The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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International Editor, Denver Rocky Mountain News 
Foreign Affairs Columnist, Scripps Howard News Service
A rigged election in a country on its knees
By Holger Jensen
News International Editor
  Zimbabwe begins voting todayA in an election that almost everyone believes
has been rigged to keep President Robert Mugabe in power.
  The 78-year-old despot, who has ruled the African nation for all 22 years
of its independence from Britain, wants yet another six-year term to last him
through his 84th birthday — even if it means becoming an international
  Rampant political violence and new election laws have made it nearly
impossible for the vote to be free and fair, according to human rights groups
and the few foreign observers allowed into the country.
  More than 150 people have been killed, thousands tortured and up to 100,000
black farmworkers have been rendered homeless by government seizure of
white-owned farms over the past two years. Mugabe's supporters have attacked
his opponents with the assistance of police and army units, making much of
Zimbabwe a “no-go” area for opposition candidates.
  The Human Rights Forum, a consortium of Zimbabwean rights groups, says
security forces are behind 90 percent of the intimidation. It has accused
Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of setting up 22 militia bases around the country to
torture supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and
gather for attacks on MDC strongholds.
  The MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's main challenger, has been charged
with treason for allegedly plotting to have Mugabe assassinated. And the
army's top brass has openly warned that it will not accept a Tsvangirai
  Walter Kansteiner, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs,
has advised Congress that “the campaign of repression orchestrated by the
government of Zimbabwe has been too profound and too pervasive to allow for
an untainted election.”
  British Prime Minister Tony Blair calls it “an outrage.” And the European
Union says it “contradicts the international standards for free and fair
  The United States and European governments have sought to punish Mugabe and
his cronies with travel bans and threatened asset seizures, but there is very
little else they can do short of outright military intervention. Foreign aid
was cut off long ago and broader sanctions, such as a trade embargo, would
only collapse the economy and increase the suffering of Zimbabwe's 13 million
  The country is already on its knees. Inflation is running at 117 percent.
The Zimbabwean dollar, officially pegged at 55 to the U.S. dollar, changes
hands at four times that rate on the black market. Unemployment is 60 percent
and 75 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
  Drought and farm seizures have slashed the staple maize crop in half. The
World Food Program is now distributing emergency relief supplies in a country
that used to be self-sufficient in food. Refugees fleeing hunger and
political violence are braving crocodiles, barbed wire fences and South
African army patrols in a desperate bid to escape across the southern border.
  Seemingly unfazed by this looming disaster, Mugabe says many of these
problems have been “manufactured” by Britain and Zimbabwe's tiny white
minority of 70,000. He accuses Tsvangirai and the MDC of being stooges of the
whites, intent on returning the colonial era.
  Tsvangirai, a former union leader, responds with one simple question: “Why
is a country that was once the bread basket of Africa now a basket case?”
  Two recent polls, one by the independent Financial Gazette newspaper and
the other by a private institute headed by one of Zimbabwe's leading
political analysts, show that Mugabe's popularity has plummeted and
Tsvangirai would easily win a fair election.
  But Mugabe's rubber-stamp parliament has rushed through electoral
amendments forbidding civic and religious organizations from monitoring the
poll. Military officers have been appointed to the election commission and
only civil servants — dependent on government jobs — will be there to guard
against irregularities.
  Zimbabwe's Supreme Court struck down some of the amendments last week but
Mugabe simply reinstated them by presidential decree. Opposition spokesmen
say that's an open invitation to ballot stuffing.
  South Africa's Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who once admired
Mugabe, says he has “gone bonkers in a big way.”
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ZIMBABWE: Allegations of poll rigging

JOHANNESBURG, 11 March (IRIN) - It would be nothing short of a miracle for Morgan Tsvangirai to emerge victorious over Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe's seemingly flawed presidential election.

This was the belief of Chris Maroleng, a researcher with the African Security Analysis Programme of the Institute for Security Studies, as the third day of voting drew to a close on Monday.

Allegations of electoral irregularities have emerged and the opposition have approached the courts to extend the polling into a fourth day.

AP reported that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum (Zim Rights), claimed election observers and polling agents had been assaulted in Bulawayo and in Centenary. It said a Commonwealth observer group had to "rescue" the locals from ruling party militia.

The rights group also said three polling agents representing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were attacked by a group of ruling party militants in Hurungwe.

Zim Rights claimed that "police attacked voters and fired teargas at two Harare area polling stations, prompting voters to flee from one of the stations.
With regard to allegations of poll rigging Zim Rights said they received "reports of bogus polling stations set up and helicopters flying ballot boxes in and out of Gokwe North area. Opposition representatives were cleared from the area".

The organisation claimed 92 percent of voters at a polling station in Bulawayo south were turned away despite being registered. The organisation listed a litany of similar allegations of intimidation and poll-rigging.

