ZIMBABWE NEWS - posted 26 June 2000
My apologies for any double postings - I want to get the news online as quickly as possible .....

Back to Index

Back to the Top
Back to Index


Peaceful Elections in Zimbabwe

Sunday June 25 12:54 PM ET By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Ignoring forecasts of intimidation and violence, Zimbabweans voted peacefully and in strong numbers Sunday, the final day of the country's most closely contested parliamentary elections since independence 20 years ago.

Both President Robert Mugabe's ruling party and the country's main opposition group predicted they would win control of the parliament when results are announced Monday.

``The overwhelming voter turnout that we've experienced in this country can only mean one thing - change,'' said Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Mugabe refused to comment on the election at a news conference following a mini-summit with Zimbabwe's military allies in the Congo civil war. But his ruling party has insisted it will continue to dominate the legislature.

With Zimbabwe's economy in a shambles and corruption rife, the newly formed MDC poses the most serious challenge to Mugabe's ruling party since it led the country to independence from white-minority rule 20 years ago.

``These elections are about real freedom; real freedom from corrupt, inept, arrogant, egoistic leadership that has been running this country,'' Tsvangirai said.

Tsvangirai said that if his party does not win a majority of the elected seats, then the vote will have been rigged.

Even a strong victory, however, may not guarantee the MDC control of the 150-member parliament. Since 30 members are appointed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai's party would need to win at least 76 of the 120 contested seats to have a majority. Tsvangirai predicted it would.

A win that large would be a near revolution in a country where the ruling party controlled all but three of the seats in the previous parliament.

Mugabe has two years left on his term and will not step down unless the opposition gained a two-thirds majority in parliament and then changed the constitution to remove him, said John Nkomo, chairman of the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front.

That overwhelming total, 101 of the 120 contested seats, is considered to be well beyond the MDC's reach.

The election campaign was marred by months of political violence, much of it instigated by ruling party militants, leaving more than 30 people dead. Human rights activists and opposition officials accused Mugabe's party of using the violence to scare opposition supporters away from the polls.

But the tactic did not seem to work on the country's 5.1 million registered voters.

On the first day of voting Saturday, lines of hundreds of voters snaked around some of the country's 4,000 polling stations. Though the lines Sunday were considerably shorter, voter turnout continued to be strong, amid scattered reports of intimidation and voting irregularities.

In Goromozi, 12 miles, east of the capital, Harare, about a dozen voters lined up late Sunday morning outside a courthouse to vote beneath the gaze of a cracked photo of Mugabe.

``People are now feeling that it's high time we have a change. Twenty years is too long for a government to run a country,'' said Graciano Jeremiah, 29, who works in video production.

Luka Mwasinira, who estimated he is in his 70s, hobbled to the polls on a crutch and with a painful back injury. He was turned away, however, because his identification did not have a photograph on it.

``I'm really disheartened,'' he said in the Shona language.

Many voters refused to talk with reporters, saying only that their vote was secret.

That comment parroted the MDC's last-minute information campaign intended to dispel rumors the ruling party had installed cameras in the voting booths and would exact retribution against opposition voters.

Threats of violence, however, did depress voter turnout in some districts, Tsvangirai said, and his party would ask to have those results nullified.

No corroboration from independent election monitors was immediately available.

Nkomo, chairman of the ruling party, planned to protest what he said were opposition electoral violations. In one instance over the weekend, government opponents dropped leaflets from an airplane, a breach of electoral law, he said.

Top EU Observer Says Zimbabwe Polls Calm

Sunday June 25 5:20 AM ET By Manoah Esipisu

HARARE (Reuters) - The chief European Union monitor in Zimbabwe's watershed elections said on Sunday the first day of voting had been generally peaceful, but there were a few incidents of intimidation and violence.

Voting resumed on Sunday for the second and final day and officials reported calm at polling stations in the capital. Polls were due to close at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) but officials say they could stay open longer if people are still lining up.

``Generally, from reports we are receiving through the country, it was peaceful except for a few exceptions of intimidation and violence,'' Pierre Schori, the leader of the 150-member EU mission, told Reuters.

Schori, a Swede, leads the biggest group of foreign observers at the poll, which was preceded by four months of bloodshed and intimidation.

On Saturday the opposition and Zimbabwean local monitors alleged intimidation of voters by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party, and other irregularities.

Asked about these allegations, Schori said his group had received reports from local monitors, but declined to comment further. Government officials on Saturday dismissed the reports and said voting had been peaceful.

Around five million people are eligible to vote. The final result for the 120 contested parliamentary seats could be announced late on Tuesday or on Wednesday.

Many Zimbabweans queued for several hours on Saturday to cast their ballots in the southern African country's most important poll since independence 20 years ago, with the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) posing the first serious challenge to Mugabe's party.

``Yesterday we got the impression of intense determination by the people of Zimbabwe to determine and shape their own destiny,'' said Schori, who will give an interim report on the elections at midnight (2200 GMT) Sunday.

After long queues on Saturday, election officials advised voters to cast their ballot early to avoid a long wait, suggesting they go to the polling stations before church.

Mike Auret, who is standing for the MDC in the capital, was upbeat.

``Except for the difficulties in getting the voters' roll in order, everything is peaceful. I have been to polling stations and seen the people's faces as they voted and I feel confident,'' he said.

Analysts said the election outcome appeared to be wide open, but Mugabe shrugged off suggestions of an opposition victory.

``The prophets of doom are prophets of doom. Their prophecies are doomed,'' Mugabe told state media before voting on Saturday.

Stan Gorezvarimwa, 29, was among those to take Mugabe's election message to heart on Sunday.

``This time I am voting again to make sure ZANU-PF stays in power. It's okay to have an opposition but the opposition we have here does not have my interests as a black man at heart,'' he said at a station in Harare.

Mugabe will meet the leaders of Namibia and Democratic Republic of the Congo in Harare later on Sunday to discuss the 22-month-old Congo civil war.

Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola sent troops to the vast central African country in 1998 to defend Kabila against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

Local Zimbabwean election monitors gave a grim assessment of the first day of balloting.

``We are getting reports from all over the country that people are being victimized, some being stopped from voting and others are still suffering violence,'' said Kumbi Hodzi, coordinator of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network that has deployed 15,000 monitors. ``We have deployed most of our monitors, but they are being deliberately kept out of the polling stations on the ground,'' said Hodzi, who blamed partisan civil servants.

Zimbabwe's top election official Mariyawanda Nzuwa said there were ``a few incidents here and there,'' including two people who tried to vote twice and were arrested.

The poll follows four months of state-supported invasions of white-owned farms by veterans of the country's liberation war, which ended with white-ruled Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe in 1980.

At least 30 people, most of them supporters of the MDC, have died since February.

Mugabe to Bar Opposition From Government

Sunday June 25 9:11 AM ET By Barry Moody

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's ruling party said on Sunday President Robert Mugabe would bar the opposition from government whatever the result of this weekend's election.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is mounting the biggest challenge to Mugabe's ZANU-PF party since it began 20 years of unbroken rule after independence.

Analysts believe it could take a majority of parliamentary seats after the two-day poll which ends on Sunday night.

But John Nkomo, ZANU-PF's national chairman, told a news conference that under the constitution, Mugabe had the sole right to appoint his cabinet from those elected to parliament.

``There will be no change in government. ZANU-PF will form the government whatever the results. There will be no opposition in government.''

``He can even have a cabinet of just five if he wants,'' Nkomo said. ``Mugabe is an institution.''

Mugabe does not himself face re-election until 2002.

Nkomo expected ZANU-PF, which has been in power since independence in 1980, to win an overwhelming majority of the 120 seats up for grabs.

``No other party has a chance,'' Nkomo said. ``We have done our work and the results will speak for themselves.''

But MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters during a tour of Harare: ``Mugabe is history. There is life beyond Mugabe.''

Voting resumed on Sunday for the second and final day and officials reported calm at polling stations. Polls were due to close at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) but officials say they could stay open longer if people are still queuing.

Voting Quieter On Sunday

Long queues were reported in some areas but in others voting was much quieter than on Saturday when voting was heavy.

In Guruve, about 200 kms northeast of Harare, ZANU-PF candidate Edward Chindori-Chininga told Reuters: ``I think the absence of voters today is because we urged all our supporters to try and vote on the first day.''

The local polling station had reported only 20 voters after five hours of voting on Sunday.

Pierre Schori, head of the biggest group of foreign election monitors, from the European Union, said the first day of voting on Saturday had been largely peaceful.

``Generally, from reports we are receiving through the country, it was peaceful except for a few exceptions of intimidation and violence,'' Schori told Reuters. He heads a 150-member EU mission.

On Saturday the opposition and Zimbabwean local monitors alleged intimidation of voters by ZANU-PF supporters, and other irregularities.

Election Peaceful Than Campaign

Speaking to reporters later in the northern town of Marondera after visiting several polling stations, Schori said there was a sharp contrast between the actual election and the violent campaign.

``The difference of the process prior to and on election day are like night and day. Of course there was violence prior to the elections, but the election days have been generally peaceful except for a few incidents.''

The vote follows four months of political violence and state-supported invasions of white-owned farms by veterans of the country's liberation war, which ended with white-ruled Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe in 1980.

At least 30 people, most of them supporters of the MDC, have died since February.

Schori said Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi had told him that all parties would accept the results. ``The important and critical point is that both the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC will accept the poll result.

``The fact that there is a high turnout is positive. I am impressed by the long queues,'' Schori said.

