International Editor, Denver Rocky Mountain News
Affairs Columnist, Scripps Howard News Service
election in a country on its knees
By Holger Jensen
News International Editor
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
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
The Human Rights Forum, a consortium of Zimbabwean rights
security forces are behind 90 percent of the intimidation. It
Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of setting up 22 militia bases around the
torture supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic
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
Kansteiner, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs,
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
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
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
Seemingly unfazed by this looming disaster, Mugabe says many of
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
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
But Mugabe's rubber-stamp parliament has rushed through
amendments forbidding civic and religious organizations from
poll. Military officers have been appointed to the election
only civil servants — dependent on government jobs — will be
there to guard
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
South Africa's Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner
who once admired
Mugabe, says he has “gone bonkers in a big way.”
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
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.
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.
rights group also said three polling agents representing the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) were attacked by a group of ruling party militants
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
"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
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.
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,"
|Mugabe set for condemned election
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
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
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.
Story filed: 18:10 Monday 11th March 2002
Four US diplomats detained in
- Zimbabwe police detained four US diplomats for five hours on Monday
Chinhoyi, a town north of Harare, an embassy spokesman said.
"We have not
been given a satisfactory explanation for the detention,"
"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.
United States slapped personal sanctions on Zimbabwe's President
Mugabe in February to protest at the expulsion of European Union
observers and the government's "blatant campaign of violence
and manipulation of the electoral process".
the US embassy in Harare issued a statement urging the
government to correct
widespread polling delays in the capital, warning of
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
The polls reopened on Monday after a delay of several
Zimbabwe votes: Midlands
By Zerubabel Mudzingwa
The political atmosphere in Kadoma, 130km outside Gweru,
was very tense on
Thursday morning as rowdy Zanu-PF youths ordered all shops,
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
the majority of whom had been bussed from the surrounding
Mr Mugabe attacked the residents of Kadoma for voting the
MDC in the 2000
parliamentary election and described them as "beyond
Thousands of rural passengers were left stranded in the city
government-owned buses were commandeered to ferry people to and from
Most of the province has been in relative calm in the last 24
following weekend clashes which left hundreds injured.
police presence in trouble spots like Mberengwa, Gokwe, Kwekwe and
helped ease the tension that had been building up over the last
Officials from the two main parties - Zanu-PF and MDC - played a
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
However, many people in Midlands are concerned about the
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
They were also allegedly required to write down their
full details on the
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
People in Midlands are also concerned over delays in
Political tension continues to mount in the Midlands province ahead
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.
Chanza is battling for his life at a private
Groups of soldiers from the presidential guard descended on
Gweru and assaulted people for having allegedly attacked some
duty in Mkoba high-density suburbs.
About 100 civilians
were taken to hospital with various injuries sustained
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,
Tension in the province has been heightened by preparations for
of Robert Mugabe, the ruling party's presidential candidate, for
campaign rally in Gweru on 4 March.
Youths from both
political parties are accusing each other of pulling down
for their party candidates - Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC
and Robert Mugabe
On 24 February, 44 MDC trainee polling agents were attacked
injured by suspected Zanu-PF youths at Lower Gweru Mission,
a training course near the business centre.
arrested five suspects, among them two war veteran leaders, in
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.
which was originally built by British business tycoon Nick Van
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
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.
youths based at the Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru went on a
attacking residents in the suburbs, accusing them of pulling down
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
Zanu-PF and MDC presidential candidates, Robert Mugabe and
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.
700,000 villagers had registered for food aid three months ago, but
figure is likely to rise sharply because most crops this year have
rendered a write-off due to the scorching sun.
recently passed legislation barring political parties and
organisations from distributing maize-meal in their
The state-owned Grain Marketing Board, the country's sole
distributor of maize, now relies on maize imports from South Africa
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
Zimbabwe Opposition Appeals for More Voting
By Nicholas Kotch and Cris Chinaka
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.
government also refused to obey the High Court's order to open
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Mugabe was trying
to steal the
election and "multitudes of potential voters are being
The court was expected to rule later Monday.
U.S. Embassy in Harare said four American diplomats, two of them
observers, had been freed after being held for five hours at a
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
The U.S. government has been in the forefront of international
against Mugabe and has threatened to tighten sanctions against the
elite if the election result is blatantly
TSVANGIRAI SAYS LIFE AT RISK
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
Tsvangirai, posing the toughest challenge of Mugabe's
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
"They may want to arrest me and at worst kill me but they will
the spirit of the people to reclaim their power," he
Thousands of people jammed polling stations in Harare, an
stronghold in the southern African country, after they reopened at
(12 a.m. EST) Monday. But officials did not allow voting to start
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
Tsvangirai issued a statement to his followers saying he shared
that the result would be
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
The election campaign was marked by widespread violence in which
monitors say 33 people died, most of them Movement for Democratic
supporters killed by militia from the ruling ZANU-PF
Movement for Democratic Change official Learnmore Jongwe said
sketchy on the arrest of party Secretary-General Welshman Ncube
Botswana border but suggested it was connected with treason charges
Ncube, Tsvangirai and another Movement for Democratic Change
They have denied the accusation that they plotted to
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.