In his paper Future Power Plays in Zimbabwe, Maroleng states that: "The increasing number of reports of political violence and serious violations of human rights ... particularly by members and supporters of Mugabe's ZANU-PF, coupled with the introduction of draconian laws by the government (prior to the election), had further tilted an already uneven political playing field, to the distinct disadvantage of the MDC.

"In these circumstances it appears that it would take nothing short of a miracle to prevent Mugabe winning."

"The question then arises: what would such a victory mean for the internal dynamics of the ZANU-PF, and the central issue of an eventual presidential succession. This is a particularly interesting point of conjecture when one considers the various factions jostling for power and influence, sometimes split along ethno-linguistic and provincial lines."

Maroleng said the current dominant faction within ZANU-PF, led by Mugabe, had at its core a large following of the Zezuru ethno-linguistic group, one of the principal Chishona-speaking groups.

"Most analysts agree that should Mugabe win the election he would seek an exit strategy that would allow him to retire reasonably soon without fear of prosecution and provide him with protection from revenge by some of the enemies that he has made over the past two decades," Maroleng said. 

For such a strategy to work it would require that Mugabe's successor be someone he can "trust and (who) has a relatively constant history of loyalty to (Mugabe). The successor would also have to have the capacity to provide the protection that Mugabe requires and would have to be considered politically astute enough to remain in power long after Mugabe has left the stage. Finally, this successor would preferably come from the dominant Zezuru ethnic group, as ethno-linguistic considerations seem to play an important part in Zimbabwean politics".

Maroleng said the fight to be Mugabe's successor would likely be bloody.

"The ensuing power plays that will inevitably occur within ZANU-PF as a result of the hotly contested succession to the presidency will not be uneventful. Considering the fact that ZANU-PF has a long and checkered history of resorting to violence as a means of sorting out political problems, it seems reasonable to anticipate that even after the elections, politically motivated acts of violence will continue to be an essential component of the political landscape of Zimbabwe.

"Excessive factionalism in ZANU-PF could lead to the implosion of this political party, which would create space for the MDC to take power itself. However, this is all very much future music and one hopes against hope, that a peaceful election and transitional period will be experienced in Zimbabwe," Maroleng said.
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Mugabe set for condemned election victory

Election analysts say Robert Mugabe seems set to retain the presidency in Zimbabwe following three days of voting.

Even before the Harare polls closed, authorities announced turnout figures showing massive voting in Mugabe strongholds, with far fewer voters casting ballots in opposition areas.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has accused President Mugabe of trying to steal victory and said it was a "stillborn election."

EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, say simply the election is "not fair."

The capital Harare is filled with confusion and allegations of government rigging as polling stations opened nearly five hours late while thousands of people waited to vote.

There is no indication as to when the first results will be announced.

Officials from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said President Mugabe was trying to prevent people from voting in their urban stronghold as part of a widespread plan to steal the most competitive election in Zimbabwe's history.

The MDC successfully sought a High Court order forcing the government to extend voting countrywide for a third day after seeing the huge queues at many polling stations on Sunday night, the scheduled end of the two day vote.

But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa defied the court and would only allow a third day of voting in Harare and a nearby township. Many polling stations in the rest of the country had already been dismantled, he said.

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Business Day

Four US diplomats detained in Zimbabwe


HARARE - Zimbabwe police detained four US diplomats for five hours on Monday
in Chinhoyi, a town north of Harare, an embassy spokesman said.
"We have not been given a satisfactory explanation for the detention,"
spokesman Bruce Wharton said.

"We regard this as a clear violation of diplomatic norms," he said. "We must
take this up with the government."

Wharton said the diplomats, who were held at Chinoyi police station, had
been released and were on their way back to Harare.

The four were all accredited to the US embassy in Harare and two of them
also had specific accreditation as observers to Zimbabwe's ongoing
presidential election, he said.

The United States slapped personal sanctions on Zimbabwe's President Robert
Mugabe in February to protest at the expulsion of European Union election
observers and the government's "blatant campaign of violence intimidation
and manipulation of the electoral process".

On Saturday the US embassy in Harare issued a statement urging the
government to correct widespread polling delays in the capital, warning of
"a massive disenfranchisement of urban voters".

The High Court on Sunday ordered there should be an extra day of voting in
the capital and the satellite city of Chitungwiza.

The polls reopened on Monday after a delay of several hours.


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Zimbabwe votes: Midlands

By Zerubabel Mudzingwa
7 March, Gweru

The political atmosphere in Kadoma, 130km outside Gweru, was very tense on
Thursday morning as rowdy Zanu-PF youths ordered all shops, beerhalls, banks
and flea markets to close down until after President Robert Mugabe had held
his campaign rally late that afternoon.

As early as 0800 local time the 20,000 capacity stadium filled up with party
loyalists, the majority of whom had been bussed from the surrounding rural

Mr Mugabe attacked the residents of Kadoma for voting the MDC in the 2000
parliamentary election and described them as "beyond redemption".

Thousands of rural passengers were left stranded in the city as all
government-owned buses were commandeered to ferry people to and from the


6 March

Most of the province has been in relative calm in the last 24 hours
following weekend clashes which left hundreds injured.

