde step
when it comes to the international community having any confidence in the
electoral process which is about to occur there," he said.
Mining firms in Zimbabwe call for currency
devaluation March 31, 2005
By Antony Sguazzin
president, Robert Mugabe, drove 85 percent of the country's commercial
farmers off the land and sparked three consecutive years of
His party's expected victory in today's parliamentary
elections will probably prompt him to help the only major income earner
A planned $750 million (R4.75 billion) expansion by Impala
Platinum (Implats), the world's second-biggest platinum producer, may be in
jeopardy unless Mugabe devalues the Zimbabwean dollar after the
Prices are rising almost 130 percent a year and Implats, which
holds the rights to most of Zimbabwe's platinum deposits, needs a
devaluation to cut costs. At one mine, they rose 63 percent in rand terms in
"The need for a devaluation is a no-brainer," says Ian
Saunders, the president of Zimbabwe's Chamber of Mines. "There are nickel
and gold projects waiting for an exchange rate devaluation."
now grows 75 percent less tobacco than it did in 2000 and production of
maize, once an export crop, has slumped so much that the government now
imports grain and the UN feeds about a 10th of the 11.8 million
John Robertson, an economist at Robertson Economics in
Harare, says: "The exchange rate is important because the exporters who make
the foreign currency needed to pay foreign debt aren't able to cover their
In January 2004 Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe, started foreign currency auctions in a bid to curb black
market trading, and agreed with gold miners on preferential currency rates
to boost production.
One US dollar fetches about Z$14 000 on the black
market, but companies must use the central bank's official auction, where
the rate was last bid at Z$6 082.
As consumer prices surge, the costs
of exporters go up because the exchange rate does not adjust as it would in
a country where currency values are determined by the market.
need to devalue," says Fidelis Madavo, an analyst at Citigroup's Smith
Barney unit in Johannesburg. "Input costs are out of sync."
American, Anglo American Platinum, Aquarius Platinum and Rio Tinto are
planning to mine in Zimbabwe, which has the world's second-biggest deposits
of both platinum and chrome.
"It's important for all exporters," says
David Brown, Johannesburg-based Implats finance director. "With inflation in
triple figures, the gross margins have been squeezed quite
Robertson says a devaluation may cause prices of imported
goods to rise, but black market currency dealing is already having the same
The government last reduced the general exchange rate for the
Zimbabwean dollar in August 2000, by 24 percent. In 2003 it adjusted the
rate the central bank paid to exporters.
It hasn't made any major
changes since Gono put the auctions in place a month after he was appointed
Gono has slowed annual inflation to about 127 percent last
month from a record 623 percent in January 2004.
imbalance in the Zimbabwean economy is the overvalued currency," says Isaac
Matshego, an economist at Standard Bank.
Even so, he says, "they are not
servicing their debt, so the impact of a devaluation is that their arrears
will accumulate at a faster rate in Zimbabwe dollars".
currency inflows from exports and money repatriated by an estimated 3
million Zimbabweans living abroad amounted to $1.7 billion in 2004. Earnings
from tobacco sales dropped to about $138 million last year from $400 million
five years ago.
"The opportunities in Zimbabwe are very, very attractive
from a resource sector point of view," says Mike Davies, an analyst at
Control Risks Group in London. However, "it's going to take a while for
investor confidence to return".
Zimbabwe's Mugabe Poised to Thwart Challenge in Vote March 31
(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabweans may extend the 25-year rule of President Robert
Mugabe's party in parliamentary elections today, blunting a five-year drive
for power by the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
Mugabe, 81, has defeated the MDC, founded by labor union
leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in two previous polls since 2000 that observers,
including European Union monitors, said were marred by violence and vote
rigging. Amnesty International and New York- based Human Rights Watch have
said today's vote is flawed because of an outdated register of voters and
Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National
Union-Patriotic Front party is seeking to win a two-thirds majority of the
120 elected seats in parliament that would give it the power to change the
constitution. That would allow Mugabe to appoint a prime minister who would
succeed him in 2008, the date he has set to step down.
president is definitely fighting for a two-thirds majority because he wants
to plan his exit package,'' said Alois Masepe, a political analyst at the
University of Zimbabwe in the capital, Harare. ``It's up to Mugabe to play
his end game. He will hold all the cards.''