Kare Vollan said 1,000 voters had been turned away from
Harare's Warren Park
Witnesses said riot police shut down another polling station
about an hour
after the court ruling, scattering around 2,500 people who had
of the day. Some people waited in line for 20 hours to
This is London
Mugabe set to win election farce
Robert Mugabe looks likely to cling to power in Zimbabwe's
presidential election - extended into a third day by a court
With thousands of people effectively prevented from casting their
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has accused Mugabe of trying to
victory, describing it as a "stillborn election."
ministers, meeting in Brussels, described the election as "not
confusion reigned in the capital Harare amid allegations of
Polling stations opened nearly five hours late while thousands
waited to vote and there is still no indication as to when the
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
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.
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.
Chaos as officials fear to open polls
Harare - The
Zimbabwe government on Monday agreed to an extension of voting
presidential elections for a third day in Harare and the
satellite city of
But confusion reigned at many polling stations in Harare,
officials said they were receiving conflicting
"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
anonymity. "The instructions are not to open the polling
The facility opened for five minutes before closing again, to
protest from about 100 waiting voters.
The polling official
said he was receiving conflicting instructions from
officials of the ruling Zimbabwe African National
(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
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had appealed
extension after a weekend of chaotic voting in Harare that saw
thousands of people long because of a massive turnout and a cutback in
number of polling stations.
Half of Harare's voters
19:00 on Sunday, when polling stations closed, less than half of
registered voters had voted in the presidential election. About 2.5
in a total of 5.6 million registered voters had brought out their
The election commission announced the figures on Sunday night after
polling stations had closed. Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede at a
briefing said less than 400 000 in more than 880 000 registered voters
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
Voters in the lines said they were concerned that people would be
that they could still vote on Monday, since state television had said
Sunday in its main evening bulletin that the election was over.
High Court order to extend the vote came later on Sunday evening, and
justice minister's announcement came at 07:00 on Monday, the same time
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.
cannot afford to leave (the polling stations). We want to vote this
(Mugabe) out," he said.
First charges of rigging
The MDC has
brought the first charges of rigging by the government on
police officers were on Sunday evening deployed in large numbers at
polling stations amid increasing concern and anger among hundreds
thousands of urban voters - mainly opposition supporters who were
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
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.
Although leaders of South Africa's two main observer missions to
the multidisciplinary and parliamentary missions declined to
officially on Sunday, it is believed they exerted pressure on the
government behind the scenes to allow the extra voting days to go
Meanwhile reports of increased intimidation and assaults by
monitors" in rural areas in particular, were streaming
Zimbabwean Election Support Network chairperson Dr Reginald
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
Zimbabwe orders polls to close at end of third election
HARARE, March 11 — The government of President Robert Mugabe
stations to close in Zimbabwe's election on Monday despite
of voters in opposition strongholds.
Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede told state television: ''We have
presiding officers to close polling stations at 7.00 p.m. (1700 GMT),
have indicated to them that this is when voting should end. As I
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
President Robert Mugabe, was extended into an unscheduled
third day because
thousands of opposition supporters had been unable to vote
But polling stations opened five hours late in Harare on
remained closed in the rest of the country.
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, alleging that Mugabe
deliberately disenfranchising its supporters, went to the High Court
Monday night to request a fourth day of voting.
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.
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
The Zimbabwean dollar fetched a retail price ranging between
350.00 against the US dollar on the unofficial street market versus
250.00 to 300.00 two weeks ago and about 200 at the start of the
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.
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.
squeeze is already bad, and the last thing it required was
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
A severe shortage of hard currency in the once-prosperous
country means the official rate largely applies to
government imports and
large corporates as retailers routinely find no
dollars to purchase from
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
Poll jitters meant traders were snapping up all the dollars that
way as they attempted to stockpile in a market where dollars are
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
Foreign media and election observers said they were offered
of between 300 and 350 Zimbabwe dollars per US dollar by the
currency shops which are moving to cash in on available supply of
"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.
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
according to Zimbabwe's Media Monitoring Project (ZMMP).
non-governmental organisation said in a report released at the weekend
its preliminary figures showed ZBC television carried 402 election
stories in news bulletins monitored between December 1, 2001 and
2002, the penultimate day of the election campaign.
Of these, 339 of them
(84%) favoured the ruling Zanu-PF's candidate,
Only 38 (or 9%) covered activities of the opposition Movement for
Change (MDC), but "virtually all of them" were used to discredit
and its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The 24 other reports
gave publicity to the three other candidates contesting
Radio - a state monopoly - had following the same pattern, the
Radio Zimbabwe, ZBC's most popular station, carried a total
campaign-related stories in the news bulletins monitored.
total of 237 of them (86%) were promotional stories in favour of
while 20 (7.3%) were negative stories about the
"However, the most damning statistic to emerge from MMPZ's work was
that out of a total of 14 hours and 25 minutes that ZBC television
bulletins devoted to the presidential election campaign, Zanu-PF's
was granted a total of 13 hours and 34 minutes, or a little more
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.
before in the life of the Media Monitoring Project has ZTV's coverage
ZBC television had also so grossly distorted the extent
of the nation-wide
campaign of violence that it seemed to be deliberately
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.
Media Update for March 10th 2002
DAILY PRINT REPORT - SATURDAY, 10 MARCH 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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
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".
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
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
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
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
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
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
ZBC gave no analysis of the implications of the delays in voting in
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
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
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
The station also reported on the harassment of MDC polling
agents and problems the party was having in deploying its polling
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:firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous copies of
MMPZ reports can be accessed at http://www.icon.co.zw/mmpz
free to circulate this message!
|EU envoys report election
European Union foreign ministers have received reports of voting
irregularities in Zimbabwe where chaotic presidential elections have run into a
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
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.
Story filed: 13:24 Monday 11th March 2002