Heavy police presence in trouble spots like Mberengwa, Gokwe, Kwekwe and
Mvuma has helped ease the tension that had been building up over the last
three days.

Officials from the two main parties - Zanu-PF and MDC - played a major role
in bringing about peace by urging their supporters not to engage in acts of

The presence of international and regional election monitors in almost all
the constituencies has also helped defuse the tension.

However, many people in Midlands are concerned about the government's
decision to allow soldiers, police and prison service officers to vote ahead
of the poll date.

Many suspect that the governing party could be laying the ground for rigging
the election, especially after it was alleged that the uniformed forces were
being asked to vote in the presence of their superiors.

They were also allegedly required to write down their full details on the
ballot papers.

After denying it for the past two days, the government finally confirmed
that uniformed officials have voted ahead of the weekend presidential poll.

According to the Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede, the idea was to allow
uniformed forces to exercise their voting right before being posted outside
their constituencies to provide security during the polling days.

Mr Mudede, however, denied that the officers had been asked to write down
their personal details on the ballot papers.

People in Midlands are also concerned over delays in naming the polling


3 March

Political tension continues to mount in the Midlands province ahead of the
presidential election.

Suspected Zanu PF youths allegedly attacked and murdered an MDC activist
identified as Charles Banda in Zhombe communal areas near Kwekwe.

In a separate incident, a councillor for Kwekwe belonging to the Movement
for Democratic Change, William Chanza, has been beaten up and left for dead
by suspected Zanu-PF members.

Mr Chanza is battling for his life at a private hospital.


2 March

Groups of soldiers from the presidential guard descended on nightclubs in
Gweru and assaulted people for having allegedly attacked some policemen on
duty in Mkoba high-density suburbs.

About 100 civilians were taken to hospital with various injuries sustained
during the attacks.


1 March, Gweru

The last few days have seen an upsurge in political violence in the Midlands
province as supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party clashed with their main
opponents from the MDC party.

Property worth thousands of dollars has been destroyed since last Sunday as
the supporters went on an orgy of violence in Gweru, Mvuma, Lalapansi,
Kwekwe and Redcliff.

Tension in the province has been heightened by preparations for the arrival
of Robert Mugabe, the ruling party's presidential candidate, for his last
campaign rally in Gweru on 4 March.

Youths from both political parties are accusing each other of pulling down
campaign posters for their party candidates - Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC
and Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF.

On 24 February, 44 MDC trainee polling agents were attacked and severely
injured by suspected Zanu-PF youths at Lower Gweru Mission, while attending
a training course near the business centre.

Police arrested five suspects, among them two war veteran leaders, in
connection with the incident.

On 25 February, Zanu-PF mobs besieged a privately-owned school at Central
Estates in Mvuma and severely beat up seven teachers whom they accused of
supporting the MDC party.

The school, which was originally built by British business tycoon Nick Van
Hoogstraten to cater for his farm labourers' children, was subsequently
closed down after the teachers had fled fearing for their lives.

Another group of suspected Zanu-PF supporters stoned three shops at
Lalapansi and Mutora business centres in Shurugwi, after accusing the shop
owners of supporting the opposition party.

Four houses belonging to Zanu-PF officials were allegedly set ablaze by
suspected MDC supporters in Redcliff over the last weekend. This was
apparently in retaliation to the burning of eight houses of MDC officials by
suspected Zanu-PF youths the previous week.

Zanu PF youths based at the Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru went on a
rampage attacking residents in the suburbs, accusing them of pulling down
their party candidate's campaign posters.



Thousands of villagers in the Midlands province are on the verge of
starvation as their food stocks have long dried up, while government
officials have shifted their focus towards the presidential election

Although both Zanu-PF and MDC presidential candidates, Robert Mugabe and
Morgan Tsvangirai, have used campaign rallies to pledge drought relief,
villagers cannot wait until after the election.

Tsvangirai promises to distribute food as soon as possible if he wins

Mr Mugabe said his government would ensure that no-one starved to death
while Mr Tsvangirai said his government would distribute food soon after
being voted into power next month.

About 700,000 villagers had registered for food aid three months ago, but
the figure is likely to rise sharply because most crops this year have been
rendered a write-off due to the scorching sun.

The government recently passed legislation barring political parties and
non-governmental organisations from distributing maize-meal in their
individual capacities.

The state-owned Grain Marketing Board, the country's sole buyer and
distributor of maize, now relies on maize imports from South Africa after
its stocks were exhausted late last year.

Maize-meal is the main staple food in Zimbabwe.

The most affected areas are Gokwe, Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Chiwundura and
Kwekwe where some families have reportedly gone for days on end without

Some families have resorted to eating wild fruits and berries.