Sekeramayi denied there had been any violence or incidents.

``Everything is going well ... all who want to vote have been accorded that right and there has been no violence or harassment of any kind at polling stations.''

He added: ``What we find unacceptable is that for most of the international community for the election to be free and fair, the opposition has to win. That is a treacherous position.''

Tsvangirai predicted the high turnout would bring a big majority for the opposition.

``The large turnout will reflect the sweep from government to the MDC in an overwhelming way,'' Tsvangirai said on BBC television .

``I have no doubt that, if that is translated into parliamentary seats, the MDC will have an overwhelming parliamentary majority.''

Around five million people are eligible to vote. The final result for the 120 contested parliamentary seats could be announced late on Tuesday or on Wednesday.

Many Zimbabweans queued for several hours on Saturday to cast their ballots in the southern African country's most important poll since independence 20 years ago.

``Yesterday we got the impression of intense determination by the people of Zimbabwe to determine and shape their own destiny,'' said Schori, who will give an interim report on the elections at midnight (2200 GMT) Sunday.

Zimbabwe Election Is Greatest Challenge to Mugabe

Zimbabwe Elections
Voters line up to cast their ballot in the village of Sadza, some 150 km south of Harare, 24 June 2000. Zimbabweans started to vote 24 June in the first of two days of polling in the 2000 parliamentary elections AFP PHOTO ODD ANDERSEN Original Filename: ZIMBABWE-HUNZVI-VOTE.jpg (AFP)

By Jon Jeter
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 25, 2000; Page A01

HARARE, Zimbabwe, June 24 "" Under a joyless midmorning sky today, Batsirayi Nyamugamu told war stories while he waited to cast the most important ballot of his life.

When this former British colony was fighting for independence 23 years ago, Nyamugamu barreled over a land mine that the white minority government had intended for his father, a school headmaster who shuttled food, supplies and messages to rebel soldiers led by Robert Mugabe. The 12-year-old Nyamugamu awoke from a coma three months later to discover his mother was dead and his father jailed.

"See this here," he said, pointing to a scar that runs practically the length of his forehead. "Everybody paid a price for that war, and so when somebody gets up and starts telling me about what they did 20 or 30 years ago it really hacks me off. This election is not about our past, it's about the future. . . . I have a daughter to think about now, and this vote is about the Zimbabwe I want her to live in."

Educated and disillusioned, the 35-year-old marketing manager represents what is at once President Mugabe's greatest triumph and the greatest threat to his 20 years of virtually unchallenged rule of this southern African country. Voters who turned out today for the first of two days of parliamentary elections are as preoccupied with the governing party's corruption and mishandling of the economy as they are with its role in the independence struggle. Despite Mugabe's appeals to nationalistic pride, and his governing party's repeated efforts during the campaign to rally supporters with racially charged rhetoric and imagery from the war against colonialism, Zimbabwe increasingly appears ready for a change. According to a poll released last week, the newly formed opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is poised to capture 70 of the 120 legislative seats up for grabs; another 30 seats are appointed by Mugabe. The governing Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) now holds 147 of the 150 seats.

The 76-year-old Mugabe doesn't have to run for reelection until 2002, but the stiff competition his party now faces is a clear indication of voters' growing dissatisfaction with the aging warrior who led them to victory in 1980 over the former British colony known as Rhodesia.

The four months of political violence that led up to this week's elections are symbolic of sub-Saharan Africa's growing pains as a generation comes of age with fading memories of the continent's painful past and turns toward its uncertain future. Across Africa, the prosaic issues of livability--jobs, health care and the quality of schools--are beginning to rival and even eclipse liberation as priorities.

"The war is over," said Peter Mita, 40, as he emerged from a voting booth. "Our problem is no longer the British. It is our leaders' failed economic policies."

Following the campaign violence in which nearly 1,600 white-owned farms were seized by independence war veterans and at least 32 people--most of them supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change--were killed, voter turnout was heavy, but polling was largely peaceful.

"This is the most I've ever seen, in terms of numbers of voters on the first day, which is usually light," said Stanley Gumbodete, 32, a schoolteacher in Machete, a village about 60 miles east of Harare, the capital.

Only weeks ago, Gumbodete was pulled from his car and beaten by a dozen thugs who he said were supporters of Mugabe's party. He spent days in the hospital but, despite his fear of reprisals, joined his neighbors today outside the small schoolhouse on a narrow, dirt road.

"My people needed my vote," he said. "We need change. The government has ignored people's social welfare, their health and the economy, and they are beating them, raping women, torturing us instead."

Gumbodete said that when he was a child, the rebels would use him and his friends to courier messages because the Rhodesian forces did not suspect them.

"The war was terrible," he said. "I saw people killed and raped and beaten. But now it's ZANU that is doing the same thing, and that's not the country that I want my two sons to grow up in."

Mugabe's repeated encouragement--and many believe orchestration--of the violence and farm seizures has been widely criticized by foreign donors and the international community. His once impenetrable popularity here has waned as allegations of corruption within his cabinet have increased, inflation has soared to 60 percent and unemployment to 50 percent, and a fuel shortage has forced motorists and truck drivers to wait in line for hours.

The independent media and voters have heavily criticized his decision two years ago to send 11,000 troops to neighboring Congo to support President Laurent Kabila's efforts to defend his government from rebels. With no Cold War, and the cash that flowed into Africa from the Soviet Bloc, the Marxist ideology that influenced Mugabe and many other African leaders holds little sway with voters, particularly young ones. Nearly one-third of Zimbabwe's voters were born after independence.

Since voters handed Mugabe his first electoral defeat in February, rejecting his proposals to consolidate his constitutional authority even more, he has repeatedly characterized white farmers--who continue to own a disproportionate share of arable land, even though they account for less than 1 percent of the population of 12.5 million--as "enemies of the state."

He has portrayed the Movement for Democratic Change as "stooges" of foreigners and British imperialism. Campaign ads have urged voters not to "turn back the clock" and broadcast images of Rhodesian soldiers dragging the corpses of black rebels through the mud and bush.

"We ushered democratic change into this country," Mugabe told nearly 10,000 supporters at a political rally last week in Chinhoyi, 75 miles northwest of Harare. "My war veterans have done the right thing. It is a continuation of the liberation struggle."

Such rhetoric has not found the audience it once did. Mugabe's Marxist policies in the first decade of his rule greatly expanded the colonial regime's educational and health care infrastructure, creating a middle class that is among Africa's most educated and increasingly willing to stand up to him.

"People know that the land issue needs to be addressed . . . but we want it to be addressed properly, not through violence and intimidation and the loss of international goodwill," Gumbodete said. "The whites are no longer what ails this country. Our leadership sickens us."

The Movement for Democratic Change would have to win 76 of the 120 available seats for a parliamentary majority because the constitution enables Mugabe to appoint 30 lawmakers, providing his party with a built-in and substantial advantage. Last week's polls combined with today's heavy turnout--the heaviest since 1980, election officials said--indicates that the opposition has the momentum.

But concerns of vote-rigging are widespread and already, Morgan Tsvangirai, the labor leader who heads the Movement for Democratic Change, has said that his party will protest the validity of the elections if it does not win a majority.

"The die is cast," he said in a statement today. "This is the day we move forward as a country or backwards into an economic abyss."

Zimbabwe Election at a Glance

Zimbabweans went to the polls yesterday and today to elect a new parliament. But for most voters, the election is about whether longtime autocratic President Robert Mugabe will be forced to loosen his 20-year grip on power. As head of state, Mugabe is not on the ballot now, and his six-year term runs until 2002. But for the first time since independence, the opposition has a chance to win a sizable number of seats.

The government

Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), led by Mugabe. The ruling party is urban-based and backed by the older establishment voters who still feel indebted to Mugabe for his role in the struggle against white rule in the 1970s. Party holds 147 seats.

The opposition

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC); the party appeals to younger voters who feel that Mugabe's rule will not realize the nation's full economic potential. It was established last year. There are several other opposition parties, one of which holds three seats in parliament.

At stake

120 seats in the House of Assembly.

The house has 150 seats, 12 of which are appointed by the president; 10 seats are reserved for traditional chiefs and eight are filled by provincial governors.

76 seats required to win a majority in the house.

The campaign

The campaign has been marked by violence and intimidation by the ruling party, particularly war veterans supporting Mugabe, and at least 30 people have died.

In the spring, militants began to occupy white-owned farms. Mugabe has promised to redistribute white-owned farms to landless blacks after the election.

Opposition leader Tsvangirai has said his party would win a majority, but that Mugabe was trying to rig the vote.

Some of Mugabe's supporters have threatened to take up arms if ZANU-PF loses the election.

The process

Number of registered voters: 5.1 million.

About 300 monitors from the Commonwealth, European Union, African organizations and Japan will observe the voting. Mugabe has excluded 200 other observers, including some from the United States and Britain.

There has been confusion over the location of many polling places and over accreditation of local polling observers.

The country

Population: 12.5 million;

44 percent under age 15; 3 percent older than 65

Income per person: $720

Life expectancy: 40 years

HIV infection rate: 25.84, one of the highest in Africa.

Economy: In the past year, 60 percent inflation and 50 percent unemploy-ment have plagued the country. Hard currency reserves, dependent on tobacco sales and tourism, have dwindled, and gasoline is in short supply. Mugabe's virulent criticism of Britain, the former colonial ruler, has dried up loans and invest-ments. Zimbabwe's involvement in a war in Congo has also hurt the economy.

