On March 29, 2008, Zimbabweans will participate in presidential, parliamentary, senatorial, and local government elections synchronized for the first time, following changes to Zimbabwe's constitution in September 2007. As the elections near, all indications are that once again the people of Zimbabwe will not be able to freely exercise their civil and political rights and vote for the candidates of their choice. As in the last parliamentary elections in 2005, the playing field for candidates and their parties is not level.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe charges the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) with holding elections that are 'conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law.' The conduct of free and fair elections is part and parcel of Zimbabwe's obligations under human rights law as guaranteed in the constitution and in international and African human rights conventions that Zimbabwe has ratified (1). The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, to which the government of Zimbabwe is a signatory, call for full participation of citizens in the political process, freedom of association, political tolerance, equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media, independence of the judiciary, independence of the media, impartiality of the electoral institutions, and voter education (2).
The government has yet again failed to adequately meet any of these obligations in the run up to the March 29 elections. Zimbabwe has a history of elections that fall far short of international and regional standards, and of government-sponsored repression of opposition parties. The government has not remedied the serious flaws in the electoral process documented by local and international observers in the 2005 elections. Instead, the government has been responsible again for similar patterns of violations in the 2008 pre-election campaign period.
In particular, Human Rights Watch has found that the government has not implemented several positive amendments to electoral laws that, in any event, came too late in the day to have any effect on the electoral process, leading to a flawed and chaotic voter registration process. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is inadequately prepared to run the elections, and under-resourced. It is still partisan toward the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and not independent or impartial: despite new provisions in the constitution mandating an overhaul in its composition, the ZEC is still managed by former military officials and military personnel who are widely believed to support the ruling party. The ZEC has also failed to adequately educate and sensitize the voting public on the new extremely complex electoral process, which requires voters to simultaneously cast four different ballot papers on the same day. To date, opposition political parties have not been accorded equal access to the state broadcast media, and state media coverage of the elections has so far been overwhelmingly pro-ruling party in nature.
As in previous elections, local government authorities, ZANU-PF supporters, and security forces including the police and central intelligence, are the main perpetrators of the violations being committed in the election run-up. These violations include intimidation and acts of violence against opposition and perceived opposition supporters, restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression; limits on media freedom; and abuse in the government's distribution of maize and agricultural equipment to achieve political advantage.
It is encouraging that the government and senior police officers have sought to publicly assure voters that they will take a 'zero tolerance' approach to violence. However, in spite of such assurances, incidents of violence and intimidation continue to occur and remain a serious concern. And in spite of new provisions in the Electoral Laws Amendment Act banning intimidation and violence, Human Rights Watch recorded 12 incidents of intimidation and violence, mainly perpetrated by ZANU-PF supporters and security agents, between September 2007 and February 2008 in the areas that we visited to research this report.
The involvement of state security agents and police in incidents of violence and intimidation greatly decreases the public's trust in the police force. In the past year, the high number of such incidents against opposition members, human rights activists, and journalists has deepened the pervasive climate of fear in the country. Minimal changes to repressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) have failed to open up space for the opposition. The government continues to selectively apply these laws, and others such as the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, to intimidate and harass opposition candidates and disrupt their campaigning. The authorities have also used these laws against perceived supporters of the opposition including nongovernmental organizations and student groups.
None of the police officers or state security officials responsible for perpetrating acts of violence and intimidation in the past year has been prosecuted. That aspect of the culture of impunity prevailing in Zimbabwe compounds an environment in which government election violations continue unabated and with no one held accountable for them.
Under these circumstances—a deeply flawed and rushed electoral process, as well as continuing violations of civil and political rights—there is little chance the March 29 elections will help Zimbabwe either establish democracy or bring an end to the country's ongoing political crisis. However, in the days remaining, Human Rights Watch calls on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the will of the people, and to meet its obligations under national and international law to allow people to vote for candidates of their choice in an environment that is free of intimidation, fear, and violence.
(1) For example, article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), entered into force March 23, 1976, acceded to by Zimbabwe on August 13, 1991; and article 13, African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, adopted June 27, 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, entered into force October 21, 1986, ratified by Zimbabwe on May 30, 1986.
(2) SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, adopted by
the SADC Summit, Mauritius, August 2004, http://www.sadc.int/english/documents/political_affairs/index.php
(accessed March 11, 2008).
Full_Report (pdf* format - 214.4 Kbytes)
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SW Radio Africa (London)
19 March 2008
Posted to the web 19 March 2008
An electoral amendment, passed by Robert Mugabe on Monday, sparked renewed
fears that Zanu PF is determined to rig the March 29 election. State radio
announced Tuesday that Mugabe amended electoral laws to allow policemen into
polling stations to 'assist' illiterate people to vote. The opposition
immediately slammed the amendment saying it violated agreements reached at
the SADC brokered talks. Policemen were barred from being within 100 metres
of a polling station because it was felt they would intimidate voters.
Mugabe has however disregarded those concerns and declared that section 59
of the Electoral Act has been amended to 'allow two electoral officers and a
police officer on duty to assist semi- literate voters.'
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has meanwhile also announced that teachers
for the first time will not be used as polling officers during the election.
ZEC Chairman George Chiweshe says they will be using selected individuals
from several local and public bodies. The move drew criticism from teachers
unions who charged that the move suggests the commission has something to
hide and wants to carefully control the voting process. The move is
particularly worrying given estimates by the independent Zimbabwe Election
Support Network that voters in Harare and Chitungwiza might have to be
processed in just 9 seconds each, if the number of registered people per
ward is calculated against the number of polling stations.
Many analysts are predicting chaos on election day with some of the concerns
centering on possible water and electricity cuts. Mugabe tried to allay any
such fears by promising the use of 5000 portable generators as back up.
Doubts however remain over the sincerity of any such pledge, given that
election day chaos in the urban centres would benefit Zanu PF who do not
expect to pick up significant votes there. The rural areas remain Mugabe's
priority and his regime is likely to allocate more back- up generators there
than in the urban centres.
Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper reports that Mugabe had a 'frosty'
meeting with Solomon Mujuru over the retired general's reported links with
party rebel Simba Makoni. Mujuru, who called for the meeting, is said to
have been eager to distance himself from the Makoni project only for Mugabe
to say, 'Okay, I have heard you. Is that all?' The paper says the meeting
ended abruptly and Mugabe's presentation of the meeting to the state media
suggested he remained sceptical of Mujuru's allegiance. Talking about
Mujuru's denial Mugabe said, 'that's what he told me.'
By Darren Taylor
19 March 2008
Zimbabweans go to the polls next Saturday - March 29 - against the backdrop
of an economy that has collapsed. Aid agencies say the implosion of the
country's agricultural sector has left many in danger of starvation. Even
people with money are forced to stand in long lines for scarce basic food
and fuel. Nevertheless, Zimbabwean voters are now faced with the daunting
challenge of deciding who among three strong personalities should lead their
country into the future. President Robert Mugabe, opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and former finance minister and independent Simba Makoni are the
candidates. Yet many in Zimbabwe and in the international community fear the
voting will not be free and fair. VOA's Darren Taylor reports.