Mugabe has ruled
Zimbabwe since the southern African nation emerged from a guerrilla war
against the white-minority regime of Rhodesia, a U.K. colony, as an
independent country in 1980. He won re-election to a six-year term in March
Voting began at 7 a.m. local time and will end at 7 p.m.
Results are expected within 48 hours.
Since 1998, the economy has contracted by about 40
percent, and the seizure of mainly white-owned farms for black resettlement
has cut production of tobacco, the top agricultural export earner, by 75
A 10th of Zimbabwe's 11.8 million people need food aid,
according to the government. The United Nations Children's Fund says
Zimbabwe has the world's fourth highest rate of infection of HIV, the virus
that causes AIDS.
Mugabe needs these elections to try to restore
relations with Western donors and the International Monetary Fund, which has
suspended Zimbabwe. The EU and the U.S. have imposed travel bans on Mugabe
and other Zimbabwean leaders and frozen their foreign bank
While MDC promises of change in 2000 won the opposition
party every seat in Harare and control of all major urban councils,
Tsvangirai has failed to oust Mugabe, whose government has presided over a
five-year recession and three years of famine. Zimbabwe now has shortages of
everything from gasoline to corn, the staple food.
``There is nothing tangible the MDC has done for us;
even in the urban areas they control they have done nothing,'' said Mufudze
Tongesai, a 33-year-old factory worker at fridge-maker Capri Group in
Harare. ``Tsvangirai hasn't shown any real strong leadership.''
None of the eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected the MDC to improve
its 2000 showing of 57 lawmakers in the 150- seat parliament. As president,
Mugabe appoints 30 members.
``We have done our level best to use
the little space we have been given to campaign, even in the face of
extensive intimidation of our supporters, little media coverage of our
rallies and disruptions of our meetings by the police,'' said MDC Secretary
General Welshman Ncube.
Some Zimbabwean observers say the MDC has
itself to blame if it fails to pick up seats.
was not to do more before agreeing to the election; they should have fought
harder,'' said Lovemore Madhuku, leader of the National Constitutional
Assembly, which is lobbying for a new constitution. ``They are likely to
lose further seats.''
rights groups have said the elections won't be credible.
``Persistent, long-term and systematic violations of human rights and the
government's repeated and deliberate failure to bring'' those responsible to
justice means Zimbabweans won't be able to vote ``freely and without fear,''
London-based Amnesty International said in a March 16
The government has shut down privately-owned
newspapers including the Daily News, a national daily, and limited
opposition access to the state media. Rights groups say the voters roll is
outdated and the MDC says it has been denied access to the
Mugabe invited South Africa, the Southern African
Development Community and Russia to observe the elections.
has excluded the Commonwealth, a grouping of the U.K. and its former
colonies, and the EU, whose teams condemned the previous two polls.
Thabo Mbeki, president of neighboring South Africa, the
region's dominant economy, said on March 2 he expects the polls to be free
Mbeki's endorsement may harm his bid for increased aid to
Africa in exchange for better governance under the New Partnership for
Africa's Development, or NEPAD, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's
proposal that industrial nations double to $50 billion annual aid for
Africa, the world's poorest continent.
Nathan Shamuyarira, the
information secretary for Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
Front party, dismissed criticisms of the elections as
``We have organized five elections in this country
since independence,'' Shamuyarira said in a telephone interview in Harare.
``People have come in their thousands to our campaign meetings and we think
we will romp home.''
Mduduzi Mathuthu Last updated: 03/31/2005 11:03:37 PROFESSOR Jonathan
Moyo, the mercurial former propaganda chief for President Robert Mugabe is
putting pen to paper to write his memoirs about life as the 81-year-old
despot's spokesman, New Zimbabwe.com can reveal.
In an exclusive
interview with New Zimbabwe.com, Moyo also reveals he will never rejoin Zanu
PF. He warns the ruling party is headed for disintegration within the next
He blasted: "The seeds of disintegration were sown for Zanu PF
during congress in November last year, they will be germinated in the
parliamentary elections and harvested at the presidential
Moyo is largely tipped to win the Tsholotsho parliamentary
election today after being thrown out of government and Zanu PF amid a storm
over allegations of plotting a coup aimed at Mugabe and his deputy Joyce
Speaking for the first time to New Zimbabwe.com after a TWO year
snub, Moyo said he was confident he would finish his memoirs about his five
years as Mugabe's image maker within the next six months.
experiences in government certainly do require something like that
(memoirs)," he said in response to a direct question. "There are so many
questions, so many things that people want answers to, and to just quit and
do nothing would be unfair."