SOURCES: Wire services and staff reports, International Foundation for Electoral Systems

After Campaign Marked by Intimidation, Zimbabwe Voting Opens With Relative Calm

New York Times, 25 June 2000


MARONDERA, Zimbabwe, June 24 -- The first day of long-awaited national elections was reported largely peaceful today, apparently free of the brazen intimidation and violence that marked the campaign and threatened to mar a vote seen as the biggest challenge to the grip of President Robert Mugabe in the 20 years since white minority rule ended.

A smattering of voter registration problems and a number of delays in accrediting local election monitors were reported, but election observers said the troubles were far less serious than they could have been, and that the process so far was most notable for being peaceful.

"It's very quiet, surprisingly calm," said Irene-Maria Eich, a spokeswoman for the election observers from the European Union, which has the largest contingent of foreign monitors.

"It's really going well. It's good news."

The country's more than five million voters are electing a new Parliament, and the party that has controlled the government since blacks won majority rule in 1980 is facing its first real challenge.

In less than a year, a rising opposition party led by a coalition of black academics and labor activists has seized on deepening popular discontent over the nation's crumbling economy and continuing corruption to challenge the governing party.

Indeed the only real question in this weekend's voting is how many seats the new party, the Movement for Democratic Change, will take from Mr. Mugabe, who has led the country since 1980. His party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, called ZANU-PF, controls all but three seats in the 150-member Parliament.

Here in this urban center about 35 miles south of the capital, Harare, and in the rural communities that surround it, interviews with voters this morning suggested that the results are likely to follow the pattern that has emerged as the opposition has gained support.

Older and rural voters appear to be sticking with the party of the 76-year-old president and former guerrilla leader while younger and urban voters seem more likely to latch on to the new party as their best hope for a change in the country's miserable economic fortunes.

At the office of the rural development agency in the village of Seke, several miles from here, voters stood in line today, clutching their identity documents, waiting to cast their ballots by candlelight in the dark, drafty interior of an unlighted building. Everyone interviewed said the decision to come out to vote, despite the violence of the last several months, was easy -- and the decision about who to support seemed to have been even easier.

"I voted for Mugabe," said Esther Mugiyo, 59. Though the president is not up for re-election this year, he is considered the embodiment of his party. "He's doing everything for us that we need in the rural areas," she added.

Like others interviewed here, she knew almost nothing about the new opposition party. Most of what she learns about politics, she said, comes from local leaders of the governing party, and what little she had heard about the new party only left her puzzled.

"What I didn't understand," she said, "is, what is this party for? We already won independence. We know ZANU-PF is our party."

Here, in the region's biggest town, however, voters appeared to be taking a different view of the election. Hundreds of people, a number of whites among them, waited as long as an hour to cast their ballot and -- to read between the lines of their comments -- to cast a vote for a change in the leadership of the nation.

"We have to improve the economic situation," said James Sobola, a 25-year-old gardener, after voting in the auditorium of the Step Ahead Academy, a vocational school near the center of town.

Like everyone else interviewed here, Mr. Sobola did not want to say for whom he had voted. Much of the political violence of the last several months has been directed at supporters of the opposition party, and Mr. Sobola said the prospect of more such attacks gave him pause as he contemplated casting his vote.

"I worry so much," he said. "It's not good, the violence. But I'm not afraid. We are in a free country."

Encouraged as they are by the calm of the first day, election observers have said that they are concerned about how widespread fears like Mr. Sobola's are and how many people might have passed up voting out of fear that the months-long campaign of intimidation against opposition supporters might spill over into this weekend.

The European Union's observer mission is expected to deliver a preliminary report after the polls close on Sunday, and it will look carefully at turnout as a crucial measure of whether the pre-election intimidation compromised the fairness of the vote.

Another question will be how quickly the Zimbabwean election authorities resolve the problems that surfaced today in accrediting the local observers, who number about 16,000.

After saying it would only accredit a fraction of that number, the government decided late this week to accredit all of them. But election authorities said they did not have enough accreditation cards for all 16,000, and by this afternoon only about 30 percent had been issued the proper identification and dispatched to polling places.

The Zimbabwean government's refusal to accredit British and American observers has been yet another issue, and while the government has refused to budge on British observers, it did ease its stance on Americans, saying Friday that it would allow 27 diplomats at the American Embassy to serve as observers.

Mugabe Says Troops Will Stay in Congo

Reuters - Jun 25 2000 12:38PM ET

HARARE (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe on Sunday slammed critics of Zimbabwe's costly war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and said his troops would stay until peace was assured.

``Not until we are guaranteed the security of the Congo and the sustenance of the government of President (Laurent) Kabila will we pull out,'' Mugabe told reporters after a three-hour meeting with Kabila and Namibian President Sam Nujoma in Harare.

``We need our allied troops with us all the time whenever there is a threat from our enemies. Their withdrawal depends on the aggressors,'' Kabila said.

Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos did not attend Sunday's meeting of the Congo war allies and was represented by his ambassador in Harare.

Zimbabwe has kept a third of its army in the Congo since 1998 when it joined Namibia and Angola to defend Kabila against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

The war, and the deaths of Zimbabwean soldiers in the conflict, are deeply unpopular in this country, where voters went to the polls on Sunday for the second and final day of the most important election since independence 20 years ago.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has blamed Zimbabwe's battered economy partly on the 22-month-old war, which is draining $3 million a month from the treasury.

Key western donors have over the past year suspended aid to Zimbabwe mostly in protest over spending in the DRC.

``Why raise the issue of resources now? They (critics) should keep their dirty mouths shut on that one,'' Mugabe said.

``Zimbabwe has an obligation and why should resources that are used by us to sustain the sovereignty of a member of SADC (Southern African Development Community) be of concern more to outsiders than to our people?''

Nujoma said the talks focused on reviving a fragile peace agreement signed by the warring parties last year.

The Lusaka peace accords have been violated by all sides, delaying the deployment of around 5,000 United Nations peacekeepers.

The leaders also discussed recent fighting between Uganda and Rwanda, which they said was delaying the implementation of the peace agreement.

The erstwhile allies earlier this month fought fierce battles for control of the Congolese diamond trading center of Kisangani.

Opposition Shrugs Off Mugabe Government Ban Threat

Reuters - Jun 25 2000 12:48PM ET

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition on Sunday shrugged off a threat to bar them from government even if they won this weekend's election and said President Robert Mugabe was ''history.''

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is mounting the biggest challenge to Mugabe's ZANU-PF party since it began 20 years of unbroken rule after independence.

Analysts believe it could take a majority of parliamentary seats after the two-day poll which ends on Sunday night.

But John Nkomo, ZANU-PF's national chairman, told a news conference that under the constitution, Mugabe had the sole right to appoint his cabinet from those elected to parliament.

``There will be no change in government. ZANU-PF will form the government whatever the results. There will be no opposition in government,'' he said.

``He can even have a cabinet of just five if he wants,'' Nkomo said. ``Mugabe is an institution.''

But MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai contemptuously dismissed the threat. ``It doesn't matter what he does. That's the end. There's always a stage where the curtains will be drawn.''

Touring polling stations in the black township of Bidiriro, near Harare, the charismatic former trades union leader told reporters: ``Mugabe is history. There is life beyond Mugabe.''

The president, who calls the MDC stooges of former colonial ruler Britain, does not himself face re-election until 2002.

Tsvangirai only launched the MDC nine months ago, but focusing on the crisis in the economy, he has mounted a potent challenge to the unbroken 20-year rule of Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

Nkomo expected ZANU-PF, which has been in power since independence in 1980, to win an overwhelming majority of the 120 seats up for grabs.

``No other party has a chance,'' Nkomo said. ``We have done our work and the results will speak for themselves.''

But Tsvangirai said the high turnout would favor his party.


The voting appeared much quieter on Sunday than Saturday when long queues formed at polling stations.

In Guruve, about 200 kms northeast of Harare, ZANU-PF candidate Edward Chindori-Chininga told Reuters: ``I think the absence of voters today is because we urged all our supporters to try and vote on the first day.''

Pierre Schori, head of the biggest group of foreign election monitors, from the European Union, said the first day of voting on Saturday had been largely peaceful.

``Generally, from reports we are receiving through the country, it was peaceful except for a few exceptions of intimidation and violence,'' Schori told Reuters. He heads a 150-member EU mission. On Saturday the opposition and Zimbabwean local monitors alleged intimidation of voters by ZANU-PF supporters, and other irregularities.

Speaking to reporters later in the northern town of Marondera after visiting several polling stations, Schori said there was a sharp contrast between the actual election and the violent campaign.

``The difference of the process prior to and on election day are like night and day. Of course there was violence prior to the elections, but the election days have been generally peaceful except for a few incidents.''


The vote follows four months of political violence and state-supported invasions of white-owned farms by veterans of the country's liberation war, which ended with white-ruled Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe in 1980.

At least 30 people, most of them supporters of the MDC, have died since February.

Schori said Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi had told him that all parties would accept the vote outcome. ``The important and critical point is that both the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC will accept the poll result.

``The fact that there is a high turnout is positive. I am impressed by the long queues,'' Schori said.

``Yesterday we got the impression of intense determination by the people of Zimbabwe to determine and shape their own destiny,'' said Schori.

Around five million people are eligible to vote. The final result for the 120 contested parliamentary seats could be announced late on Tuesday or on Wednesday.