Since Zimbabwe's last elections, in 2005, life has gone from bad to worse
for most of the country's inhabitants. Annual inflation is the highest in
the world at 100,000 per cent - price increases on basic goods sweep
Zimbabwe almost weekly, and only two in ten Zimbabwean adults have jobs.
"It's very difficult. As I'm speaking to you right now I'm actually using
candles because there is no power. I can't cook. And when the power is
there, there's very little to cook. Mealiemeal (maize meal), which is like
our staple food, is very difficult to get. People still spend days and days
queuing to get mealiemeal. Other basics, like sugar and soap, you don't find
them on the shelves," says Netsai Mlilo, a freelance reporter in Bulawayo,
Zimbabwe's second largest city.
Brendan Murphy is the chief of Voice of America's Studio 7 Zimbabwe service.
From their base in Washington D.C., he and his team of journalists - mostly
Zimbabwean exiles - are in constant contact with people in their home
country. Murphy says he doesn't know how Zimbabweans are surviving, and how
they'll find time to vote during their daily battle to survive.
"Ten kilograms of mealiemeal costs 100 million (Zimbabwean) dollars. A liter
of gas (petrol) costs 25 million dollars.. The cost of living is just
astronomical for the average person. People are just looking, desperately,
at these elections for a way out of that," Murphy explains.
Mlilo says the people of Bulawayo recently rejoiced when their water supply
became regular.. But their exuberance was short-lived: "We are not sure now
about the quality. The local authority says it doesn't have enough money to
buy chemicals to purify the water. Every day brings a new setback."
And when medical emergencies strike in Zimbabwe these days, Mlilo says there's
almost never fuel to power ambulances.
Many Zimbabwean analysts, such as Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis
Group, blame the situation on the policies of their country's 84-year-old
"Under normal circumstances, there's no chance in hell that Mugabe would win
an election!" he exclaims.
International observers specifically trace the beginning of Zimbabwe's
meltdown to President Mugabe's controversial land reform program. In 2000,
the Zanu-P.F. government started confiscating commercial farms owned by
white people for, in the words of the state, "redistribution to landless
blacks." But it's largely Mr. Mugabe's ruling party allies, security force
chiefs and veterans of the 1970s war of liberation who have benefited from
being allocated extensive tracts of prime land. Agriculture has stalled, and
Zimbabwe has regressed from being an exporter to an importer of food.
But President Mugabe, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since its
independence from Britain in 1980, blames "the West" for Zimbabwe's woes. He
says Britain and the United States are agitating for his overthrow so that
they can put what he refers to as their "puppets" and "stooges" into power.
Mr. Mugabe also blames the hardships suffered by his nation on U.S. and
European economic sanctions, even though there are no such measures in place
against Zimbabwe. The E.U. and U.S. are, however, employing "targeted"
sanctions against the president and some of his Zanu-P.F. colleagues. They're
banned from traveling to America and certain European countries, and their
assets there have been frozen.
Violence and intimidation
Previous polls in Zimbabwe have been rife with violence. Police brutality
against opposition members and supporters has been the order of the day.
Members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.) have been
thrown into jail, beaten and allegedly tortured.
"There are growing concerns around incidents of violence and repression.. We
quite expect the usual range of intimidation and violence," says Mike Davis,
an official with a civic group in the country's capital, the Combined Harare
Says Blessing Zulu, a Zimbabwean journalist working with Murphy: "We have
heard reports of a number of candidates in the opposition being abducted and
remanded into custody. They therefore can't campaign. They are effectively
been frozen out of the election process."
"The environment at the moment is massively tilted in favor of the incumbent
regime," agreed Briggs Bomba, a former Zimbabwean student leader now working
for the Africa Action lobby group in Washington.
"There's clear intimidation taking place. Recently we had the head of the
prison services ordering officers under his command to vote for Mugabe. And
we've heard as well threatening statements from the War Veteran's
(Association) chairperson, Jabulani Sibanda, where he made outrageous
statements to the effect that he would rather be under a military government
for five years than have (Simba) Makoni or anyone else come in as the
Senior police and army officers have been expressing similar sentiments
ahead of the ballot. Zimbabwe's police chief, Augustine Chihuri, has warned
that he will not let opposition "puppets" take power.
"The violence that we've seen in the past - people's memories are still
scarred," says Bomba. "So there's a lot of fear. The legal environment is
tilted in favor of the regime. The government has created a very serious
bureaucracy which makes it very difficult for people to go in and freely
Masamvu affirmed: "The state has muzzled up the opposition, and the
opposition parties are not being allowed to use the political space to
launch their campaigns and to access the voters. The vote is being stolen or
rigged, in the context of the processes (that take place) before the actual
The Zanu-P.F. administration denies that it's subverting the electoral
process, and has repeatedly stressed that the elections will be free and
But Mlilo says she's personally witnessed security forces preventing
opposition supporters from campaigning.
"Just the other day, one of our aspiring (opposition) candidates, a woman,
Thabitha Khumalo, was also arrested and detained overnight for conducting a
'Witches, charlatans, two-headed creatures, prostitutes'
Mr. Mugabe, in customary fashion, has been using inflammatory language to
denigrate his opponents. He's called them "witches," "charlatans,"
"traitors" and "two-headed creatures." He's also called Makoni a political
Michelle Gavin, an International Affairs Fellow at the United States'
Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of the Council's Special Report
on Zimbabwe, says what she calls the president's insulting language "makes
it impossible that you would have a long enough period of genuinely free and
fair pre-election conditions such that you could have a free and fair
Masamvu says President Mugabe's "saber-rattling" is setting the scene for a
"violent backlash" against his opponents and is also evidence that the
octogenarian leader has "no (real) message to sell" to the electorate.
Blessing Zulu says while the Zanu-P.F. leaders' "aggressive" vocabulary is
"vintage Mugabe," it nevertheless remains "dangerous."
"In the past, people like the (Zanu-P.F.) youth militia and others have
become involved, using Mugabe's language as a green light to persecute their
boss's perceived enemies."
Masamvu agrees: "Another tactic that the president has also used is to say
that these (opposition forces) are being fronted by the West. So therefore
they are enemies of the state and are legitimate targets."
Irregularities and lack of voter education
According to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Z.E.S.N.), the list of
polling stations released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission contains
"significant errors and relatively few polling stations in Bulawayo and
Harare provinces." It's a similar situation in Matabeleland, southern
Zimbabwe, with polling stations being located in incorrect constituencies.
The Z.E.S.N. commented: "People won't know where to vote on polling day."