In urban centres, long and winding queues for scarce maize-meal have become
the order of the day as poverty has reached alarming levels

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Washington Post

Zimbabwe Opposition Appeals for More Voting Time

By Nicholas Kotch and Cris Chinaka
Monday, March 11, 2002; 1:01 PM

HARARE, Zimbabwe— Zimbabwe's opposition protested that President Robert
Mugabe had locked its voters out of polling stations Monday and lodged a
legal bid to extend the country's election into an unprecedented fourth day.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change went to Zimbabwe's High Court
with a new petition after Mugabe defied an earlier order and delayed for
five hours the opening of polling stations in Harare on Monday's unscheduled
third day of voting.

Mugabe's government also refused to obey the High Court's order to open
polls outside the capital.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Mugabe was trying to steal the
election and "multitudes of potential voters are being disenfranchised."

The court was expected to rule later Monday.

The U.S. Embassy in Harare said four American diplomats, two of them
electoral observers, had been freed after being held for five hours at a
police roadblock northwest of Harare.

The embassy described the detentions as a clear violation of basic
diplomatic conventions and said it would protest to Mugabe's government. It
was not immediately known why the Americans were detained.

The U.S. government has been in the forefront of international protests
against Mugabe and has threatened to tighten sanctions against the governing
elite if the election result is blatantly rigged.


Tsvangirai says Mugabe is systematically using violence and cheating to
cling to power in the once-prosperous nation, which faces an economic and
political collapse that would contaminate neighboring countries, including
regional giant South Africa.

Tsvangirai, posing the toughest challenge of Mugabe's 22-year-rule, also
said one of his top lieutenants had been arrested in southern Zimbabwe. He
urged his followers to exercise restraint and seemed to be preparing them
for a stolen result.

In what at times seemed like valedictory remarks at a news conference,
Tsvangirai suggested his life was at risk.

"They may want to arrest me and at worst kill me but they will never destroy
the spirit of the people to reclaim their power," he said.

Thousands of people jammed polling stations in Harare, an opposition
stronghold in the southern African country, after they reopened at 7 a.m.
(12 a.m. EST) Monday. But officials did not allow voting to start until five
hours later.

Long lines persisted in several Harare constituencies after the official
closing time of 7 p.m. (noon EST) Monday and voting was continuing.

The opposition charges Mugabe sharply reduced the number of polling stations
in Harare and slowed the voting to a snail's pace to rob the opposition of

"The intention is clearly to frustrate us. But we will be here until 3 a.m.
if necessary," said one angry man, lining upwith 2,000 others in sweltering
heat in Harare.

Tsvangirai issued a statement to his followers saying he shared their fears
that the result would be rigged.


But, apparently worried about a violent opposition reaction, he declared:
"Restrain yourselves as you do not allow their sinister plans to succeed.
... Do not succumb to their provocative traps."

The election campaign was marked by widespread violence in which independent
monitors say 33 people died, most of them Movement for Democratic Change
supporters killed by militia from the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Movement for Democratic Change official Learnmore Jongwe said details were
sketchy on the arrest of party Secretary-General Welshman Ncube near the
Botswana border but suggested it was connected with treason charges against
Ncube, Tsvangirai and another Movement for Democratic Change official.

They have denied the accusation that they plotted to assassinate Mugabe.

The opposition and witnesses said police beat thousands of voters away from
polling stations late Sunday night after the court order, saying they should
 come back Monday.

Norwegian observer Kare Vollan said 1,000 voters had been turned away from
Harare's Warren Park late Sunday.

Witnesses said riot police shut down another polling station about an hour
after the court ruling, scattering around 2,500 people who had waited most
of the day. Some people waited in line for 20 hours to vote.


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This is London

Mugabe set to win election farce

President Robert Mugabe looks likely to cling to power in Zimbabwe's tainted
presidential election - extended into a third day by a court order.

With thousands of people effectively prevented from casting their votes,
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has accused Mugabe of trying to steal
victory, describing it as a "stillborn election."

EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, described the election as "not
fair" as confusion reigned in the capital Harare amid allegations of
government vote rigging.

Polling stations opened nearly five hours late while thousands of people
waited to vote and there is still no indication as to when the first results
will be announced.

Officials from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said Mugabe was
trying to prevent people from voting in their urban stronghold as part of a
widespread plan to steal the most competitive election in Zimbabwe's

The MDC successfully sought a High Court order forcing the government to
extend voting countrywide for a third day after seeing the huge queues at
many polling stations on Sunday night, the scheduled end of the two-day

But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa defied the court and would only allow
a third day of voting in Harare and a nearby township.

Many polling stations in the rest of the country had already been
dismantled, he said.

But Harare's polling stations did not open until noon, after many voters had
given up and gone home or to work.

Even before the Harare polls closed, authorities announced turnout figures
that showed massive voting in Mugabe strongholds, with far fewer voters
casting ballots in opposition areas.

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Chaos as officials fear to open polls

Harare - The Zimbabwe government on Monday agreed to an extension of voting
in landmark presidential elections for a third day in Harare and the
satellite city of Chitungwiza.

But confusion reigned at many polling stations in Harare, where polling
officials said they were receiving conflicting instructions.