The book could fetch millions and become
a best seller, according to industry experts. Moyo is credited with
drawing-up anti-press laws and other draconian legislation to defend
Mugabe's hold on power for the past five years. Opponents also accuse him of
shutting down independent papers, a charge he rejects.
Asked if he
was not concerned about possible arrest from a fearful regime eager to guard
its secrets, Moyo retorted: "If I am jailed, I will write the book from
Moyo also used the interview to take a dig at President
Mugabe, saying Zanu PF was going into today's election "confused and lacking
strategy". He said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had
organised bigger crowds at their rallies, and warned of a major
"(Morgan) Tsvangirai addressed over 20 000 people at White City
Stadium and Mugabe had two star rallies at two schools. Now, if you see a
head of a party like Zanu PF and President of a country being reduced to
holding rallies within the perimeter of a school, almost like a secret
society, that is worrisome," said Moyo.
Moyo said Zanu PF had
undergone "a radical retreat to its old self" and was "constantly at war
with itself". He said the party had excluded all but one tribal group from
its ranks -- the Zezuru's.
"They have no coherent message. The anti-Blair
campaign hasn't worked. The other slogan about Zimbabwe never being a colony
again worked during the land resettlement programme, but it has now become
moribund and unappealing. The MDC, for its part, has largely benefited from
an on-going protest because they are the only alternative.
could get a simple majority in this election for the 120 contested seats.
While constitutionally that is inconsequential, it will dramatise the
defects of the Zimbabwean constitution creating a crisis of legitimacy,
which will be real this time, not their claims of 2002.
"If the MDC
got a majority of the seats, that would really be deadly for Mugabe. It
would also be very dangerous for Zanu PF which will certainly be doomed
Moyo said when he joined Zanu PF in 2000, there were signs
the party was ready to embrace democracy. He said the real test for this
resolve came at the party's national congress last November where Joyce
Mujuru was elevated to Vice President, becoming the first woman to hold the
post in the country's history. This followed a directive by Mugabe, against
the Zanu PF constitution, directing that one of the two vice presidents
should be a woman.
"The party squandered an opporunity to embrace
democracy. Instead, it mutated into a monster like UNIP, Kanu of Kenya and
the Malawi Congress Party. That opportunity will never come for Zanu PF and
it is now certainly headed for doom.
"The next 36 months are crucial
for Zanu PF because if Mugabe seeks re-election, which I doubt he will, he
will certainly lose. If he does get someone to succeed him, that person will
find it absolutely impossible to win," Moyo said.
political scientist and former university lecturer also rejected claims that
he was going to rejoin Zanu PF.
"Zanu PF dug its own grave in November,
and they have fallen into it. Only a foolish person will walk into that
grave, and I am not. Besides, this idea that I can win an election and then
walk back to Zanu PF is baseless because the constitution is clear that if
you want to cross the floor, even if you are an independent, the electorate
has to be consulted," Moyo said.
Tsvangirai blamed for mess within MDC March
Harare: Morgan Tsvangirai was once seen as the great hope
of Zimbabwe's opposition, a fiery trade unionist with the guts to unseat
President Robert Mugabe.
But as Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change heads into parliamentary polls today as clear underdogs,
many supporters are now focusing increasingly on their leader's failure to
The MDC, its supporters cowed and weakened by government
pressure, is given less of a chance of victory in this poll than in
elections in 2000 and 2002, when it came very close to beating
Political analysts say although Tsvangirai has missed some
opportunities and was probably cheated in the presidential elections three
years ago, many still see him as a hero for standing up to Mugabe - the
country's only ruler since independence from Britain in
The self-taught son of a bricklayer, Tsvangirai climbed
from trade unionist to potential president by overcoming internal MDC
rivalries and a government crackdown. His determined optimism has repeatedly
boosted his supporters' morale despite the pressure.
style - focusing on basic economic problems - can make Mugabe's lofty and
combative oratory appear abstract and remote for ordinary
Now 53, he has gained valuable experience over the
last five years, especially in handling diplomatic issues and in taking the
fight to Mugabe.