In some municipalities, where thousands are registered, the Z.E.S.N. says
according to its calculations officials will need to process voters at a
rate of one every 22 seconds - in some cases as fast a one every nine
seconds - in order for all registered voters in the particular
constituencies to cast their ballots. This will clearly be an impossible
task, says the Z.E.S.N., and could leave many thousands without a chance to
According to some analysts, this is a clear strategy by the government to
disenfranchise people in regions that have previously voted heavily against
Mr. Mugabe. The state denies the charge and calls it a "fabrication."
Mike Davis, who is particularly concerned with monitoring the municipal
elections that are scheduled for the same day as the presidential polls,
says there's been "substantial manipulation of legislation, which has the
effect of undermining our democratic rights."
The state has, for example, instituted legislation that allows the Minister
of Local Government to appoint up to 25 per cent of city councilors in
Harare as representatives of so-called "special interest groups."
"This means the minister will appoint councilors that will represent his -
and only his - interests. These are just a few examples of the manipulation
of the pre-election environment," Davis says.
He adds that there are "enormous problems around the whole election
exercise." Candidate lists have been published late, which delays the
opposition's attempts to introduce candidates to voters.
Davis is convinced that problems experienced in the 2002 and 2005 elections,
such as too few polling stations, are doomed to repeat themselves.
"As a result, many voters failed to cast their ballots. We expect this to
happen again," he says.
Roxanne Lawson, of the TransAfrica Forum, which lobbies the U.S. government
on African issues, says her organization is "extremely concerned" about the
approaching elections, for a variety of reasons.
"Firstly, because of the extreme financial stress that the Zimbabwean
government and people are under, it's making it almost impossible for them
to prepare for elections in a real way. This is an historic election: this
is the first time in Zimbabwean history that you're going to have
presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and (local) council elections on the
same day. That's a huge undertaking for any country. But for Zimbabwe,
because of its very particular financial and social situation, it's almost
impossible. We've been looking at reports coming out of Zimbabwe that the
country is not really prepared for elections," Lawson states.
She says the "average Zimbabwean is going to be terribly marginalized by
this election, regardless of who the victor is."
Netsai Mlilo points to a lack of voter education in the months before the
polls as another reason she thinks the election is set to be fraught with
"People don't seem to be very clear about how the voting process is going to
be conducted. Especially in the rural areas, there's a lot of confusion
stemming from ignorance."
Danger of apathy
Briggs Bomba says Zimbabweans remain "interested" in the upcoming elections,
despite what he calls the travesties of the past - but many are also "very
"They tried to vote for change in 2000 and failed. In 2002, they failed
again. In 2005, they failed again.."
Bomba therefore doesn't think voter turnout will be "too high." But he adds,
"If the people who turned out to inspect the voter's roll is anything to go
by, we are going to see a moderate turnout. But I maintain that many people
will not vote - simply because they will be standing in queues for maize
meal, sugar and cooking oil. They can't make the sacrifice. Voting is a
luxury they can't afford."
Similarly, Zulu is also concerned that the polls will be characterized by a
"high degree of apathy."
"You have some people even questioning the wisdom of going to the elections
(to vote). This voter apathy is what always has been happening in Zimbabwe,"
But Mlilo says she's seen a "definite shift" in the country in recent
months, whereby groups of people who had previously not been interested in
voting suddenly became politically active.
"Previously, those in the middle and upper classes who had money did not
have to get involved in politics. Now, things have changed - life has become
desperate for everybody. For even those who have the money, there's very
little to buy, so that causes a problem. And you'll get those people - they'll
be going to vote because they want to be able to spend the money that they
have," says Mlilo.
"Although people are struggling for survival, they are very much focused on
this election, simply because they realize that things can't get much worse
before survival becomes nearly impossible. And so therefore the election is
the only rescue in sight, if you will," says Brendan Murphy.
"I think these elections are looked upon by the average Zimbabweans as not
necessarily a sure path to democracy or reform, but simply a potential
stepping stone to something better. The mood amongst the populace is one of
desperation, and they simply hope that something surprising will happen,
that something unexpected will happen here to spring the country out of the
rut that it's in. People are just hoping and praying - against past
experience - that this (ballot) will actually make a difference."
Davis, though, is pessimistic: "There's an inherent anti-democratic attitude
(in the Zimbabwe government) that voting is almost like a privilege and not
a duty for a citizen. There's never been a facilitation of our right to
vote. There've always been obstacles put in our way - apart from the gross
intimidation and the gross fraud that we've experienced in the past. Just
the physical process of voting is made extremely difficult for people (by
the authorities). And I think this is understandable in the context of an
anti-democratic regime such as we have here."
33 minutes ago
HARARE (AFP) - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer
mission on Wednesday said conditions in Zimbabwe were conducive for next
week's general polls.
"The moment is right to hold elections, the climate is right to hold
elections," head of SADC's electoral observer mission Jose Marcos Barrica
said at a news conference in Harare.
"What should be done is being done. The time is right to hold elections."
He noted concerns over the delay in the publication of the voters' roll and
unequal media coverage.
"The voters roll should have been published last week, but we are told this
was only published yesterday," Barrica said, adding that it was an
"There were some concerns in inequality of media time given to different
candidates by the state mass media. We say that the situation should be
changed. They should think about it to have an equal share."
Zimbabweans go to the polls on March 29 to elect a president, lawmakers and
Veteran President Robert Mugabe, 84, is facing a challenge from his former
finance minister Simba Makoni and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The government has invited SADC and 46 other teams of monitors from regional
groupings such as the African Union as well as from countries including
China, Russia and Iran with whom Mugabe enjoys cordial relations.
Earlier this month, Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi
announced that European Union member states and the United States would not
be allowed to come to monitor the polls.
Commenting on recent threats by one the country's service chiefs that he
would only recognise Mugabe, Barrica said the comments were made by an
individual and did not represent the views of the defence forces.
"It could have worried us if it were from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
or the government or from the political leader or the president of the
republic," he said.
By Fikile Mapala
Last updated: 03/20/2008 02:37:06
THE cash-strapped Zimbabwe government which approved a hefty salary hike for
striking teachers two weeks ago failed to pay the new salaries as civil
servants got their pay on Wednesday, union officials said.
President Robert Mugabe announced that he had authorised the massive pay out
to teachers and other civil servants after teachers went on strike last
month protesting against low salaries.
The president of the pro-government Zimbabwe Teachers Association, Tendai
Chikowore, confirmed teachers who got paid Wednesday had not received the
hefty salaries as promised by government.
Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the more militant Progressive
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said teachers were shocked to discover
that government had paid old salaries instead of the promised windfall.
Majongwe said: "After the announcement of a new salary structure by
government, teachers were expecting a salary increment this payday. Teachers
got paid today (Tuesday) and they are crying foul. They did not get the
The PTUZ leader said after urgent consultations they had been told that the
Public Service Commission (PSC) -- which employs all civil servants -- was
making frantic efforts to make sure that the new salaries are paid before
the end of the month.