Despite the election, Mugabe found time on Sunday to host a meeting of Angola, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his allies in a war where he has deployed 10,000 troops to prop up President Laurent Kabila.

The MDC has blamed Zimbabwe's battered economy partly on the war, which is draining $3 million a month from state coffers.

But Mugabe dismissed his critics. ``They should keep their dirty mouths shut on that one,'' he said.

----- Original Message -----
From: Rudo <Rudo@mdc.co.zw>
Sent: 25 June 2000 17:28
Subject: Press Statement

Election Briefing, Sunday, 25 June 2000

The drums of freedom have begun beating in the hearts of our people.  They are preparing for democratic change.

In 1980 Zimbabweans voted for political liberation from colonial oppressors; in the year 2000 Zimbabweans are again voting for freedom. This time from the corrupt.

Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have already made their mark on ballot papers in dusty school rooms and in candle lit tents. . People are not standing in long queues for hours to vote for the status quo.

This election is proceeding as we predicted on Thursday: There was a last minute flurry of violence and aggressive conduct designed to deter polling agents on Friday night and Saturday morning. There were armed barricades, beatings and abductions. This we anticipated from the very violent process that preceded the election.
We had many incidents, most of them minor, reported on Saturday morning - we conveyed 60 incidents to the press and to international observers,in four briefing papers on Saturday, as a sample of what was being reported.  They were either mostly acts of intimidation, but very many related to the incompetence of the Registrar General.

However, by Saturday morning there was a decrease in complaints and since then voting is proceeding quietly.

Those who sought to intimidate have become awed by the incredible determination of people to vote.

Our concerns are these - the progressive disenfranchisement of people - which we highlighted in the Thursday press briefing.  And those concerns are proving to be wellplaced.
That process began with the two changes to the Electoral Act in the 3 weeks before the election. It continued with problems with the voters roll, the destruction of identity discs, and problems with the postal vote among other issues we have already highlighted.  At polling stations we have seen and had reported to us problems with the voters roll - the Minister of Home Affairs himself was not on the roll and had to be given special permission to vote. In some constituencies we have seen such anomalies as entire sections of the roll, say pages one to 40 not being available, or none of the surnames beginning with M, as a further example.

Today has seen a calm voting process, characterised by the determination of people to vote.  
* Our concerns are that the extreme slowness of voting in some areas may see many voters queueing all day but ultimately unable to vote.
* We are concerned about the sealing of ballot boxes - some were not sealed properly in Harare yesterday. And then we urge the careful observaton of the movement of the boxes and the counting process.
* Ultimately; violence and intimidation may prove to have had less of an effect on the vote than electoral irregularities, however, it is too early to see whether these are on a scale that will have an impact on the result.
*So far what we are seeing is less deliberate fraud, than massive incompetence on behalf of the office of the Registrar General. This incompetence is symbolic of the contempt with which this government has held the rights of the Zimbabwean people.  The right to vote is considered with the same contempt as the right to decent health care.  And so we have had progressive disenfranchisement. Let us take the example of soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for one. We believe they have been denied the right to vote in this election because the Registrar General's office failed to get the logistics in place to send and receive their ballots. By the close of postal voting at noon on Saturday 9 924 postal ballot papers had been issued, and around 1 000 still had to be processed. This includes
diplomats, the armed forces and police on duty at polling stations this weekend and soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is an indicator that the Office of the Registrar General did not deal with postal voting sufficiently timeously to give all those working or abroad time to vote.
There were relatively low postal vote tallies in most constituencies. Those with the highest numbers of postal votes included Kadoma East (303); Mutare central (350); Mutare North (452); Masvingo central (256); Dzivarasekwa (247).   But what we also believes it means is that if you reflect on the fact that of all the postal votes counted for security officers working this weekend, plus diplomats, plus 11 000 soldiers in the DRC, it appears according to the information we have that those soldiers have been disenfranchised - they have not been given the privilege of voting in this election.

There has been an obsession with race emanating from ZanuPF in this election process. Racism is fascism.  Failed political leaders always look for scapegoats, and despots always resort to fascism.  The MDC is a nonracial organisation, we are proud to say we respect the rights of all human beings.

Diversity is strength - if it is celebrated and if tolerance becomes the norm.

Over the 20 years of ZanuPF rule  civil society collapsed. People feared to dissent. Human rights issues were shelved as activists became afraid of persecution.  In South Africa and Zambia, the trade union movement gave a voice to the voiceless, it created the basis for fresh political mobilisation and that too happened in Zimbabwe.  What we have seen in the
nine months since the launch of the Movement for Democratic Change is the rise of a new energy in Zimbabwe.  Our campaign has been run by volunteers relying on donations ... and all of those people are fuelled by hope. 
We believe that new energy will carry us through into a new and more vigrous future. This nation which Robert Mugabe had no hope of uniting - he was after all a military officer and not someone schooled in listening to the heart of ordinary people and acting on their behalf - this nation will become united for the first time in its history under an MDC government.

Keep up the momentum!


MDC Support Centre
8th Floor, Gold Bridge

Guqula Izenzo/Maitiro Chinja

"Zimbabwe's strength lies in racial and ethnic diversity - we will overcome
attempts to divide us" (Morgan Tsvangirai)

Back to the Top
Back to Index

ZANU PF stares defeat

Experts predict MDC landslide

Financial Gazette 22 June 2000 - David Masunda, Deputy Editor-in-Chief

ZIMBABWE'S ruling ZANU PF party appears headed for a crushing defeat by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in general elections at the weekend, a Financial Gazette survey of leading opinion-makers revealed this week.

But a few analysts said that ZANU PF, in power for the past 20 years, could possibly scrape through to form the next government because President Robert Mugabe, the head of the party, has the power to appoint 30 legislators in the 150-member parliament.

The opinion-makers, including politicians, writers and political analysts, agreed that whatever the outcome of the elections, ZANU PF would be gravely wounded by the results of the ballot.

Some doubted whether the party could survive the turmoil if Mugabe chooses to live with a strong and hostile opposition while others predicted that ZANU PF could split into two camps in the aftermath of a defeat.

'In the first place, this is the first time that ZANU PF has got a big challenge,' renowned author and political commentator Chenjerai Hove said of the weekend elections.

The ruling party is facing an unprecedented challenge from the newly-formed labour- backed MDC led by former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai.

'If the MDC got less than 40 seats in Parliament, it would be so clear to everyone that this election has once again been rigged because ZANU PF has never been ashamed of rigging,' Hove said.

He said the ruling party faced a massive challenge from the MDC and that it had 'misfired' by encouraging its supporters and veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s war of independence to conduct a campaign of intimidation and violence.

Thousands of villagers, rural teachers and nurses have fled into towns since February when ZANU PF supporters and elements from the veterans launched a violent campaign to cow voters from backing the opposition.

At least 30 people have been killed and hundreds maimed in the violence that began at white- owned commercial farms but has fanned across the entire southern African country.

'This violence will backfire because you cannot beat people to vote for you,' Hove, author of the award-winning novel Bones, said.

Hove said ZANU PF had never been known to persuade people to vote for it and its current campaign was 'exuberant with arrogance'.

Masipula Sithole, Zimbabwe's leading analyst and a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), said evidence of his Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) poll conducted last month showed that at least 78 of the 120 contested seats would be won outright by the MDC.

The MPOI poll was conducted by 256 researchers, mainly university and college students, and was carried out in all the constituencies except Nkayi where suspected war veterans confiscated 50 questionnaires.

Sithole said the margin of error of the MPOI poll was 10 percent. He reminded doubters that a similar poll by his institute in February correctly predicted that Zimbabweans would reject a government-sponsored constitution.

Fifty-five percent voted against the constitution that month and the MPOI poll had a few days before predicted a slim victory for the 'No' vote, championed by the MDC and the National Constitutional Assembly, a coalition of civic rights groups.

'The only chance ZANU PF has of winning this election is rigging if these figures (the MPOI poll) are correct,' Sithole said.

John Makumbe, another top UZ political scientist, predicted that the MDC would sweep at least 80 seats and ZANU PF not more than 40.

'If ZANU PF does not rig the elections one hundred percent, then the MDC will win. The demand for change among the people is the major factor in these elections,' he said.

Makumbe said what was uppermost in the minds of most Zimbabweans was the poor state of the economy, massive unemployment and high levels of official corruption. People would vote against ZANU PF because they knew the party was unable to address these issues.

'I think the intimidation and the violence have not been successful in pushing many people to vote for ZANU PF,' Makumbe observed.

'On the contrary, the violence and the intimidation have made people revolt because of the use of such primitive tactics. As a result, a lot of people are going to vote for change rather than the status quo.'

Edgar Tekere, a veteran politician and former close ally of Mugabe, said: 'Mugabe's feathers will be pruned at the weekend.'

The Mutare-based founder of the now defunct Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) said Zimbabweans were 'fed up with ZANU PF and its tired policies'.

'These people are just a gang of thieves,' said Tekere, once ZANU PF's second most powerful man after Mugabe.

Tekere was thrown out of the ruling party in 1988 for criticising Mugabe and agitating against the one-party rule then dear to the party's leaders.

He launched ZUM in April 1989 and his party became the most serious contender to ZANU PF during the 1990 elections.

'The only thing I am concerned about is that Mugabe needs to adjust and I am not sure if he is capable of doing that,' Tekere said.

'Mugabe should come to terms with the fact that we are on planet earth and should stop his village, bully-boy tactics. He should respect the outcome of the elections.'