"This morning I've been told that I would be put behind bars if I open the
polling station," an official said in the Mbare suburb on condition of
anonymity. "The instructions are not to open the polling station."

The facility opened for five minutes before closing again, to howls of
protest from about 100 waiting voters.

The polling official said he was receiving conflicting instructions from
election organisers, officials of the ruling Zimbabwe African National
Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) and the justice ministry.

"It would be fair to open today to let these people vote," he said, noting
that only 1 700 of the 3 000 people registered to vote at his polling
station had cast their ballots at the weekend.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had appealed for the
extension after a weekend of chaotic voting in Harare that saw queues
thousands of people long because of a massive turnout and a cutback in the
number of polling stations.

Half of Harare's voters

By 19:00 on Sunday, when polling stations closed, less than half of Harare's
registered voters had voted in the presidential election. About 2.5 million
in a total of 5.6 million registered voters had brought out their vote.

The election commission announced the figures on Sunday night after the
polling stations had closed. Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede at a media
briefing said less than 400 000 in more than 880 000 registered voters in
Harare went to the polls.

Voting outlets were increased for rural voters, the main support base of
President Robert Mugabe, who is struggling to retain his 22-year grip on

The MDC, whose leader Morgan Tsvangirai is tipped to win a free and fair
election, accused the government of creating the logjam in Harare in a
deliberate attempt to reduce the vote in his urban strongholds.


Analysts on Sunday night said the extra voting day would not change the
situation significantly as Monday is not a holiday and word could therefore
only be spread with difficulty, particularly in rural areas.

As polls were to begin opening in Harare, shorter queues were seen in the
working-class suburbs of Warren Park D and Mbare.

Voters in the lines said they were concerned that people would be unaware
that they could still vote on Monday, since state television had said on
Sunday in its main evening bulletin that the election was over.

The High Court order to extend the vote came later on Sunday evening, and
the justice minister's announcement came at 07:00 on Monday, the same time
the polls were set to reopen.

A voter in Warren Park who gave his name only as Martin said people were
going to work to tell their colleagues to go and vote, and to tell their
employers they would be doing so.

"People cannot afford to leave (the polling stations). We want to vote this
man (Mugabe) out," he said.

First charges of rigging

The MDC has brought the first charges of rigging by the government on

Riot police officers were on Sunday evening deployed in large numbers at
Harare polling stations amid increasing concern and anger among hundreds of
thousands of urban voters - mainly opposition supporters who were prevented
from voting.

Barely half an hour before the polling stations closed on Sunday night
pandemonium broke out outside the Glen Norah polling station when two air
force helicopters swept over low, and landed close to long rows of voters.

Simultaneously vehicles bearing riot police arrived who immediately started
shouting at people to enter the polling station and proceed to vote.

Many took flight. "This is nothing more than a ploy to assault us, they
intend trapping us inside. What is the world doing about this kind of
intimidation? We intend demonstrating," a crowd of people told journalists
at the scene.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, MDC officials and members of the
election commission were in the helicopters urging polling officials to
close their doors at 19:00.

Observer missions

Although leaders of South Africa's two main observer missions to Zimbabwe -
the multidisciplinary and parliamentary missions declined to comment
officially on Sunday, it is believed they exerted pressure on the Zimbabwean
government behind the scenes to allow the extra voting days to go ahead.

Meanwhile reports of increased intimidation and assaults by "informal
monitors" in rural areas in particular, were streaming in.

Zimbabwean Election Support Network chairperson Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove on
Sunday night said his organisation decided early in the day to withdraw all
its observers at polling stations around the country as a result of assaults
and arrests. - Media24/Sapa-AFP

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Zimbabwe orders polls to close at end of third election day

HARARE, March 11 — The government of President Robert Mugabe ordered polling
stations to close in Zimbabwe's election on Monday despite continuing queues
of voters in opposition strongholds.

       Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede told state television: ''We have
told presiding officers to close polling stations at 7.00 p.m. (1700 GMT),
and we have indicated to them that this is when voting should end. As I
speak, voting has ended.''
       Riot police ordered hundreds of voters to leave polling stations in
Harare after Mudede's order.
       Voting in the election, which pits former trade unionist Morgan
Tsvangirai against President Robert Mugabe, was extended into an unscheduled
third day because thousands of opposition supporters had been unable to vote
over the weekend.
       But polling stations opened five hours late in Harare on Monday and
remained closed in the rest of the country.
       The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, alleging that Mugabe
was deliberately disenfranchising its supporters, went to the High Court on
Monday night to request a fourth day of voting.

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Zim $ dives on election fears

Harare - The unofficial market rate of Zimbabwe's dollar has fallen by up to
20% in the past two weeks as jitters mount ahead of presidential poll
results and despite an influx of hard currency, traders said on Monday.

The presidential elections were extended to a third day by the high court in
Harare on Sunday. Veteran President Robert Mugabe faces the stiffest
challenge to his 22-year stranglehold on power from former trader unionist
Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Zimbabwean dollar fetched a retail price ranging between 300.00 to
350.00 against the US dollar on the unofficial street market versus around
250.00 to 300.00 two weeks ago and about 200 at the start of the year,
dealers said.