Majongwe said: "I have phoned the commission and a senior official there has
told us that the government did not have the money to pay the new salaries
this Tuesday. The official said efforts are being made to pay the new
salaries before end of month."
The Zimbabwean government, visibly broke and struggling to turn back an
unprecedented economic slide, had promised junior teachers a gross salary of
$3.9 billion, and senior teachers were expecting to be paid $5 billion.
PSC chairman Mariyawanda Nzuwa admitted that the government could not pay
the new salaries this week, attributing the problem to "administrative
Nzuwa said: "We faced administrative challenges in the course of trying to
effect the new salaries for our employees but it's something we will be able
to solve before the end of the month. Civil servants should not panic
because we have already communicated this position to them."
Government sources said President Mugabe, under pressure to pacify civil
servants ahead of crucial elections on March 29, agreed to their demands for
huge salary increases although his government does not have the money.
Mugabe has instructed central bank governor Gideon Gono to print trillions
of dollars to finance the inflated salary bill for government workers, but
the Reserve Bank's printing presses are struggling to match up with the
demand for banknotes.
Meanwhile Zimbabwean schools which have been designated as polling stations
closed Wednesday to make way for elections. The Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission which has the task of running the forthcoming elections will rely
heavily on school teachers as polling officers.
By Alec Russell in Johannesburg
Published: March 19 2008 18:09 | Last updated: March 19 2008 18:09
The Zimbabwean authorities are guilty of denying opposition supporters
access to state food supplies as part of a systematic attempt to intimidate
opponents ahead of next week's presidential and parliamentary elections, the
US rights group, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
In a report entitled "All Over Again" a reference to widely recorded human
rights abuses in the countdown to the last three elections in Zimbabwe, the
US group in effect rules out the chance of a free and fair vote on March 29.
"Despite some improvements on paper to the election regulations, Zimbabweans
aren't free to vote for the candidates of their choice," said Georgette
Gagnon, the group's Africa director. "While there are four candidates
running for president and many political parties involved, the election
process itself is skewed."
The report documents a series of abuses by the ruling Zanu-PF party and
government agencies aimed, the group argues, at ensuring that President
Robert Mugabe, the country's 84-year-old and increasingly autocratic leader,
succeeds in his bid to extend his 28 years in power.
He is facing probably his greatest electoral challenge since he led Zimbabwe
into independence in 1980, amid mounting popular discontent over the country's
economic implosion, and a rebellion in Zanu-PF.
The report compiled during a seven-week undercover trip to all of Zimbabwe's
provinces accuses officials of bribing voters with agricultural equipment
and manipulating the distribution of state-subsidised maize and seed for
political gain. It quotes an unnamed Zanu-PF supporter saying: "the mealie
meal is only being accessed by us. It is very easy. Only those who are on
the councillors' lists can access the grain. A person who is not on the list
The government says the elections will be conducted in line with regional
principles on democratic elections. But it has only accredited election
observer missions from countries it deems friendly.
Wednesday's report came in the wake of allegations by the opposition and
independent monitoring groups that the voters' roll includes the names of
many dead and non-existent people, laying open the possibility of sustained
rigging on polling day. Among "phantom" voters listed on the roll is Desmond
Lardner-Burke, a former law and order minister from the era when Zimbabwe
was run by whites and was called Rhodesia. He died nearly 30 years ago.
Tiseke Kasambala, who compiled the report, said the findings put the
spotlight on the observer mission from the Southern African Development
Community, the regional grouping, which controversially endorsed the last
presidential election in 2002. She urged them to stay in the country as long
as possible after the vote, warning there was a strong chance of the results
being contested, exacerbating the political crisis.
Diplomats say the difficulty for Mr Mugabe is that he is desperate for the
election to be seen to be free and fair but, given the economic meltdown,
with inflation at more than 100,000 per cent, he may have to resort to a
range of unjust and illegal manoeuvres to ensure the vote goes his way.
March 19 2008 at 11:58AM
Authorities in Zimbabwe want to impose mandatory jail terms on
business people who flout price controls, news reports said on Wednesday.
The recommendation was made recently by a special committee chaired by
the acting attorney general Bharat Patel, the state- controlled Herald daily
"On price control, it was recommended that the existing legislation
should be harmonised and rationalised," Patel was quoted as saying.
"It was also agreed that the offence of overcharging should be visited
with the possibility of imprisonment as well as a monetary fine," he said.
The statement came as it was announced on Wednesday that two more
business executives had been arrested. David Muchinguri, the general manager
of Bakers Inn - one of Harare's top bakeries - has been arrested for
charging too much for a loaf of bread, the Herald said in a separate report.
Another city executive was arrested for overcharging on bags of
cement. Earlier in March two executives from two of Zimbabwe's major milling
firms were arrested for charging too much for flour.
Bakers have been accused of charging Z$9-million (about R2 476,81) per
loaf, instead of the official $6-million. Some shops are now selling loaves
at prices between $12,5-million and $15-million.
In 2007 more than 23 000 company officials and business owners were
arrested for flouting price controls imposed by President Robert Mugabe's
government in a desperate bid to curb inflation.
Many of them were either fined or sentenced to many hours of community
service such as cleaning government schools and police stations.
Zimbabwe's hyperinflation - estimated to have reached more than 100
580 percent in January - means prices rarely stay fixed for more than a day.
Even the country's central bank chief in 2007 urged politicians to
"tell the truth that prices cannot remain the same forever."
But on Tuesday Mugabe told supporters at a rally in Gokwe in Midlands
province that the escalating prices were part of a plot by former colonial
power Britain to turn the electorate against his ruling party.
"He urged people to report all profiteering businesses so that the
owners and managers could be arrested and made accountable for their
actions," the Herald said.
The economy is seen as a key issue in general elections on March 29,
in which Mugabe is facing a serious challenge by two strong contenders:
former finance minister Simba Makoni, and opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai. - Sapa-dpa
SW Radio Africa (London)
19 March 2008
Posted to the web 19 March 2008
Police in Harare have stopped the Combined Harare Residents Association from
holding public meetings with the contesting election candidates in the
Mfundo Mlilo, spokesman for CHRA, told us Wednesday that the officer
commanding Southerton police district had banned 16 of their planned 'meet
the candidate public meetings' in all low and high-density suburbs south of
'The Association has thus been incapacitated and unlawfully prevented from
affording residents a platform to meet their potential leaders and engage
them on manifestos. The refusal to grant clearances is a direct assault to
democracy and the association's right to freedom of assembly, freedom of
association and expression,' Mlilo said.
According to CHRA, police alleged they intended to use the platforms to
motivate residents to be violent should the opposition lose the elections.
