|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Car breakdown causes visitor to be jailed in Zimbabwe as he failed to cross the
border before his visa expired.
Gordon Bruce Cormack was heading for Beitbridge on his way out of Zimbabwe into South Africa when his car broke down near Ngundu Halt. A farmer towed him to a garage past the Lion & Elephant, where Mr Cormack phoned his girlfriend. A friend of his girlfriend took her car & went to tow Mr Cormack to Harare where he could have his vehicle repaired. He had phoned Immigration at Beitbridge because he was on the last day of his visa. They advised him to go to Masvingo to apply to stay a bit longer. (It is understood the law has recently been amended from allowing 48hrs leeway for foreign visitors to no hours. Mr Cormack had not been issued with the normal letter stating he had 24 hours to leave the country as he was in fact on his way out that day)
However in Masvingo, immigration immediately remanded him in prison and impounded his vehicle after searching it. (At the time a BIG political Rally was being held in Masvingo.) His girlfriend was led to believe he would be held overnight then escorted to the border post at Messina the next day. The British Consulate was contacted and informed.
He was not deported the following day, as expected, because "transport" is a problem over weekends, but instead was moved from Masvingo to Gweru then Shurugwi, back to Gweru and then Khami Maximum Security Prison in Bulawayo ready for supposed deportation on Monday 4 March.
Human Rights and several lawyers and the British High Commission were notified, but his release could not be arranged. Authorities would not release his vehicle. He is being held in full prison uniform.
Update received 7/3/02 - 7am West Australian time
His sister, along with a lawyer, was allowed to visit him - he was not being maltreated as such but was only being fed once a day (at 3pm) with sadza and water and weak tea. He was terribly thirsty. They were told the Mr Cormack would possibly be transferred to Byo Central the next day.
This did not happen as there was no room for him - but they were led to believe he would be moved the day after that. At one stage it was understood that the family were expected to pay immigration a bribe to effect Mr Cormack release - but the next thing they knew they were being told that the 'case' is being handled from Harare. He has not been released or deported; he is very hungry and not even allowed a towel or toothbrush. The wardens and police in Bulawayo are just as mystified as the family, at the detention of Mr Cormack.
At the time of writng this report (6/3/2002 10pm West Australian time) Mr Cormack has still not been released.
President Robert Mugabe signed a decree on Tuesday reinstating a law thrown out by the Supreme Court last week which gives state election officers sweeping powers and restricts the activities of monitors.
One of the candidates has changed the rules, that is breaking the law and is clearly designed to help one candidate against the other
MDC lawyer Adrian de Bourbon
And police and soldiers have said they are being forced to vote for President Robert Mugabe in secret votes ahead of the election.
Members of the security forces say they are being ordered by their superiors to vote by postal ballots and they have no choice who to select - a charge which Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party denies.
The revelations came as the Commonwealth wound up its biennial heads of government summit in Australia, having postponed action on Zimbabwe until after the 9-10 March election.
Some members had wanted Zimbabwe suspended from the Commonwealth, arguing that President Mugabe is using intimidation, violence and rigging to win the election.
The opposition Moverment for Democratic Change (MDC) reacted angrily to the decree, saying it was illegal and unconstitutional.
The MDC has also criticised confusion over polling stations, saying the government wants to increase their number in its rural heartland while reducing them in urban areas which traditionally vote for the opposition.
The Electoral Support Network - which brings together local non-governmental organisations - says there can be no excuse for the failure of the government to publish such details at so late a stage.
It is also concerned that none of its 12,000 local observers have yet been accredited.
A spokesman for the network said he was urgently seeking information from the authorities about allegations of postal ballot rigging in the security forces.
Members of the forces told BBC News Online they had been ordered by their commanding officers to vote by post in support of President Mugabe.
|Read his full testimony|
"We are busy casting our votes. The ballot papers were sent to individuals in envelopes and our bosses were presiding officers," said a policeman in Masvingo Province, who wished to remain anonymous.
Police officers were presented with envelopes with their names on and the serial number of the ballot paper inside to make it easier to find out how they had voted, said the Masvingo policeman.
On Monday, Zimbabwean Minister of Defence Sydney Sekeramayi said it was not true that police and army members had already voted.
"That's just disinformation. They haven't voted," he told the Daily News.
Zimbabwe has 40,000-45,000 soldiers and 35,000-50,000 police officers in an electorate of about five million registered voters.