But, analysts say, the party remains poorly
organised and riven by rivalries, leaving it in a weak position to take over
from Mugabe's Zanu-PF either at the ballot box or in government. -
Harare - Voters in Zimbabwe began casting ballots on
Thursday as polls opened in the Southern African country for landmark
elections that President Robert Mugabe hopes will tighten his ruling party's
25-year grip on power.
Under a drizzling rain, about 200 people stood in
a queue at a polling station in Harare's oldest township of Mbare to cast
their ballots in the parliamentary elections, Zimbabwe's sixth since
"I wanted to be the first in the queue, to be served
early," said Beauty Chigutiare. "We need change."
"We want jobs, we
want good houses," she said.
Some 5.7 million voters are eligible to vote
in the elections that cap weeks of campaigning which have been surprisingly
free of the bloodshed that marred previous votes in 2000 and
Africa's last independence leader, Mugabe is vying for a two-thirds
majority for his Zanu-PF party in the elections but civic groups and the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say a shock may be in store
for the 81-year-old veteran leader.
"What were the
elections about? About who should govern and who should not," Mugabe told a
final rally in Harare attended by 3 000 supporters of his Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
also predicted a big win for his party but urged reconciliation at a final
campaign stop in the village of Biriwiri, near the border with
"We hope the outcome of the election will provide an
opportunity for national reconciliation and hopefully Zanu-PF will not be
arrogant," said Tsvangirai, 53, a former union leader.
outcome of the elections, Zimbabweans have been relieved by the lack of
bloodshed in the campaign which analysts attribute to Mugabe's desire to
regain legitimacy as a statesman after presiding over what the United States
has dubbed one of the world's six "outposts of tyranny.'
for 120 contested seats in parliament will be closely watched to determine
whether Mugabe will adhere to regional guidelines on holding a free and fair
vote that call for equal access to the media, freedom to hold rallies and
the presence of international observers.
The United States on Tuesday
said the vote "could be a turning point for Zimbabwe" due to the absence of
But the European Union, whose election observers have also been
taken off the list of guests, called the vote "a sham" and a
"pseudo-election", with Luxembourg's junior foreign minister Nicolas Schmidt
saying this week that the Europeans were "worried and shocked" by the
Two groups of civic organisations - the National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA) and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition - both released reports
on the eve of the vote to say that it would not be democratic, citing the
ongoing climate of fear and intimidation in Zimbabwe politics.
- Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accused SA's
government-aligned observers of wanting to "rubber-stamp" the outcome of
today's election, as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe ruled out the
possibility of a government of national unity after today's poll.
secretary-general Welshman Ncube said yesterday that his party had lost all
faith in the impartiality of Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile
Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
"This follows her unqualified comments on
Zimbabwe's electoral process and environment over the past few days," Ncube
He said comments by the minister and by the African National
Congress (ANC) delegation had "revived our suspicions that South African
observers allied to the government, are not interested in the facts on the
ground . They are only interested in manipulating events so they can
rubber-stamp another fraudulent Zanu (PF) victory".
He said the
mission had contemptuously dismissed MDC allegations of the use of food aid
as a political weapon, the role of chiefs in coercing the electorate, and
its concerns about the state of the voters' roll.
"We have supplied the
observer missions with substantial evidence to corroborate our allegations,
yet they have failed to investigate them."
Ncube said the MDC had invited
the South African and SADC observer missions to many rallies in rural areas,
but they "didn't bother to turn up, preferring to hang around in the lobbies
of five-star hotels in Harare and Bulawayo".
Bulawayo late yesterday, hundreds of the government's dreaded youth militia
deployed in the opposition stronghold of Bulawayo earlier this week were
allegedly threatening people, witnesses said.
said the militia were visiting people's homes and telling them to ensure the
ruling party won in the city or face reprisals.
Police spokesman Wayne
Bvudzijena would not comment on the reports. He insisted the police were
working out to ensure a fair poll.
Meanwhile, Mugabe's former
propaganda supremo and now rival, Jonathan Moyo approached Zimbabwe's
Electoral Court for an interdict to stop today's election, saying logistical
problems tilted the election in Zanu (PF)'s favour. The court dismissed the
An affirmative ruling could have thrown the election,
already dogged by administrative and logistical hitches, into
Moyo's attorney Cossam Ncube said Justice Nicholas
Ndou had dismissed the application, which sought to have the number of
polling agents increased.
Polling agents will represent candidates at
"The judge dismissed the application, saying the
urgency in it was self-created," Ncube said.