They also allege that they do not have sufficient manpower for political
rallies and civic programs. Instead police urged CHRA to motivate its
members to attend party political platforms, if they want to listen to
But Mlilo maintained CHRA was a non-partisan association and would therefore
want to engage contesting candidates on their manifestos, in neutral
'The refusal by the police to grant clearance is thus an assault to our
civic duty to enhance resident's participations in matters of local
governance. It is abuse of power by the police bent on creating chaos in the
elections and subverting the will of the people,' added Mlilo.
CHRA is worried the new delimitations have created a lot of uncertainty and
that the Zimbabwe Election Commission has not done enough voter education.
It wanted to use the banned meetings to educate residents on how to vote and
to address questions on ward boundaries.
The association said it was aware of the political allegiance of the police,
who were fearful of residents platforms enabling them to meet candidates
from all political parties.
Wednesday, 19 March 2008 13:36
BULAWAYO-In a desperate move to lure supporters Zanu PF youths in
Mberengwa in the Midlands Province are going around ordering shop owners
and school headmasters in the district to display President Robert
Mugabe's portraits inside their shops, on shop windows and on school
This comes after similar incidents were reported in Harare last week
where supporters of the ruling party in the capital were forcing
commuter omnibus operators to display the 84 year old geriatric
leader's portraits in their omnibuses.
Mberengwa is known to be a no go area for most opposition parties
since Independence as it always records highest number of Zanu PF
voters in every election in the country after Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe
in Mashonaland East Province.
When The Zimbabwean visited Mberengwa the district this Sunday it witnessed
that most shops and schools were displaying Mugabe's portraits. All shops
at Murongwe ,Mwembe, Maranda and Chabwira Business Centres under
Chief John Bhera Mataruse were displaying the out going president's
posters without any sign of opposition parties posters. Schools which
were displaying Mugabe portraits at their gates include Zvamatobwe,
Murongwe, Chabwira, Vutsanana Secondary Schools and Mwembe, Ruuraugwi,
Mapunya and Chomunyaka Primary Schools.
Shoponwers who spoke to The Zimbabwean at Murongwe business centre said
all shop operators in the district were being forced by Zanu PF
youths to display the portraits and there being threatened that if
they don't do this Zanu PF will take over their shops or force
them to close.
"All shop operators here are being forced by Zanu PF youths to
display the president's portrait and we are being threatened that if
we don't do this Zanu PF will take over our shops or force us to
close. So we don't have any option but to do what they want" said the shop
owner who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general Raymond
Majongwe when contacted blasted Zanu PF for forcing schools in
Mberengwa "as it is traumatizing to teachers at those schools"
PRETORIA - Election observers in Zimbabwe would have to check the amendments
made by President Robert Mugabe to the electoral laws, allowing police
officers into polling stations, SA delegation head Kingsley Mamabolo said on
Speaking on the eve of the departure of the last group of South Africans who
will monitor the March 29 election in Zimbabwe under the Southern African
Development Community mandate, Mamabolo said the observer would have to
establish how this would influence voting.
"The perception could be that police will intimidate voters, we'll have to
check that," he said.
He said the observer mission would only pass judgement on the move by Mugabe
once it had established all the facts.
"I have heard this and find it very interesting and we'll have to check
this -- we can only pass judgement once we have received explanations," he
The amendment, which was published as a presidential proclamation on Monday,
comes less than two weeks ahead of the polls and according to Zimbabwe state
radio will allow policemen into polling stations later this month to
"assist" illiterate people to vote.
Previously police were not allowed within 100 metres of a polling station to
avoid intimidation of voters.
Nyasa Times, Malawi
Nyasa Times Reporter on 19 March, 2008 11:31:59
Leading civil society organisations in Malawi have expressed deep concern
about the conduct of the electoral process in Zimbabwe, ahead of harmonised
elections on March 29.
The NGOs raised the concerns when they held discussions with British High
Commissioner to Malawi, Richard Wildash at his official residence.
"Zimbabwe is in dire straits and the situation on the ground is not
conducive to the holding of free and fair elections. The political
leadership bars Zimbabweans from enjoying their civil and political
liberties; civil society and opposition parties are prevented from operating
freely", said Billy Banda, Executive Director of Malawi Watch Human Rights.
Undule Mwakasungura, Executive Director of the Centre, echoed his sentiments
for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), who bemoaned the reluctance of
many African leaders to speak out as one of the factors aggravating the
situation in Zimbabwe.
"Sadly, the situation is getting worse by every passing day. This calls for
international solidarity to bring hope and optimism to the many Zimbabweans
suffering under the Mugabe regime. We need to speak out openly about the
serious violations of human rights and the flagrant disregard for the rule
of law," said Mwakasungula.
Over the past few years, SADC has come under attack from pundits for its
failure to publicly condemn the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
The hostile political environment has caused a devastating economic crisis
that has sent inflation spiralling beyond 100,000%, unemployment rates in
excess of 80% and life expectancy at 35 years.
Affordable basic commodities, food, water and fuel have disappeared from the
market while foreign exchange shortages have crippled the banks.
Wildash said Britain shared civil society's concerns about the serious
governance problems in Zimbabwe.
While Britain did not support any candidate in the elections, he said it was
regrettable that the Zimbabwean government had barred EU and Commonwealth
observers, preferring to invite "only those with friendly ties with Harare".
"That the electoral process is flawed is clear. The voters' roll is in a
shambles; over two million phantom voters, names of thousands of people in
urban areas missing, hundreds of polling stations located in wrong
constituencies and the creation of over 150 new constituencies without
proper consultation," he said.
Wildash said that all accredited countries bore the key responsibility of
assessing whether the elections met international norms and standards
including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) principles and guidelines
concerning elections, of which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
Please advise as to how best to follow this up.
During the time of voter registration,I transported our domestic worker and
gardener (mother and son) to Hillside Junior school where we were informed
they could register as voters as long as they had ID's and proof of
residence. The mother was turned away on the grounds that she had not
renounced her Malawian ancestry. She was born in Zimbabwe. The son was
allowed to register after some time.
Last week,on the 11th March, 2 men arrived at our gate asking to see the
son. They were driving a Govt.vehicle. Mike and I were not in. They said
that they were from the Registrar General's office and that they had come to
take away his slip of paper which would allow him to vote. Their reason
being that his mother had not renounced her Malawian ancestry. He
protested,saying that both his parents and himself were born in Zimbabwe.He
said he felt threatened,mainly because these people had been able to track
him down and his mother was nervous. So he handed over his right to vote
saying that they had lost a Zanu PF vote!
He said they showed him a fistfull of papers belonging to other prospective
voters whose right to vote had been removed in the same manner.
I am writing to report this to you and to ask your advice as to what to do
Posted : Wed, 19 Mar 2008 05:10:09 GMT
Author : DPA
Harare - One of Zimbabwe's leading human rights bodies is alarmed over
what it says is a "contradiction" in the country's electoral law which gives
two directly opposing directions for declaring of the winner of presidential
elections. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has written to Judge
George Chiweshe, state-appointed chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC), appealing for a resolution to the issue ahead of the March
29 elections, ZLHR projects officer Rangu Nyamurindira said.