UZ political scientist Edmore Kambudzi said the massive turnout at the MDC's rally at Harare's Rufaro Stadium on Sunday compared to the paltry 5 000 at Mugabe's Saturday rally in nearby Highfield was a sign that Zimbabweans were ready to change the old guard.

'It is a sign that ZANU PF is at risk of losing the coming election not only in Harare, as admitted by Mugabe, but in the other constituencies across the country.'

Another UZ lecturer, Solomon Nkiwane, said there was going to be a significant shift in the voting patterns of Zimbabweans this weekend and the shift would benefit the MDC.

'The mood in this country - and let's all be honest and accept this - is for change and not only for those who support the MDC,' he said.

'Even ZANU PF supporters are yearning for change. Any Zimbabwean would like change which will bring about employment, a change that will bring a stoppage to violence. How that shift translates into numbers of seats for the MDC is anybody's guess,' he said.

Nkiwane said what was clear was that ZANU PF was going to be the loser from the shift of voting patterns.

Alfred Nhema, head of political studies at UZ, said the MDC needed at least 74 seats to dislodge ZANU PF but doubted whether the labour-backed party could muster this.

Nhema, one of only two analysts sceptical of a sweeping MDC win, said the ruling party was likely to form the next government because of the 30 seats allocated to Mugabe to appoint non-constituency MPs.

Nhema said what made the situation more complicated were the 92 candidates who had decided to stand as independents throughout the country.

'What I would like to highlight is that ZANU PF is going into this election with 30 seats and all it needs is 46 seats,' Nhema said.

Lupi Mushayakarara, director of the Institute for the Advancement of Freedom, said it was obvious Zimbabweans were angry at the deterioration in the quality of their lives and were likely to vote for the opposition.

Mushayakara cautioned that although the MDC could be very popular, that popularity might not necessarily translate into votes.

Most of the analysts said Mugabe, whose term as head of state expires in 2002, should resign and call early presidential elections if his party loses the weekend ballot.

Both Hove and Sithole said the MDC should use its parliamentary majority, if it wins the elections, to push for legislation that brings the presidential poll forward.

'If the MDC gets the majority of the contested 120 seats in parliament, then I would expect Mugabe as a democrat to do the decent thing, to call for early presidential elections,' Sithole said.

Hove said Mugabe should resign because he would have lost the mandate to rule.

But Tekere said 'the Mugabe I know is a village bully' and would try any other tactics to stay in power. Tekere would not rule out the use of violence, as has been threatened by Chenjerai Hunzvi, leader of the veterans.

'But to what avail?' Sithole asked rhetorically on the threatened mayhem.

'Why we fought and won the liberation war was that it was on legitimate and moral grounds. What legitimacy do Hunzvi and his rogue elements have to fight the people and with what people? You need people to fight a war,' he said.

The analysts said if Mugabe chose to ignore the results of the elections and remained in power even when ZANU PF had lost, the country would become ungovernable.

ZANU PF spokesman Jonathan Moyo predicted a big win for his party.

'ZANU PF will win and win big,' Moyo said. 'This is because Zimbabweans understand that the revolution that started in 1980 has not been concluded. Zimbabweans also understand that only ZANU PF can guarantee peace, stability and national unity.'

Beyond 2000

ZIMBABWE'S cornered government has spurned all pleas from both friend and foe to end unrelenting political violence and the occupation of farms which have seriously undermined the validity of the weekend's general election.

For all the imperfections, exacerbated by an uneven playing field under which only ZANU PF uses taxpayers' funds and state machinery for its campaigns and also has an unfair advantage of 30 unelected seats, Zimbabweans should embrace this opportunity to vote en masse and without fear for their chosen parties.

They cannot and must not remain silent and in despair, as has happened too often in the past, hoping that somehow they will miraculously be rescued from their mounting crises by the angels of mercy.

No, they should use people power fully to redraw and redefine the political landscape that they want because this is only their God-given right.

Every single vote counts and by turning out in large numbers to vote on Saturday and Sunday, only one verdict will be possible: the people will win.

Whichever party assumes power after the polls, Zimbabwe will never be the same again and the new government will be on short notice to deliver or go.

Zimbabweans owe it to themselves, to use the words of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, to nurture and jealously guard democratic governance in their own land and to show whoever is in power that violations of their rights are intolerable and a dismissable offence.

They should not expect the international community to pluck them out of their endemic woes, though the world can and should help. It's only them who must take the bull by the horns, or forever remain silent, bonded to their worsening condition.

Whichever party wins the election, it faces a frighteningly daunting task of quickly pulling Zimbabwe out of its economic quagmire that has been born and fuelled by 20 years of naked arrogance, astonishing misrule and heightening official graft.

It will take more than mere words and promises to halt Zimbabwe's rapid descent into an economic abyss. Harsh measures will have to be taken in the short-to-medium term to reverse the country's slide and yet benefits will be long in coming.

Sweeping and deep cuts in government spending will have to be made. Inevitably, many in the bloated civil service will lose their jobs but there is no other solution.

Only when government spending has been brought under control and the notion of giving jobs to the boys thoroughly disabused will Zimbabwe's swelling budget deficit come down, along with its attendant rampant inflation and interest rates.

A redirection of hard-earned taxpayers' funds will urgently have to be made to stave off total collapse of the health sector and social services.

Then the new government will have to work overtime to create and nurture an investment-friendly climate necessary to attract both local and foreign money into little Zimbabwe in the highly competitive global market.

Because of the poisoned race relations that now exist " the aftermath of a needlessly bitter and blood-stained campaign " the new government will have to take swift steps to repair the damage and make each and every Zimbabwean, whatever his or her colour, creed or religion, feel that they once more belong.

Zimbabwe's tattered image, born out of years of mindless confrontation with all who wanted to help the country, will also need urgent mending.

Let no one attempt further to rig the election " the violence and farm seizures and the registration of dead voters are part of this strategy " because this will be the surest road to bloody civil strife and anarchy that is blighting much of Africa.

We want to believe that no sane Zimbabwean would want this ever to happen to the motherland. Over to you, the voters.

'The collective wisdom of the Zimbabwean people is wiser'

Masipula Sithole

IN the last three contributions I tried to show how the politics of this country was shifting to what a friend aptly called the 'rogue element' in the ruling party " the rise to prominence of Chenjerai Hunzvi and his paramilitary outfit while we nervously watched.

I suggested that this trend could easily lead to civil war. I suggested that such civil strife could be avoided if our leaders (all of them, including the military) played their constitutional roles responsibly. And that this was as simple as we made it complicated.

At the end of the last article, I asked: 'But if 'farm invasions' are not justified, will 'street invasions' be justified?'

This contribution concludes my thoughts on what I think lies ahead for Zimbabwe. For if we are not careful, 'street invasions' will occur, whether they are justified or not.

These 'street invasions' will not be led by Hunzvi and paid for by any party or government. They will simply occur.

'Street invasions' are led by unstoppable forces of history when people take to the streets because, in their perception, all attempts to change things for the better have been frustrated by the old order.

It is often when hopes for change are very high, and then are deliberately frustrated, that the people take to the streets and only come back when a new dispensation is in place. Often they come back with the head of the 'Prince' in their hands.

I am saddened each time I state this, but history is littered with decapitated heads of rulers who failed to give way to forces of change, even when this was apparent to them. Popular uprisings are often not a sudden event that takes rulers by surprise. Rulers see it coming, but for some reason they ignore the 'red' card until it is too late.

The long and short of it is that rulers should know when to exit. But power being sweet, they often resist taking the exit, even knowing what the possible consequences are. Sad, isn't it?

As rulers, we should not deny, ignore or abuse the wishes of the people, despite our feeling and perception that we are always right. The people too could be right in their collective wisdom.

Only wise rulers know this, but foolish ones employ articulate 'sophists' to try and show the people what, in their foolish wisdom, is right. The people often see through all this.

And let's face it: ZANU PF can no longer deliver. It has become obsolete, no matter how much Professor Jonathan Moyo tries to breathe some life into it.

The diagnosis is that ZANU PF is tired and it needs rest. Rest from power, not rest while it is in power.

In this respect, Professor Moyo and the emergent political entrepreneurs in ZANU PF have a major role to play. They can take over the party while its geriatrics rest.

ZANU PF needs a new leadership and a new orientation. Nothing short of a retreat, a retreat from power, will give it the opportunity to acquire this new look and orientation. Not while it is in power. The geriatrics will resist. But when they are resting, they will offer less resistance.

Frankly, the 'old guard' in ZANU PF is now 'dead wood'; the 'chefs' no longer have any new ideas.

Just listen to their rallies. It's 'British this, British that'. This nonsense is no longer tenable; in fact, it borders on the irresponsible. When are we going to start looking at ourselves and say: 'We have now seen the enemy, and it's us!'?

The parliamentary elections this weekend are very crucial for this country, perhaps more critical than any elections ever held in the history of Zimbabwe.

All major parties are agreed these are elections for change. They differ on who is to preside over this change. For that reason I feel compelled to restate what I said last week:

'The people have a right to be fed up with us, particularly when we can no longer deliver. Let us respect that right. Unless we approach these elections in this frame of mind, we are headed for trouble.

'This 'Hunzvi frame of mind' that 'if ZANU PF is defeated in these elections, we go to war' is dangerously irresponsible. It must be rejected and be replaced with a frame of mind that accepts the verdict of the people for the common good.