Moyo said last
night the dispute over polling agents could turn the election into a
washout. "For candidates to accept that the election was free and fair, they
must be satisfied with the electoral, administrative and logistics
Moyo, who decided to contest as an
independent candidate after he was expelled from the ruling Zanu (PF) in
February, said the preparations were a shambles.
There was also a
serious concern over ballot papers being sent to the wrong constituencies
and tens of thousands of "ghost voters" appearing on the voters' electoral
The police and army were put on high alert yesterday, with
the police saying it had deployed more than 30000 officers and reservists.
By Antoinette Lazarus At least 5.7 million register voters are
expected to go to the polls today in Zimbabwe's sixth parliamentary election
since independence in 1980. They will have the chance to vote for the
candidate of their choice between 7am this morning and 7pm this evening. The
two main parties are the ruling Zanu (PF) and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
Sabcnews.com spoke to Hatfield resident Elvis
Chare on whether he will be casting his vote. Chare is a wood sculptor and
says most of his business comes from foreigners.
Chare says he will
definitely vote because "we need a change". He says there's no doubt that he
will be voting for the MDC. He says the current Zanu(PF) government has made
empty promises. "They promised foreign investment and tourism that will help
locals and nothing has happened so far," says Chare.
"The MDC will
definitely bring change for the better," says Chare. He's optimistic the MDC
will win the election hands down. "Today is the day for people to do
something great," says Chare.
Chare says he's encouraging his family, who
live in a strong Zanu(PF) area of Chendambuya in the Headlands area east of
Harare to "do the right thing by voting for the MDC".
On eve of vote in Zimbabwe, Mugabe foes call for
courage Thursday, March 31, 2005 BY RODRIQUE NGOWI Associated
Press HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Opposition leaders urged supporters yesterday to
defy violence and intimidation and vote in parliamentary elections to help
end President Robert Mugabe's increasingly isolated and repressive regime
after 25 years in power.
"The end is near. Five years of your efforts
in fighting against this illegitimate regime may be ending tomorrow,"
Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told some 4,500
supporters in the eastern Chimanimani region.
Meanwhile, Mugabe --
widely accused of rigging previous elections -- promised a huge win and
said the election will prove once and for all that Zimbabweans reject
interference from the rest of the world.
The ballot pits Mugabe's
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party against the MDC, which
won nearly half the seats in the legislature five years ago in a stinging
rebuke to the 81-year-old leader.
At stake are 120 elected seats. Mugabe
appoints 30 other seats, virtually guaranteeing his ZANU-PF party a
Some 5.8 million of Zimbabwe's nearly 12 million people are
registered to vote today. But up to 3.4 million Zimbabweans living overseas
-- many believed to be opposition supporters -- have been barred from
Mugabe, pumping his arm while addressing more than
10,000 wildly cheering supporters at an opposition stronghold in the
capital, promised a free vote and predicted a "huge, mountainous
Mugabe accuses British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other
Western leaders of backing the 6-year-old MDC, the first party to seriously
challenge his rule. He dubbed today's vote the "anti-Blair
Tsvangirai has said Mugabe, not Blair, is to blame for
Zimbabwe's economy has shrunk 50 percent during the
past five years, and the unemployment rate is at least 70 percent.
Agriculture, the economic base of Zimbabwe, has collapsed, and at least 70
percent of the population lives in poverty.
Opposition leaders blame
the country's economic woes on the government's often-violent seizure of
thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black
Mugabe defends the program as a way of righting racial
imbalances in land ownership inherited from British colonial rule and blames
food shortages on years of crippling drought.
"The land is ours. It
is not European," Mugabe told reporters after a rally Tuesday. "We have
given it to the right people."
In Zimbabwe's second-largest city,
Bulawayo, Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube accused the government
yesterday of refusing to sell food in parts of southern Zimbabwe to people
believed to be opposition supporters.
Ncube, who was branded a half-wit
by Mugabe on Tuesday after the cleric called for a nonviolent uprising
against the ruling party, said villagers had been told they could not buy
food if they were on a list of people considered opposition
Mugabe denied at a campaign rally in Harare that food was
being used as a political weapon, saying: "Aid is given to all deserving
cases without exception."
A year ago Mugabe stopped accepting most
food aid from the U.N. World Food Program, insisting Zimbabwe could feed
itself. But the country continues to import food from South Africa and other
countries to offset the devastating effects of land
Mugabe has been at pains to show he has genuine support,
which analysts say would help pave the way for a handover to a successor of
his choice when his term expires in 2008.