A section in the main body of the Electoral Act stipulates that if
none of the candidates gets more than 50 per cent of the vote, a second
round has to be held within 21 days between the two candidates with the most
But another provision in the law's schedule - an addendum to the act
which is meant to provide explanatory detail to the main part of the law -
says that the candidate who simply gets the most votes is to be declared the
The chances of a run-off have assumed dramatic importance in the March
The 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe is standing against former
national labour head Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, along with former finance minister and ex-ruling party
politburo member Simba Makoni and a lesser-known fourth candidate, Langton
In the last presidential vote in 2002, Mugabe got 54 per cent of the
vote, against Tsvangirai's 40 per cent. Analysts say that this time around,
with Mugabe's support considerably withered by economic chaos and some
defections within his party to Makoni, there is a strong likelihood he will
get less than 50 per cent.
This would force him into a run-off against either Tsvangirai or
Makoni, either of whom could then form some an alliance with the potential
to collect more votes than Mugabe.
Nyamurindira said ZLHR told Chiweshe "that the discrepancy (in the
Electoral Act on conditions for a runoff) might cause confusion" and needed
clarification from the ZEC.
"Normally what happens is that the content of the act itself takes
precedence over the schedule." Nyamurindira said there were court rulings
that served as legal precedents in similar conflicts, where the provision in
the main body of the act was ruled to be superior to that in the schedule.
Political commentators have warned that if Mugabe is faced with a
second round, he may order that the simple majority provided for in the
schedule be followed, irrespective of legal opinion.
"Mugabe has shown over and again that if the law is against him, he'll
do what he needs to win," one analyst said.
Nyamurindira said ZLHR was also considering applying to the High Court
for a declaration from a judge stating which provision in the Electoral Act
should be followed, should Mugabe fail to get more than 50 per cent of the
"That will at least make it difficult for him to wriggle out of a
run-off," said another lawyer who asked not to be named.
No comment could be obtained from ZEC.
The affair is the latest in a series of challenges to electoral
authorities' handling of the election, which will also decide the new
210-seat House of Assembly, 60 out of the 84 seat in the senate (Mugabe
appoints the remaining 24) and 1,958 local councillors.
Trudy Stevenson, an MP of the smaller faction of the MDC, is demanding
that authorities hand over a digitally amenable copy of the voters' roll of
5.5 million voters, which computer experts could analyse for evidence of any
deliberate manipulation meant to favour Mugabe and his Zanu-PF.
The only analysis of the voters' roll briefly permitted in 2002
unearthed the names of thousands of deceased voters, people registered
several times, others with fake identity numbers and more at addresses at
small homes where scores of voters were listed.
Stevenson said she had discovered recently that the name of Desmond
Lardner-Burke was on the voters' roll for her Harare constituency. He was
the notorious former minister of law and order in the white minority
Rhodesian government that came to an end in 1979 after a seven-year civil
war for black majority rule, and had died several years ago in South Africa,
"He would now be 102," she added.
Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai's MDC has applied to the
High Court for a hard copy of the electoral roll. His lawyers said they have
been told by authorities they can have it "after the election."
Also before the courts, is an application to force the ZEC to increase
the number of polling stations in urban areas. An election watchdog
organization last week said there were so few provided for now, it would
mean that polling stations would have to process a voter every 22 seconds in
12 hours on the single day's voting.
This was an "impossible" feat and would mean thousands of voters would
be unable to cast their votes, the organization said.
Analysts say it is as deliberate ploy by Mugabe - first used in the
2002 elections - successfully - to cut the number of voters in urban areas
where opposition against him is strongest.
Monsters and Critics
Mar 19, 2008, 5:03 GMT
Harare/Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai,
estimates the cost of rebuilding his country's ruined economy in the
billions of dollars.
'Given the scale of the problems we'll need at least 5-10 billion dollars,'
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader and presidential candidate
told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in an interview in Johannesburg in
While there was 'sufficient international goodwill to finance part of it,'
the rest had to come from Zimbabweans' own efforts, he said, observing: 'The
country is endowed with resources.'
Tsvangirai, 56, is one of four presidential candidates in the March 29 polls
in which 5.5 million Zimbabweans are registered to also choose a new
parliament and local government.
The others are Zimbabwe's president of 28 years, 84-year-old Robert Mugabe,
former finance minister Simba Makoni and little-known candidate Langton
Towungana. Makoni and Towungana are running as independents.
Restoring the purchasing power of Zimbabwe's currency, which is trading at
over 1 US dollar: 40 million Zimbabwe dollars on the black market, would be
one of his priorities if he unseats Mugabe, Tsvangirai said.
Other elements of the MDC's economic plan included reparation for victims of
the state's 2005 Murambatsvina (translates literally as 'clean out the
trash') urban demolition campaign which displaced hundreds of thousands of
people along with measures to shore up the flailing pension system.
On Mugabe's disastrous land reform campaign, which has seen thousands of
white farmers chased off their land without compensation by ruling party
members and cronies since 2000, Tsvangirai ruled out a rollback.
'We don't have to reverse it. Nowhere in the world have these types of
policies be reversed without jeopardizing or destroying the political
stability of the country. What you need is to reform the land reform process
so that you can then restore the ability of the country to feed itself.'
Despite his belief that this month's elections will be rigged, Tsvangirai,
who has led opposition to Mugabe's repressive policies for a decade,
appealed to Zimbabweans to participate in the ballot.
'You need to come out and vote to show the world you still believe in
democratic avenue for resolving the national crisis,' he said. 'In
participating your vote will further delegitimize Mugabe.'
While admitting the security situation 'may actually degenerate' if the vote
is rigged, the MDC opposes any recourse to violence because 'that would far
supersede the positive and patient way in which the democratic struggle has
been executed so far.'
19 March 2008, 06:10 GMT
Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in
Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is writing a regular diary on the challenges of
leading a normal life.
Zimbabwe is suffering from an acute economic crisis. The country has
the world's highest rate of annual inflation - 26,000% - and just one in
five has an official job.
On Thursday, I bought a chicken burger for my lunch which cost me 30m
Zimbabwean dollars [less than $1 on the black market].
Then I tried to buy the same on Friday. But it was going for $95m. The
price had more than tripled in less than 24 hours.
I was so shocked.
So, I just bought a packet of potato crisps for my lunch.
After work on Friday, I went to one of the fairly big supermarkets.
Four of their aisles were completely empty and of the shelves that did have
goods on, about 30 - 50% of the space was bare.
But that's normal here.
Except of course if you go to one of the supermarkets in the upmarket
suburbs - they have everything you could possibly want or need.