That is about six times weaker than an official rate of 55.00/57.00 against
the US unit, in a deal agreed between the central and commercial banks and
backed by the Treasury.

"Uncertainty has mounted over the past few weeks over Zimbabwe's future.
There has been a question of whether President Robert Mugabe will go quietly
if he lost an election," said one private foreign currency shop owner.

"The currency squeeze is already bad, and the last thing it required was
these additional pressures." The informal market - which thrives despite a
ban by the central bank and Treasury - is conducted by foreign currency
shops, which post official rates on their notice boards but deal at prices
that are radically different.

A severe shortage of hard currency in the once-prosperous southern African
country means the official rate largely applies to government imports and
large corporates as retailers routinely find no dollars to purchase from
commercial banks.

No figures for the size of the illegal market are available, but it is the
only source of currency for individuals preparing to travel and small
retailers seeking cash for imports.

Poll jitters meant traders were snapping up all the dollars that came their
way as they attempted to stockpile in a market where dollars are too scarce
for such activity, a banker said.

Dealers at the Merchant Bank of Central Africa said the official rate was
steady at 56.95 against the US. unit. But there were very little inflows of
foreign exchange because many corporates remained closed for the polls.

"The local market is dry, with very low trading taking place mainly because
a considerable number of companies have not opened today (Monday)," one bank
dealer told Reuters.

Foreign media and election observers said they were offered exchange rates
of between 300 and 350 Zimbabwe dollars per US dollar by the foreign
currency shops which are moving to cash in on available supply of dollars
from foreigners.

"We are getting a fantastic rate and it is all very legal, with receipts,"
said one journalist from South Africa. "Certainly, there is no one of the
small retailers, such as ourselves, going to a commercial bank to change
cash. Everyone realises just how precious their dollars are," said an
observer from neighbouring Namibia.

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Gross bias in Zim state media

Cape Town - The state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) was
guilty of bias and distortion "like never before" in the run-up to the
presidential polls, according to Zimbabwe's Media Monitoring Project (ZMMP).

The non-governmental organisation said in a report released at the weekend
that its preliminary figures showed ZBC television carried 402 election
campaign stories in news bulletins monitored between December 1, 2001 and
March 7, 2002, the penultimate day of the election campaign.

Of these, 339 of them (84%) favoured the ruling Zanu-PF's candidate,
President Robert Mugabe.

Only 38 (or 9%) covered activities of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), but "virtually all of them" were used to discredit the party
and its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.

The 24 other reports gave publicity to the three other candidates contesting
the election.

Radio - a state monopoly - had following the same pattern, the project said.

Radio Zimbabwe, ZBC's most popular station, carried a total of 275
campaign-related stories in the news bulletins monitored.

A total of 237 of them (86%) were promotional stories in favour of Zanu-PF,
while 20 (7.3%) were negative stories about the MDC.

"However, the most damning statistic to emerge from MMPZ's work was the fact
that out of a total of 14 hours and 25 minutes that ZBC television news
bulletins devoted to the presidential election campaign, Zanu-PF's candidate
was granted a total of 13 hours and 34 minutes, or a little more than 94%.

Half an hour for MDC

"This compares to the national broadcaster's TV coverage of the MDC and its
candidate, of just 31 minutes and 30 seconds, a paltry 4%.

"But even this was subverted by ZBC, which used the time to attack,
denigrate and discredit the MDC.

"Never before in the life of the Media Monitoring Project has ZTV's coverage
been so grossly biased."

ZBC television had also so grossly distorted the extent of the nation-wide
campaign of violence that it seemed to be deliberately suppressing the

The project said these "extreme levels of distortion" deprived Zimbabwean
voters of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and the
opportunity to make informed decisions.