'We should never forget that it is in the national interest and for posterity, not for ourselves, that we should be in politics as a public service. It is when politicians forget this that they plunge their people and themselves into disaster and common ruin'.

And for our country's sake, Mukoma Tobaiwa Mudede, the temptation to 'fiddle' with these elections will come. Simply refuse to fiddle with them. It's not worth it; not this time; not on this one. It will put the country in a mess and bring common ruin.

Those who have been pronounced 'great' have often achieved their greatness by doing the right thing during trying times and at a critical moment. This nation is anxious and nervously tense as we face these elections.

No one of us, including those who may wish otherwise, will ever forget those who acted appropriately when our country was on the brink of an avoidable civil strife.

Mukoma Mudede, lani vafowetu (nemi vanin'ina), small as you are, you are holding the match in your hands. Will you set the country on fire or facilitate a historic democratic transition? Whatever you decide to do, don't forget that you are in the house too.

Let the people give us the parliament they want. Only the people, in their collective wisdom, are wiser.

I have a feeling President Robert Mugabe has finally accepted this and decided to give the country a chance. As a people, let us be magnanimous. For we did love him once, and not without cause.

I don't know which party you are going to vote for. Your vote is your secret. But as for me, I am voting for MDC " the Movement for Democratic Change.

-Masipula Sithole is a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe.

ZANU PF, MDC evoke Nkomo's memory in battle for votes

Buchizya Mseteka

BULAWAYO " The ruling ZANU PF party and the opposition are citing the memory of the revered leader Joshua Nkomo in a battle for votes in parliamentary elec-tions this weekend.

'It's a name that still comma-nds unquestioned influence and loyalty. It is still a big name here and everyone is trying to use Nkomo's name for political gain,' said David Coltart, a senior official and parliamentary candi-date with the opposition Move-ment for Democratic Change (MDC).

Coltart spoke shortly after President Robert Mugabe cam-paigned last weekend at a rally in Bulawayo, which is the second largest city, and home to the country's Ndebele people who make up 15 percent of Zimbabwe's 10 million population.

Mugabe repeatedly cited Nkomo's memory to persuade the Ndebeles to vote for his embattled party.

'Umdala wethu (Our old man) would turn in his grave if you people voted for the MDC,' Mugabe roared at the rally.

'Voting for the MDC would be the greatest betrayal to Umdala, more so that the elections come just a few weeks away from a year's anniversary of his death,' Mugabe said.

Nkomo's political career spanned the years that witnessed Zimbabwean nationalism cha-nge from mild civil resistance in the 1950s and 1960s to a bloody guerrilla war in the 1970s, finally ending white rule in the former British colony in 1980.

In Bulawayo even children are taught the history of Nkomo, a nationalist freedom fighter, who died last July while serving as vice-president.

'Whichever party can per-suade the people that it is practising Nkomo's ways and beliefs will certainly win in Matabeleland,' said 69-year-old Donald Ncube who owns haw-king businesses along Bula-wayo's wide jacaranda-lined avenues.

MDC leaders in Matabeleland are telling supporters that Mugabe's ZANU PF has presided over corruption, wrecked the economy and caused wides-pread poverty in 20 years of unchallenged rule.

Political analysts say the absence of Nkomo, who died at the age of 83, had left a political vacuum in Matabeleland and fears of renewed tension bet-ween the Ndebeles and Mugabe's Shona-dominated ZANU PF.

Nkomo, who towered over Zimbabwe's black politics for over half a century, earning himself the name 'Umdala wethu', had a soothing influence over the Ndebeles' bitterness towards the government.

Nkomo spearheaded the struggle for black majority rule but came second to Mugabe in polls when the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Nkomo and Mugabe fell out in 1982 on charges by Mugabe that the late nationalist planned a military coup. Nkomo denied the accusations and his former guerrillas rebelled. In the ensuing government crackdown, human rights groups said thousands of civilians were killed in central and southwestern Zimbabwe.

Much of the violence was alleged to have been committed by government troops, parti-cularly the notorious North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.

A unity accord between ZANU PF and Nkomo's PF-ZAPU in 1987 ended the civil war, and Mugabe made Nkomo a vice-president and gave dozens of his top offi-cials senior government posts.

But calls by the victims for an official apology and compe-nsation have hounded Mugabe.

At Nkomo's funeral, Mugabe finally labelled Nkomo Zim-babwe's greatest hero, apolo-gised and promised to pay compensation to Ndebele victims of his Fifth Brigade.

Last Saturday Mugabe again called Nkomo 'The Father of our Nation', but the MDC said he was politicking to win crucial votes in Matabeleland.

'I don't think people will be hoodwinked by this kind of campaign. People know better and this will be demonstrated on polling day,' the MDC's Coltart said.

Mugabe also acknowledged on Saturday for the first time that his ZANU PF party faced a significant challenge in this weekend's polls.

At least 30 people, mostly opposition supporters, have died in political violence linked to the invasion of hundreds of white-owned farms by pro-government militants since February. A poll published last Friday suggested the MDC was poised to win 70 of the 120 parliamentary seats up for grabs in the polls. "Reuter

Bank failures feared as loan defaults soar

Staff Reporter

UNCERTAINTY about Zi-mbabwe's political and economic future has wor-sened local banks' non-performing loans and economists this week predicted the worst was yet to come for the fina-ncial sector.

The level of loan defaults has soared since the end of 1999 as local banks report an unfavourable trading envi-ronment, dramatised by interest rates of more than 70 percent and inflation of about 60 percent.

Information on individual banks' loan defaults is a closely guarded secret but statistics from international credit rating and debt collection firm Dun and Bradstreet Zimbabwe shows that about 7 000 individuals defaulted on bank loans, hire purchase agreements and other credit facilities between December 1999 and April this year.

Dun and Bradstreet also says more than 2 820 companies had defaulted on bank loans during the first four months of this year. A total of 6 357 company were taken to court over their failure to settle their debt in the whole of 1999.

The increased number of defaults is blamed on the high inflation, interest rates, bad management and other economic hardships experie-nced by Zimbabwean indi-viduals and companies.

'The economical situation looks bleak for this year and many companies are likely to go down because of our weak Zimbabwean dollar and the factors stated above,' said Dun and Bradstreet's ma-naging director Fernando Aleixo.

The Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ), which represents the country's financial institutions, also conceded that local banks had been hit by the current economic crisis.

'As a general comment, it would be fair to say that the incidence of defaults is increasing and that this will no doubt have an impact on current year profitability of the industry,' BAZ president Greg Brackenridge said in a written response to questions from the Financial Gazette.

Most financial results published by Zimbabwean banks so far this year have exhibited one common trait " projections for higher bad and doubtful debts in 2000.

Barclays Bank of Zim-babwe Limited, one of the country's largest commercial banks, said the impact of the difficult 1999 trading en-vironment was expected to take its toll on the bank's portfolio this year.

Provisions for bad and doubtful debts, at $106 million, were substantially lower last year compared to 1998 mainly due to what bank chairman David Zam-chiya said were successes scored on the recovery front.

The bank set aside $267 million in 1998 as provision for bad debts, up from $92 million the previous year.

'In recognition for this possibility, we have set aside an additional $38,4 million in general provisions,' Zam-chiya said.

Zamchiya added that the banking group would pro-gressively review the pro-visions to ensure that these continued to reflect on the quality of the bank's portfolio.

Provisions for new doubt-ful debts for the recently privatised Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) shot up by 84 percent from $68,3 million in 1998 to $125,8 million last year.

CBZ said it was prudent to reflect such a level of provisioning given the nature of its loan portfolio which has historically been dominated by the small to medium scale enterprises, the majority of whom are more vulnerable to harsh economic conditions than larger ones.

Another local financial institution, the First Mer-chant Bank (FMB), has even said it will continue to adopt a conservative approach to lending, citing Zimbabwe's current unstable economic environment.

Advances to all sectors of the economy declined by 50 percent to $2,68 billion last year from $5,57 billion in 1998 and is expected to drop further during the current financial year due to the increasing cost of funding and concerns about the ability of borrowers to service debt.

Economists this week warned that the high inci-dence of loan defaults raised the spectre of more bank collapses during the next year, a development which could effectively undermine Zimbabwe's financial sector still smarting from the se-nsational collapse of the United Merchant Bank (UMB) two years ago.

The collapse in 1998 of the UMB, which was owned by black businessman Roger Boka, almost decimated Zimbabwe's financial sector due to the exposure of most banks to $6 billion Cold Storage Company bills frau-dulently issued by Boka.

Independent consultant economist John Robertson said the greatest challenge for banks would be to recover the funds owed by commercial farmers, currently under siege from veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war and other supporters of President Robert Mugabe's govern-ment.

The veterans have occu-pied over 1 500 white-owned farms since February this year, disrupting critical operations and threatening to unleash acute food shortages.

Commercial farmers owe banks about $25 billion in loans, a situation the eco-nomists said seriously expo-sed the local financial sector to risk.

'The government will need to consider what ha-ppens to the outstanding debts of the farmers whose properties have been taken over,' Robertson said, re-ferring to the 841 commercial farms which the government has earmarked for compul-sory acquisition under its fast-tracked land redistribution programme unveiled three weeks ago.

Agriculture is Zimbabwe's largest foreign currency earner, accounting for about 10 percent of gross domestic product.

The economists said some financial institutions would definitely close over the next two years while others would be forced to merge as the

full impact of the unstable operating environment be-gins to squeeze their profit margins.