But it costs you four-times as much as it would cost you to buy in
It is so extremely expensive - it is just ridiculous.
I haven't been able to get away from work and take time off recently
to go shopping in South Africa... sounds fancy but it's not!
What I do, like many others, is buy a one-way ticket to Johannesburg.
Normally I'd go on a Thursday evening after work. Then, once I'm there I
shop, shop, shop - for basics though!
Things like sugar, salt, toilet tissue, pasta, rice...
Then because you're so overloaded with stuff you can't fly back so we
get a night bus back to Harare.
The authorities in Joburg don't even ask us anymore why we arrive on a
single airfare... or how we plan to return home to Harare.
I know in other parts of the world the authorities would think it's
because you're planning to stay but there in Joburg, they know now that
we're just coming to buy our bare necessities and then we'll hop on a bus
At the moment there are so many foodstuffs unavailable it makes
cooking certain dishes a challenge.
For instance, I can't cook pasta meals anymore because there's no milk
and so I can't make sauce. And dry pasta just doesn't do it for me.
You cannot buy fresh milk. If you're lucky, you can find powdered
milk. Otherwise you have to rely on condensed milk and evaporated milk -
like you hear of people doing when war is raging.
Also, I haven't baked in such a long time because I can't find
margarine. All you can buy is low-fat spreads but you cannot bake with that.
And eggs are so very pricey. You have to pay 3.5m Zimbabwean dollars
for one egg.
But then of course, I am lucky in that I can afford to eat three meals
I suppose everyone is looking forward to the long Easter holiday
weekend - families coming together and sharing time together.
But to be honest, the shortages have taken the fun out of holidays. I
haven't heard anyone making plans.
People are not even buying Easter eggs. They just seem so frivolous
during times like these.
But people are really looking forward to the 29th.
People are really psyched up for election day.
I don't think the country has been this excited for such a long time.
My work colleagues and I are counting down the days to cast their
Everyone's mood is very positive. It's a great feeling.
Until then, I'm looking forward to seeing my sister. She's flying up
from South Africa for Easter.
And she's going to bring me some cheese.
It has been months since I ate cheese - it will be my Easter treat!
19 March 2008
WITH just over a week to go before Zimbabwe's critical presidential
election, polls show President Robert Mugabe is trailing main opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai and latecomer Simba Makoni is a potential surprise
A survey conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute shows that last week
Tsvangirai was leading by 28,3%, while Mugabe was behind with 20,3% of the
Makoni had 8,6% but could emerge as a shock winner because there is a huge
pool of voters who refused to reveal their choices.
Most of the undecided voters are likely to be Makoni's supporters, the
At least 23,5% said their vote was their secret, 7,5% refused to say
anything, 5,4% will not vote, 4,4% said "I don't know", 1,9% were
categorised as "other", and 1% will vote for Langton Towungana, the other
candidate in the election. Tsvangirai is likely to win in urban areas, while
Mugabe was bound to win in rural areas. Makoni has appeal both in urban and
Political scientist Prof Eldred Masunungure, who headed the national survey,
said the main message from the poll was that none of the presidential
election candidates would win an outright majority unless there was
Monsters and Critics
Mar 19, 2008, 16:11 GMT
Harare/Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's select few rich are 'capitalizing' on the
country's economic crisis and do not want this months elections to bring
change, the Anglican bishop of Harare charged Wednesday.
Writing in a pastoral letter ahead of the March 29 national polls, Bishop
Sebastian Bakare said Zimbabwe had become 'a nation of political victims.'
'Here the poor are getting poorer not by the day but by the minute and they
cannot afford the soaring prices of daily essentials,' Bakare said.
Zimbabwe is mired in its worst-ever economic crisis with inflation now well
beyond 100,000 per cent, frequent price hikes and shortages of basic
President Robert Mugabe blames Western sanctions for the troubles and says
price hikes are an attempt to 'demoralize' voters ahead of polling day.
The 84-year-old president faces two strong contenders in the poll: Morgan
Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and ex- finance
minister Simba Makoni.
Bakare, who is locked in a bitter battle with his predecessor, the
pro-Mugabe bishop Nolbert Kunonga, castigated 'the few who manipulate the
situation to their own profit.'
'For such a people a changed future is most unwelcome,' he said. Change is
the slogan of the MDC. Makoni is also advocating for a change in leadership.
Bishop Bakare was only recently consecrated after regional church
authorities declared Kunonga had severed himself from the church. Kunonga,
who has been given a farm by Mugabe, has reportedly set up camp in church
precincts and is refusing to hand over other church property. He has been
actively campaigning for Mugabe, saying the president is 'a prophet of God.'
Monsters and Critics
Mar 19, 2008, 8:48 GMT
Harare/Johannesburg - The number of people registered to vote in Zimbabwe's
elections on March 29 has increased by more than 300,000 to nearly 6
million, the head of the state electoral commission has revealed.
The total figure of registered voters is now 5,934,768, up from 5,612,464 in
December, according to George Chiweshe, the chairman of the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC).
The names were added between December and February 14, the cut-off date for
new registrations for the national polls, said Chiweshe in comments carried
by Wednesday's Herald daily.
The elections will see President Robert Mugabe facing two strong contenders:
main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former finance minister Simba
In the last presidential election in 2002, Mugabe beat Tsvangirai by less
than 500,000 votes, a result the opposition refused to accept.
Around 8,000 police officers have registered to vote by postal ballot,
The number is believed to include police officers deployed to polling
stations that are not in their home constituencies, as well as officers
Chiweshe also said 8,998 polling stations had been identified. It was not
immediately clear if more are to be added.
Last month, state media said the electoral commission was to set up 11,000
SW Radio Africa (London)
19 March 2008
Posted to the web 19 March 2008
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) launched a report in Harare on Wednesday
titled "The effects of fighting Repression with Love". It documents the
experiences of their members over the last few years as they were arrested,
assaulted, humiliated and tortured at the hands of state agents,
particularly the police. Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa attended
the event, along with representatives from civil organisations and
diplomats. He said some moments were very emotional as victims narrated
Muchemwa said the report included the total numbers of reported incidents
that involved branches of the police. According to these figures, there were
949 death threats made to WOZA members by the police since the group was
founded, 832 incidents of assaults, 1,262 humiliating and degrading
experiences, 647 reports of physical torture and 732 reports of mental
Muchemwa said the victims became very emotional when they spoke of the
humiliation they suffered at the hands of the police who often forced them
to remove their underwear. He said it was a very difficult experience for
them to describe in front of strangers at the launch. According to the
report there were 267 incidents when the police forced women to do this.
The report covered incidents affecting WOZA members from 20 to over 40 years
of age. Some were victimised while they were carrying babies on their backs.
48% of those victimised by police were married, 23% were single and 25% were
Muchemwa said WOZA members who narrated painful stories said they felt even
more determined to continue with their cause. WOZA officials also vowed that
the group would remain peaceful, non-partisan and continue to fight for the
rights of all Zimbabweans.