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Media Update for March 10th 2002
The Daily News published a special Sunday edition to keep its readers informed about the latest developments in the presidential election, and its account of the first day of voting was a beacon of journalistic competence in its own right.  It was factual, dispassionate and informative, leading with news of the MDC's efforts to seek an extension to polling (the only paper to do so), followed by an overview of the progress and problems of the voting and details of events at polling centres, mainly around Harare and Chitungwiza.
The one criticism was that the paper could have carried more than very brief summaries of voting in outlying areas, which was all that its main story offered.
By comparison, The Standard provided a speculative, uninformative lead story under the heading, 'Mugabe in Trouble' in its report of the big voter turnout and the delays in processing them in Harare and Chitungwiza.  And its front-page story about Matabeleland was an irrelevant, emotional recitation of the region's grievances against the government.
Its readers are certain to have been disappointed to have found such superficial coverage of their efforts to vote.
However, its main story did provide an exclusive item of news; that President Mugabe had become a victim of the confusion over Harare's ward and constituency voters' rolls and was obliged to abandon his traditional polling station in Highfield for one in a neighboring ward that had him listed.
Not to be outdone in displaying its journalistic poverty, the government controlled Sunday Mail provided its readers with a lead story that focused on the alleged excesses of "white supporters of the MDC"
and MDC supporters around the country attempting to subvert the voting process without providing evidence to substantiate its claims.
In this way it diverted its attention from the main issue of the delays in processing the high number of voters.  But buried below its racist focus, the story did report two ZANU PF election officials (one, a certain Joseph Chinotimba) saying they doubted that everybody in Harare would be able to vote within the two-day voting period.
The paper then provided official reassurance from the chairman of the Election Directorate, Mariyawanda Nzuwa, that ".everyone who was a registered voter and wished to vote would be given the opportunity to do so."
It reported Nzuwa as saying that an extension to the voting hours was being considered, but failed to examine whether these plans represented a looming electoral crisis.  Nor did it bother to link it to the fact that part of the delays could be attributed to the fact that the election authorities had withdrawn 82 polling stations from Harare and Chitungwiza, a fact that The Daily News reported as an explanation for the delays and in the context of the MDC's decision to appeal for an extension to voting hours.
In a separate story, The Sunday Mail reported the Registrar-General's extension to voting times and the measures that may be taken to speed up the voting process, such as increasing the number of polling stations and manpower in Harare and Chitungwiza.  But again it didn't ask why this may be necessary.
Notably, The Sunday Mail story confirmed The Standard's news about Mr Mugabe's difficulties by way of denial.  The story reported Secretary for Information, George Charamba as saying the President had to move from one polling station in Highfield to another ".due to the ward boundaries for the council elections." The Sunday Mail decided not to ask the obvious question: that if Mr Mugabe doesn't know which ward he belongs to, how do the election authorities expect ordinary members of the public to know - especially without the benefit of some public information to tell them where they should vote.  Nor did the paper attempt to compare Mr Mugabe's ability to "station-hop" with the fate of ordinary voters who found themselves missing from one or other of the voters' rolls after spending 12 hours or more in a queue.  Would they have had the determination to join the queue in the neighbouring ward?  Was this compromising the "free expression" of the people's will?
The Sunday Mail was evidently reluctant to seek answers to these questions.  But if it had, it would have been difficult to avoid concurring with the observations of The Daily News editorial.  The newspaper believed the " .  sudden reduction in the number of polling stations in urban areas .  is a deliberate impediment being placed in the path of voters by the government and the ruling party, because they do not wish the people to freely exercise their right to elect leaders".
The Sunday Mail preferred to confine its content to its ongoing efforts to portray the MDC as a puppet of neo-colonialist Western imperialism and the arrest and detention of "aliens".  Other conspiracy stories and alleged crimes committed by MDC supporters abound to support the paper's crippled perspective of Zimbabwean life on polling day.
Instead of examining the glaring deficiencies in the electoral process and its murky manipulation, The Sunday Mail's front-page comment "Thumbs up for electoral process" showered the electoral authorities with uncritical praise.  And its comment inside interpreted the high voter turnout, as an endorsement ".that people have full confidence in the electoral system that it will reflect their will".
The Daily News quoted ordinary voices and civic organizations calling ".  for an extension of voting days after thousands of (people) failed to vote yesterday".  The Sunday Mail also quoted two civil groups making similar appeals, but it failed to access any comment from the MDC.
Only the private press reported that voting material such as supplementary voters' rolls and ballot papers were unavailable or ran out at some polling stations around the country, and the most worrying statistic of all; that there were no MDC polling agents in 52 percent of the rural constituencies by mid-morning on the first day of polling (The Daily News).
It was left to The Standard to report the total emasculation of the few domestic observers accredited in its story about the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) observers being ordered to ".  observe the election from at least 100 metres from polling stations" contrary to the Electoral Act which provides for three election observers and two monitors per polling station.  ZESN Chairperson Reginald Matchaba- Hove was quoted as saying ".  the withdrawal of monitors would compromise the credibility of the whole electoral process".
The Sunday Mail quoted observer statements expressing approval of the voting process without subjecting them to any scrutiny.  In contrast, The Daily News reported that Kaire Mbuende, the head of the Namibian observer mission had delivered another "election shocker" by announcing ".  he was satisfied with the administrative arrangements for the presidential election".