An additional squeeze on the banks' profitability would come in the form of the foreign currency crisis, which has gripped the southern African country since Nove-mber last year and has made it impossible for most local firms to purchase key impor-ted inputs.

This, said the economists, would suffocate the private sector's ability to service loans obtained from commercial and merchant banks.

'The problem of default is expected to increase, particularly in light of the fact that the economy is expected to contract this year,' said Howard Sithole, an econo-mist with Kingdom Financial Holdings.

Analysts have forecast that Zimbabwe's economic growth will decline by up to five percent during the current financial and calendar year due to deteriorating export earnings and a generally hostile macroeconomic climate.

The analysts have argued that the economy, which has grown by an average 0,6 percent over the past three years, will slump to its lowest level this year unless the government and private sector work together to restore confidence.

An increasing number of Zimbabwean firms have already warned of reduced profits this year because of the country's hostile economic conditions that are adversely affecting the credit-worthiness of both companies and individuals.

Figures from Dun and Bradstreet show that at least 85 Zimbabwean firms from 12 different sectors of the economy went under in 1999 while 12 more were declared insolvent in the same year.

The liquidations have continued this year and 18 more companies had been liquidated in the first four months of 2000.

Shame your attackers, farm workers told

Staff Reporter

THE General Agriculture Plantation Workers' Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), the umbrella body for 400 000 farm workers who have su-ffered most from political violence sweeping Zim-babwe, urged members this week to vote over-whelmingly for a party of their choice and ignore threats of intimidation from war veterans occu-pying farms.

The union also called on international observers to move onto the farms in large numbers so workers there could participate in the ballot on Saturday and Sunday without any intimidation.

GAPWUZ secretary-gene-ral Phillip Munyanyi said farm workers should exercise their right to vote and not be intimidated by the presence of the veterans, who have occupied more than 1 500 farms across Zimbabwe in the past four months.

'We are vigorously urging our members to go out in full force to vote for a party of their choice. We are telling them that no one will know which party they will have voted for; that they have every right to elect a government of their choice and that they should not be intimidated the veterans,' Munyanyi told the Financial Gazette.

'We urge international observers to be at the farms in large numbers to ensure that conducive conditions are created for farm workers to vote freely since they have been the most disadvantaged by the violence which has been prevalent in the past few months.'

The violence has killed at least 29 people, including five farmers, a farm foreman and an unknown number of farm workers. Many other farm workers have suffered daily from severe beatings, rape, harassment and torture, including being forced to attend all-night meetings of the ruling ZANU PF party.

The veterans, allies of the ruling party, accuse the farmers and their workers of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, set to give ZANU PF its biggest challenge ever in the weekend polls.

'Zimbabweans went to war for democratic principles to prevail so that people are able to elect a government of their own choice,' Munyanyi said. 'Farm workers have the right to vote freely and we are urging them to do so and no one should intimidate them.'

He said farm workers should ignore the infor-mation being peddled by the veterans that they would know how the workers would have voted.

President Robert Mugabe, who has refused to order police to evict the veterans from the farms following two court rulings outlawing the invasions, says the veterans will remain on the farms indefinitely.

Munyanyi said most farm owners had been cooperative and were paying full wages to workers who had been forced to abandon farming operations by the violence.

In some cases, farm workers have staged protests against the veterans who have failed to pay them for lost wages despite promises to do so.



22 June 2000

Mugabe now eating his own words

Kurauone Chihwayi, Harare.

EDITOR " The men and women President Robert Mugabe, Nathan Shamu-yarira, Abel Muzorewa and Simon Muzenda once described as political upstarts have turned out to be a headache for Mugabe.

The opposition Move-ment for Democratic Change has a lot of seasoned trade unionists and former student leaders who are terribly haunting our beloved President and his team.

One wonders what experience a person like Muzorewa of the United Parties has which the young generation " Morgan Tsvangirai, Learnmore Jongwe, Tafadzwa Musekiwa, Munyaradzi Gwi-sai and others " should emulate.

Muzorewa akanganwa chazuro nehope (Muzorewa has forgotten). He was responsible for the butchering of our freedom fighters and refugees in Mozambique during the war of independence.

But there is no difference between Muzorewa and Mugabe or Ian Smith and Mugabe. In other words, Tsvangirai " whose private life Mugabe has at times attacked " stands on higher ground than Mugabe both politically and socially.

Concentrate on the tough political field, Comrade Mugabe.

In God's name go!

David J Mukaro, Harare.

EDITOR " The prevailing situation in Zimbabwe has prompted me to repeat to President Robert Mugabe the injunction made to Oliver Cromwell and quoted by Leo Amery, MP, against one Chamberlain, ushering in one Churchill as prime minister:

'You have sat here too long for any good you are doing. Depart, I say. Let us have done with you. In the name of God go!'

It worked when invoked against greater men than the 'Prince' and notwithstanding that I am not in Parliament, I pray that historical precedent will not fail us now.

Judgment day will come

Afraid of Cannibalism, Ruwa.

EDITOR " The death of innocent Zimbabweans due to government-orchestrated political violence is not only painful but shameful.

Those behind the evil adventure must be rejoicing. Yes, it's a milestone, they must be saying.

They are a rare species of carnivores which kill not to feed but to please others. Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they are doing.

The writing is clear for the blind to see, and the message loud enough for the deaf to hear: in this country, a 'right' is a 'wrong' punishable by death.

When achievements are measured in corpses and litres of blood and tears, they become sadistic and satanic.

Let them kill, let them terrorise, but the ghosts will haunt them.

The day of judgment will come when these political scavengers will meet their fate. Even the strong walls of Berlin have since fallen down.

Inside Mugabe's Cabinet

Lance Halford Reynolds, Harare.

EDITOR " The decision-making procedures inside President Robert Muga-be's Cabinet deserve a close look.

To both the man in the street and those who have the responsibility to plan and action the work of organi-sations " companies or other institutions " the failures of the Cabinet over the past eight or so years are a matter of concern and thus call for serious analysis.

The normal workings of a competent group, under an interested and experienced leader, follow a simple pattern:

lIdentifying the needs or tasks and setting them, by priority, into a list.

lIdentifying the resour-ces " human, infrastructure, financial.

lEstablishing the me-thods available to bring the tasks into line with the resources.

lAchieving agreement and commitment to this plan from all members of the group (Cabinet).

lArranging the vital coor-dination among the various departments.

lHolding regular meet-ings to review progress, to smooth out difficulties, to adjust agreed targets and so on.

In government, the result of the planning activity is the national budget.

I want to emphasise that responsibility of the Cabinet continues into the full imple-mentation of the plans. The chief executive is the moti-vator, the controller and often the visionary for the group.

Does Mugabe work in this normal manner?

With our nation in turmoil on so many fronts, this be-comes a question of great importance.

How does he lead the Cabinet? Why has it become a predictable failure in most respects?

Each minister is a de-partment head " finance, health, etc. The paper plan, the budget, suggests both agreement/commitment and coordination between them all (58 of them!) Yet the plan breaks down fast, there are no clear priorities and mana-gement becomes like in the current crisis. Why?

The evidence available shows that Mugabe works alone; he is a powerful figure who uses the ministers as the doers but not the thinkers. He rules the Cabinet not through agreed teamwork, planning and review, but by way of fear of his wrath.

The reasons for this situation may be many, but these are the likely explanations:

-Mugabe has become bored with the difficulties of the economy.

- lHe has a poor under-standing of private enterprise and the environment in which it has to operate, yet this is the chosen method

for generating the nation's wealth.

He prefers the command structure " political, not economic " over the population, the Marxist style. He cannot live in both systems.

lHe has no easy solutions to the immense national problems of health, edu-cation, security, land and wealth creation " so he passes them over to ministers.

lThis leads to a stance where he does not want to hear about the problems in these ministries, for to him there are no failures. And anyway the minister has the full responsibility.

lBut the minister is afraid to disclose at Cabinet level the huge size of the problems. He mentions 'a problem' " like no fuel, or no forex, or no drugs nor doctors " and quickly tells his colleagues that he has it under control.

-Immediately, the matter is dropped. No need to measure its real size, the resources needed, to place it in a list of priorities, to coordinate the team's work towards a solution, to review progress on a regular basis " it has been solved by the frightened minister!

- lThe Cabinet becomes a loose group of officials who only relate to each other in their private offices where they ask for 'favours' from another minister " 'can I have some forex . . . ?' The team falls apart. There is no grand plan under a strong and concerned leader.

Crisis management, de-cisions by Mugabe on his own, disregard for the for-malities that ensure coordi-nation " these become the method by which Zimba-bwe's top decision-makers operate.

The boss does not involve himself in detail, nor in hard problems. Rather, he seeks platforms from which to bolster his image.

A facet of this is the reaction to a new crisis. Mugabe will take hasty action, even when there is little agreement with him among the ministers and experts who advise them.

In this loosely knit system, the team members are not made to achieve agreed targets and they are not threatened with being fired upon failure " as is the case at present.

The exchange (for the safety of mediocrity) is an apparent loyalty to the leader. The result " all of the team lose their independent moral courage and none will say the leader is neglecting his prime job.

There is no vision, no hard work, no leadership. This is the present sad state we are in.

Our President is today unconcerned with the ge-nuine wellbeing of each citizen. Only once the out-rage reaches a crescendo does Mugabe take notice; he then acts alone, always laying the blame elsewhere, always threatening corrective action against the symptom " never the cause.