The opposition MDC was
declared winner of 57 seats in the last parliamentary election in 2000,
despite what Western observers called widespread violence, intimidation and
vote rigging. But it has lost six seats in subsequent
In 2002, Tsvangirai was declared the narrow loser of a
flawed presidential poll.
While there has been much less violence
during this campaign, a coalition of local aid and rights groups said
yesterday the poll would not be free, fair or legitimate.
intimidation is still rife, as is the culture of fear," said Brian Kogoro,
chairman of Crisis in Zimbabwe.
A series of repressive laws introduced
since 2000 has drastically curtailed the opposition's ability to meet,
express its views and access the media, rights groups say.
forces and the ruling party's youth militia have maintained a menacing
presence at opposition rallies. Mugabe's government has hand-picked election
observers, barring groups that criticized previous polls.
have also raised concerns about the voters' roll. Based on an audit of 10
percent of the list, the FreeZim rights group concluded it contains up to 1
million dead people, more than 300,000 duplicate names and 1 million people
who no longer reside at their registered address.
Willie Madisha, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)
president, says last night's vigil at the Beit Bridge border post with
Zimbabwe was a success. Madisha says they managed to make the whole world
aware of the Zimbabwean government's violation of workers' and human
Members of Cosatu, the Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad organisation
and Swaziland's trade union federation took part in the overnight vigil. At
least 300 protesters lit candles and chanted anti-Mugabe slogans late into
the night. They have now dispersed.
Yesterday's march to the border
post and last night's vigil went off without any disruption to traffic or
official activities at the border.
By Antoinette Lazarus The voting process has begun without
any problems in central Harare. People began queuing outside polling
stations at 6am this morning to vote in Zimbabwe's 6th parliamentary
elections. Polling started at 7am.
Armed with umbrellas, residents of
Avondale, an upmarket suburb of Harare, are waiting eagerly in the rain to
cast their votes. The election process is being explained to voters as they
approach the voting stations.
Morgan Tsvangarai, the MDC leader, lives in
Avondale and is expected to vote at a local primary school in the suburb
later this morning.
Voters first have to check the voters' roll for their
names, and then their index finger is dipped into the invisible, indelible
ink before going into the booth to make their mark on the ballot paper. It
is then folded and put into translucent ballot boxes.
All going well,
so far According to the presiding officers at voting stations visited this
morning everything is progressing well.
Voters interviewed by
Sabcnews.com are upbeat about the election. They say it feels good to have
voted as they think it should be illegal not to vote because that is what
defines one as a citizen.
They say the voting process in this election
has been very quick and smooth.
Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, is expected to cast his
vote at the Chengu government school in Harare. Yesterday, Mugabe yet again
accused the MDC of being a puppet of Tony Blair, the British prime minister.
He told supporters at a rally that Blair is obsessed with Zimbabwe's
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Republican Police say the country's
election has kicked off without any politically motivated violence or
intimidation being reported. At least 33 000 police officers have been
deployed at 8 000 polling stations around the country.
repressive leader, Robert Mugabe, is poised to harness his country's
desperation with today's parliamentary elections. Mr. Mugabe has withheld
food aid from persons supporting the opposition and has threatened to
continue withholding the aid from districts that do not back him. Under Mr.
Mugabe's thumb, Zimbabwe has gone from breadbasket to basket case, and the
ruler's threat carries real impact: Almost half of Zimbabwe's 13 million
people will likely need food aid in coming months. Mr. Mugabe has
apparently padded voter registration and gutted freedom of the press, and
opposition members have been unfairly tried and otherwise harassed. Late
last year, the parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front, approved legislation that would effectively
bar foreign or foreign-supported nongovernmental organizations from speaking
out about the government's violations. Mr. Mugabe's transgressions are
occurring as key African leaders are asking for comprehensive aid for the
continent and have pledged their support for democratic reform. But Mr.