DAILY ELECTRONIC REPORT - SATURDAY, MARCH 9TH 2002 ZBC punctuated its programming with uncritical updates on the voting process in various provinces across the country.  The broadcaster reported that voting was slow in Harare and Chitungwiza and blamed this on the concurrently-held mayoral and council elections.
Radio 3FM went further to blame the delay in voting on "resounding voter interest and thorough scrutiny by polling officials".
The radio station down played the electorate's frustration caused by delays in voting when it stated (1pm) that "rowdy elements caused commotion" in Kuwadzana when they tried to force their way into the voting hall.  The station went on to report that in Warren Park polling officers had to lock out voters in an effort to control the crowd.
Still, ZBC did not find this reason enough to question the logic behind the Registrar General's decision to reduce the number of polling stations in Harare and Chitungwiza.
ZTV's Nhau/Indaba reporter Alson Mfiri stated that 70% of the population lives in the rural areas while 30% live in urban communities.
These are old statistics for Zimbabwe's total population and not that of registered voters, and Mfiri used this inaccurate figure to justify the controversial decision to increase polling stations in the rural areas and cut down on those in urban centers.
ZBC gave no analysis of the implications of the delays in voting in its reports.
SW Radio Africa offered a different view on the reduction of polling stations in the urban areas.  The station quoted human rights lawyer Tawanda Hondora stating that the reduction was a ploy to disenfranchise urban voters who are mainly MDC supporters.
According to the private press and international media reports,
3.4million registered voters live in Zimbabwe's urban communities, while 2.2million voters live in the rural areas.  In view of this, simple logic would have dictated that the RG maintains if not increase polling stations in urban areas.  As is becoming the norm with government officials, the RG Tobaiwa Mudede was quoted on Radio Zimbabwe stating that the foreign media had misrepresented facts and that 80% of registered voters were to be found in the rural areas.  Mudede was not asked to give a clear breakdown of the 5.6 million figure, a total his office announced as the number of registered voters.
ZTV's bias against the opposition was evident in its 8pm coverage of three contesting candidates.  While covering Mr.  Mugabe's voting, the broadcaster quoted him saying that those who have pre-judged the election were supporters of the opposition and accused Britain of supporting the opposition.  Mugabe was given a live sound bite.
In its coverage of Tsvangirai's visit to a polling station in Chitungwiza, reporter Judith Makwanya made it clear where her sentiments belonged.  She said: ".There was a stir caused by screaming and whistling when the MDC candidate with a train of foreign journalists arrived at the station.  In a development that left many people wondering, Mr.  Tsvangirai asked one of the polling officials the name of his mayoral candidate.  After his exit from the station, hardly five metres away from where the people were voting, members of Tsvangirai's party were seen waving party symbol and uttering some words.  He told journalists that there was need to extend the polling days to allow people to vote".
In a desperate attempt to say that Tsvangirai and the MDC had broken the law, she added: "Election officials at the station said it was unlawful for a candidate to make comments at the polling station.  He added that the displaying of party symbols and attire is also prohibited under the country's electoral laws."
Interestingly, ZBC-TV interviewed Mugabe at the polling station in which he voted and ZBC seemed not to have been aware that it was breaking the law by interviewing a candidate at the polling station.
Mr.  Maya was not given a live sound-bite.
Radio Zimbabwe exposed the broadcaster's tendency to follow ZANU PF officials and present their activities as news.  The station reported Herbert Murerwa voting in Goromonzi, Elliot Manyika in Mashonaland Central, Shuvai Mahofa and Simon Muzenda in Gutu, as different news items in its 8pm bulletin.
SW Radio Africa highlighted irregularities during the voting process.  Its correspondent reported that at one polling station 20km outside Harare there were two queues, one for voting and the other for registration.  The polling station was not named.  In the same report the station reported that at another polling station MDC polling agents had witnessed a headman secretly giving extra ballot papers to people in the queue.  SW Radio Africa also stated that at another polling station ZANU PF youths had established a base at a 100-metre mark and were demanding that people consult them before they voted.  No comment was sought from the ESC or relevant authorities.
By contrast ZBC presented the voting process as having been largely smooth outside Harare and Chitungwiza.
The station also reported on the harassment of MDC polling agents and problems the party was having in deploying its polling agents.
However, there was no analysis of the underlying implications of the absence of opposition agents at polling stations.
No comments were sought from the election authorities.
ENDS The MEDIA UPDATE is produced and circulated by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, (MMPZ).  Send all queries and comments to the Project Coordinator, 15 Duthie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 703702, E-mail: Previous copies of MMPZ reports can be accessed at Please feel free to circulate this message!
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EU envoys report election irregularities

European Union foreign ministers have received reports of voting irregularities in Zimbabwe where chaotic presidential elections have run into a third day.

Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner has stated the elections "are not fair."

Last month, the EU was angered by Zimbabwe's refusal to let its observers freely monitor the elections and imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions against President Robert Mugabe's government.

After being chased from polling stations on Sunday night, thousands of voters have returned after Zimbabwe's High Court ordered the government to extend voting countrywide for a third day.

In Harare, Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the government would comply with the court-ordered third day of polling, but only in Harare and a nearby township, both opposition strongholds. Elsewhere, he said, polling stations had already been dismantled.

The EU foreign ministers did not immediately announce any further steps against Zimbabwe.

Last month, the EU said that Mugabe's government had prevented the deployment of an EU election observation mission and again expressed concern at political violence, human rights violations and restrictions on the media that cast a pall over the prospect of free and fair elections.

The EU cut off 128 million euros (£78 million) in development aid for the 2002-2007 period, banned all travel to the EU for Mugabe and 20 of his Cabinet ministers and froze their assets in Europe.

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