This is the manner of a man who has no long-term plan for the nation. He becomes reliant on the skill he has to link together issues that are often a good distance apart.And he broadcasts solutions that simple people may swallow.

We then witness poorly implemented management. For the coordination, the resources and the co-mmitment by all is usually missing. One minister is acting on his own, often with no faith in a plan and with little pressure to make a success of it.

The President no longer does his basic job. He does not plan, coordinate, review, motivate and control. He reacts, usually on his own.

Stevens was murdered for no reason at all

TK Henwood, President, Commercial Farmers' Union.

EDTIOR " President Robert Mugabe, at a weekend rally, is reported to have said David Stevens was killed in reta-liation for 'starting the war and firing first'.

Clearly, the President has been misinformed and it is necessary to set the record straight.

Stevens was forcibly ab-ducted from his farm by war veterans, having attempted to intervene in a row between his workers and farm inva-ders. He was manacled and driven to Murehwa in his own vehicle.

He was unarmed at the time and had at no stage carried a weapon.

On the way to Murehwa his neighbours, who had responded to a call for assi-stance and were following Stevens' vehicle and its escort, were fired on by an occupant of one of the vehicles. They turned into the nearby police station to seek sanctuary and support.

Stevens' captors then drove into the police station, with Stevens still manacled. One of the captors, carrying a 303 rifle, instructed the three farmers to follow him.

On leaving the police station, one of the farmers asked the member-in-charge if he was happy with the fact that they were being forcibly abducted, whereupon the member-in-charge turned his back on him.

The three were bundled into Stevens' Land Rover, taken to a walled, secure building in the town, seri-ously assaulted and interro-gated about their involve-ment with the Movement for Democratic Change.

Stevens and one of the farmers were then taken out of the building, put into a different vehicle, had a blanket thrown over them and then driven a short way out of town. Both farmers were still manacled.

Stevens was dragged from the vehicle and savagely assaulted. While lying on the ground, he was then shot with a shotgun once in the neck and jaw and a second shot was fired into his back. He died instantly.

The other farmer (who witnessed the entire event) was saved from being killed by a woman in the crowd who recognised him and called for him to be spared.

These are the shocking circumstances surrounding Stevens' death.

What is perhaps equally shocking is that throughout the ordeal suffered by Stevens and the other farmers who had followed him to Mure-hwa, there was no reaction by the police in Murehwa or the officers from police in Macheke who arrived at the Murehwa police station, despite an appeal directly to the member-in-charge by one of the farmers prior to Stevens' murder.

The perpetrators are clearly known to the police (they were in the charge office with the victims, talking to the seven or eight police officers present) and there were a further 10 or 12 witnesses to the murder in the party that was assaulting the farmers.

It will be most interesting to see the outcome of the police investigations into this tragic affair. These facts can be backed up by sworn affi-davits, copies of which have been lodged with the Criminal Investigations Department (Homicide) at Harare Central Police Station.

The gods are angry, comrades

TO Cabinet, Politburo & Parliamentary Members

I have just concluded the most gruelling campaign I have ever undertaken in the past 20 years on behalf of our revolutionary party and all of you comrades whose fate now rests with the electorate.

Let it not be said that I ever failed anyone of you, whatever the outcome of the weekend's parliamentary elections. I have done my damndest " most would say beyond the normal call of duty " to ensure that we, as a party, win these elections.

If we fail, it will mean that we have been visited by the devil himself and that it was already destined to be so.

For me who is normally desk-bound and deals with lofty state duties, my rallies across the country have been an eye-opener indeed.

Most of you used to advise me that our political support coun-trywide remained as strong as before, but my observations on the eve of this crucial poll make sad reading, although as an optimist I still hold out for a miracle.

I was shocked to find that our party can hardly muster the huge crowds that it once used to attract easily, especially to the key star rallies addressed by myself as head of state and that of our party.

On inquiring from my boys, they told me starkly that we are in serious trouble and that most of those attending our meetings had either been bussed in from elsewhere or had been forced to attend, which unfortunately mirrors the decay that has sunk into our once vibrant and unyieldingly militant party.

A sombre mood of unhappiness and despair was clearly evident among most of those at my rallies, challenging the notion that we are still the dominant party of our time.

Had this issue been brought to my attention in time " as it should " I might have changed our election strategies to suit the grave circumstances, but alas no one was ever truthful to me. What a shame!

Certainly I would have opted for other strategies rather than the use of the war veterans to occupy farms, but that's now water under the bridge.

In retrospect, I now realise why good men and women all over the world fail in their many worthwhile and carefully planned endeavours: they are badly let down by all they entrust to do the things that they have to do.

Well, with the election campaign now over, I couldn't have entirely reversed the enormous damage that had already been done over many years. But make no mistake, I did my very best and my ancestors know this!

I trust and pray " oh yes, as a good Catholic I still do " that some of our wavering supporters did get some inspiration from my campaign to stand up and be counted with us because the hour of decision has really come.

For all my efforts however, I somehow still have a heavy heart that the end could be near. You know what I mean, the sort of foreboding that one gets when one is facing imminent danger.

But as I said earlier on, nothing more can be done now and we must put our fate in the hands of the gods. They appear to be angry, though I don't know why.

Whatever the outcome of the election, let me take this opportunity to thank all those cadres who took it upon themselves to work 95 hours a day to try to reverse our political misfortunes.

Towering above all in the hall of fame must be Cde Border, who selflessly crisscrossed Zimbabwe to add much colour and excitement to our campaign, thus probably attracting more people to our rallies.

Let me also thank our vocal 'nutty' Professor Jonathan and Cde Chen, whose quick response to so many assaults on my person and our party probably minimised the damage that we would have suffered both in the country and internationally.

May I wish all of you Cdes the best of luck. I know you will need it because my inner sense tells me so.

God bless and kindest regards.



Back to the Top
Back to Index

Friday June 23 3:03 PM ET

New Zimbabwe Violence, Mugabe Slams Opposition

By Barry Moody

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - New bloodshed was reported on the eve of Zimbabwe's violence-scarred election Friday with an opposition candidate in a coma after being beaten by suspected supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

Zachariah Rioga, a 53-year-old candidate for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was transferred to a Harare hospital early Friday after he was attacked by self-styled liberation war veterans Wednesday, the MDC said.

``The war veterans beat him with iron bars, sticks and other implements and left him for dead. He has yet to regain consciousness,'' the opposition said in statement.

The MDC said earlier 14 of its election monitors had been abducted Thursday night in the south of the country and a polling station was burned down.

``They are targeting polling agents because it then makes it easier to rig the elections in the absence of our polling agents,'' MDC legal secretary David Coltart told Reuters.

Around 30 people, mostly MDC supporters, have died in political violence linked to the elections and the invasions of hundreds of white-owned farms by pro-government militants since February.

The head of the European Union observer mission in Zimbabwe said Friday his monitoring teams were continuing to receive reports of violence and intimidation ahead of the polls.

``There is intimidation, vote-buying, violence. This has to be denounced of course,'' Pierre Schori told Reuters in an interview.

``We will do our best to see to it that we observe the process. That people will have access to the polling stations. That they get to those centers from the villages. That they are not harassed or stopped on their way to vote,'' he added.

Mugabe Friday made his last pitch to voters before the election, which poses the first threat to the 20-year rule of his ZANU-PF party. He lambasted the opposition as white stooges. Addressing a crowd of around 5,000 people at a football stadium in Chitungwiza, around 20 miles south of the capital, Mugabe said the MDC was a front for the minority white population that ruled before independence in 1980.

``You must say no to this group of neo-colonialists,'' he told the crowd. ``Vote for the party that won independence and defeated the British.''

The rally, Mugabe's last before voting begins Saturday, had been billed as the grand finale of ZANU-PF's campaign.

But the audience -- many of whom had been brought by bus from other constituencies -- grew impatient after waiting for hours in the hot sun for Mugabe to arrive and began drifting off in the middle of his speech.

By the time he had finished, the majority of the crowd had left. The size of the audience was well below the hopes of ZANU-PF officials.

About 15,000 people, most of them schoolchildren, attended an earlier rally in Mugabe's hometown of Chinhoyi, northwest of Harare.

A local ZANU-PF official had predicted Thursday that 60,000 supporters would attend.

The turnout did not dent Mugabe's combativeness, although he arrived two hours after the scheduled start of the meeting.

In a 50-minute speech Mugabe castigated the MDC and Britain.

``We are going to beat this stooge party because we represent the interests of our people. The MDC will never win elections in this country as long as they defend the interests of the minority. Not when they are a stooge of the white man,'' he said.

New Rules For Monitors

Late Friday Zimbabwe reversed a ban on Harare-based foreign diplomats from monitoring the election but refused accreditation to British observers, diplomats said.

Zimbabwe's Election Directorate also increased to four from one the number of local monitors allowed at each polling station but observer groups said the move came too late to organize increased oversight of the polls.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai earlier got an ecstatic welcome when he toured Mbare township on the outskirts of Harare.

Thousands of cheering, dancing supporters mobbed him as he strolled through the sprawling shanty town.

``You can see from their faces and their reaction that the people want change,'' he told Reuters. ``I don't think Mugabe would get this kind of reception.''

At his Chinhoyi rally Mugabe addressed a dozen foreign observers attending the gathering. ``Fine, we have observers here, but the legitimacy will come from our people,'' he said.

``You have not come to give us legitimacy. That is the duty of our people.''

Back to the Top
Back to Index