Mugabe's assaults on democracy mean it is unlikely that the United States
will find reason to lift its targeted sanctions after today's
elections. Mr. Mugabe has gotten an undeserved pass from influential
leaders, most conspicuously South African President Thabo Mbeki and the
African Union, despite the ruinous collapse that confronts Zimbabwe. Since
Mr. Mugabe remains in office until 2008, the silence of African leaders can
only aid and abet the continued suffering of Zimbabweans at the hands of the
Mugabe government -- including the land grab he launched five years
ago. Mugabe apologists cloak their support of him in terms like
"liberator" during Zimbabwe's apartheid era. That support, however, is
unjustified given Mr. Mugabe's moves to oppress the very people he purports
to have liberated. Although South Africa has election monitors in
Zimbabwe, Mr. Mbeki has already made the mistake of pre-validating the
election -- a move that puts his credibility irrevocably on the line. If his
observers certify a fraudulent election, Mr. Mbeki's credibility will come
into question, as will any pan-African plans he envisions and lobbies
for. Much of Africa could benefit from a strong and credible leader
pushing for reform and democracy. Mr. Mbeki must decide whether he will
stand for democracy or fall for Mr. Mugabe's transgressions. A true
democratically elected leader loses trust and credibility if he tries to
have it both ways.
BORDER POST, South Africa -- Trade unionists in South Africa and Zimbabwean
exiles rallied at this border crossing last night to denounce the government
of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and support the opposition on the eve
of parliamentary elections today. Residents of Zimbabwe "are living in
grinding poverty, with more than 80 percent unemployment," said South
African union leader Zwelinzima Vavi, who described today's vote as a test
of whether freedom had come to Zimbabwe. "And this is all because of
government policies. The economy had broken down completely and we must
stand together with Zimbabwean workers who are bearing the brunt of this,"
he shouted into a loudspeaker system that carried his voice across the
border. Hundreds of protesters, most bused in by the Congress of South
African Trade Unions (COSATU) , marched toward a bridge across the Limpopo
River but did not defy a court order blocking their original plan to shut
down the bridge. The march was to show solidarity with unions in
Zimbabwe that form the main support base of the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), the main opposition to Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). COSATU President Willie
Madisha blasted Zimbabwe's long-serving Mr. Mugabe, in power since
independence from Britain in 1980, who has been accused of turning the
once-model country into a mess. "He is no longer a freedom fighter -- he
is an animal killing the people," Mr. Madisha said. "We are dealing with a
hero of yesterday and an enemy of the people of today." The
opposition has been able to assemble large crowds for its rallies in spite
of intimidation and threats from Mr. Mugabe, who has labeled anyone who
votes for the MDC as a traitor. MDC campaigner Nkathazo Ncube, who
crossed Beit Bridge last night for the vigil, spoke of "a mood of defiance"
in nearby Matabeleland, a key province in which he had spent the past two
weeks. "In 2002 and for the past three years, we have been so afraid," he
said. "Thousands have been tortured and beaten by the state militia for
supporting the opposition or even for not attending ZANU-PF rallies.
"Now people walk around openly in MDC T-shirts and they say that the time
has come for a final showdown." Mr. Mugabe, for his part, promised a
"huge, mountainous victory" at a rally attended by some 10,000 enthusiastic
supporters last night in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. He rejected any
suggestion of bringing the opposition into a unity government, saying, "Once
we have fought in an election, a party has lost and we have won. We expect
that party to respect the results." Most analysts predicted the MDC would
be lucky to match the 57 seats it won in the 2000 election compared with 63
for ZANU-PF, which was accused of widespread fraud and intimidation. The
president appoints another 30 parliament members, making the prospects of an
MDC majority remote. The opposition also charges that the government has
padded the voter rolls with as many as 1 million names of persons who are
either dead or have been driven into exile by economic collapse and
state-sponsored violence. Nevertheless, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
predicted victory at a rally in the eastern Chimanimani region, saying,
"Five years of your efforts in fighting against this illegitimate regime may
be ending tomorrow." Party supporters at the Beit Bridge Border Post said
they expected to do well in a majority of provinces and were pinning their
hopes on the 22 seats in Matabeleland, a region in which Mr. Mugabe has been
accused of ordering genocidal attacks between 1984 and 1987. Some
people think Mr. Mugabe, 81, would rather die in office than step down for
fear of being prosecuted over the Matabeleland charges. The president's
campaign has been based on criticism of Britain and the U.S., which, he
says, are trying to drive him from power. Mr. Mugabe last was re-elected
three years ago in a presidential ballot that was so marred by violence and
intimidation that many Western countries, including the U.S., refused to
recognize the result. But the few observers Mr. Mugabe has allowed into
the country this year have spoken of a peaceful atmosphere despite