Monsters and Critics
Mar 19, 2008, 6:55 GMT
Harare - Zimbabwe will use 5,000 recently acquired generators as a back-up
power supply at polling stations during national elections on March 29,
President Robert Mugabe was reported Wednesday as saying.
Zimbabwe is suffering from chronic power shortages, which could disrupt
But at a rally in Gokwe in the Midlands province on Tuesday, Mugabe said
generators brought into the country recently for the country's new black
farmers would be used on polling day before being distributed.
'Polling stations will be provided with generators to cover for possible
disruption from power cuts to enable people to cast their votes until 7 pm
next Saturday,' the state-controlled Herald daily quoted Mugabe as telling
supporters at the rally.
There will be 11,000 polling stations set up countrywide when Zimbabweans go
to the polls in less than two weeks. For the first time Zimbabweans will be
required to cast four simultaneous ballots: for a new president, a member of
parliament, a senator and local councillor.
Some independent observers have predicted that the process could be chaotic
in places like Harare, where they estimate there are too few polling
stations in the event of a massive voter failure.
March 19 2008 at 04:25PM
By Stella Mapenzauswa
Millions who fled Zimbabwe amid its economic collapse blame President
Robert Mugabe, but their inability to vote in elections in March may boost
his chances to stay in power.
Opposition figures, who pose Mugabe's biggest electoral challenge yet,
have urged them to return to be entitled to vote in the March 29 polls, but
few are likely to.
An estimated 3,5 million have fled Zimbabwe to neighbouring South
Africa and other countries, some risking their lives to make the trip
illegally. They are unwilling to sacrifice everything to return.
Their families have also come to rely on money they send home to
Zimbabwe, where economic meltdown with inflation over 100 000 percent partly
caused the exodus.
"I wish I could go home and vote, but I risked too much coming here to
go back," said 18-year-old Sibusisiwe Dube, who would have qualified to vote
for the first time in 2008.
Now working as a childminder in an upmarket Johannesburg suburb, as a
16-year-old seeking a better life she braved crocodiles to cross the Limpopo
river into South Africa.
Zimbabwe opposition leaders Simba Makoni, a former finance minister,
and Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
would expect strong support to oust Mugabe among those who fled abroad.
"Many of you are in the diaspora because you have seen home turn into
hell... You have the opportunity to change this," Makoni urges in a
newspaper advertisement carried by South African newspapers over the last
"Every vote counts, so please come home and let your voice be heard."
Analysts say the bulk of Zimbabweans who left the country in the last
eight years blame Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF for their country's economic
crisis, and would most likely vote against it in the presidential,
parliamentary and council polls.
But the country's laws bar citizens from voting outside the country's
borders, save for those on national duty - and many are in no position to
make the trip home to cast their ballot.
Dube has no inclination to return to her village near Zimbabwe's
border with South Africa after leaving in search of work in 2006.
Her employer in South Africa was willing to give her the job for
minimum pay, but has warned Dube she is on her own if the immigration
authorities catch up with her.
Dube often sends money and groceries home to her grandmother and two
younger siblings, orphaned by HIV and Aids, using informal couriers who
charge around R150 to ferry a large bag laden with maize meal, soap, cooking
oil, salt and other basic commodities now unaffordable for many in Zimbabwe.
"We (also) get a lot of people sending money, almost every week. So
there's always business," said Itai, a cross border trader who operates from
a long-distance bus terminal in central Johannesburg.
The station is always teeming with Zimbabweans loading goods including
food, furniture and electrical appliances destined for relatives back home.
London-based radio broadcaster Tererai Karimakwenda believes that
Zimbabweans in the "diaspora" have inadvertently helped Mugabe stay in power
by keeping families back home afloat and averting angry riots that might
"In an indirect way it is probably propping up the Mugabe regime. But
what do you do? It is the lesser of two evils," said Karimakwenda, who has
been in England for six years and himself sends money home to his elderly
parents every month.
"The money, food and medicines being sent back is literally keeping
Karimakwenda works for SW Radio Africa, a radio station staffed by
exiled Zimbabweans which broadcasts material critical of Mugabe's government
from north London into the African country.
Enterprising Zimbabweans have set up Internet-based companies through
which those abroad can pay for basic groceries to be delivered to
cash-strapped family back home from some of the country's supermarkets.
Johannesburg-based NowFuel enables Zimbabweans to pay for fuel in
South Africa, which family and friends can then access from selected garages
back home through a coupon-redemption system.
Like many Zimbabweans forced out of their country by political tension
or the economic meltdown or both, Karimakwenda would go back if things
improved, but fears many will never return, costing the country valuable
(Additional reporting by Muchena Zigomo in Johannesburg and Jeremy
Lovell in London; Editing by Marius Bosch and Charles Dick)
Posted : Wed, 19 Mar 2008 05:10:09 GMT
Author : DPA
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe - It's high tea time at the Victoria Falls
Hotel, and waiters in buttoned white jackets are delivering trays of tea,
jam and cakes to the veranda. Tourists, wilting in the heat of the late
summer sun, flop side by side into chairs and gaze down the manicured lawns
at the clouds of mist rising in the distance from the spectacular falls
dubbed "The Thunder that Roars."
Bungee jumpers can just be made out dropping off the Victoria Falls
bridge, which joins Zimbabwe and Zambia 126 metres above the fast-flowing
"I'm Mr Shepherd," a smiling waiter says. "You'll be my flock today,"
he says as he doles out drinks menus listing such colonial-sounding
offerings as I Presume - after journalist Henry Stanley's reported greeting
to explorer David Livingstone at Victoria Falls in 1871.
"Life is very tough in Zimbabwe," locals say when asked about living
in a country where inflation of more than 100,000 per cent has made bread,
sugar and sanitary towels into luxuries for many.
But at the Victoria Falls Hotel, which boasts of being a retreat for
British royals and international statesmen since 1904, French champagne is
still served at 5:30 pm each day in the drawing room, and diners are
entertained by a live band six days a week.
Despite chronic power shortages, the lamps in the lounge are lit
throughout the day, overhead fans stir the air, whatever the weather, and
thick hand towels in the bathroom are tossed into the laundry basket after a
But eight years of bad press for Zimbabwe and widespread shortages of
fuel and food have even taken a toll on this oasis of colonial decadence.
On one day, there was no butter at lunch. It arrived later that day
from South Africa. At 2 million Zimbabwe dollars a box (around 50 US cents
at the black market rate), matches to light a cigarette are also in short
The occupancy rate has also tanked.
Two weeks before Zimbabwe's March 29 elections, in which President
Robert Mugabe is facing the strongest challenge in his 28-year rule, 48 per
cent of the 180 rooms in the hotel that regularly indulges Mugabe's taste
for orange juice and fresh chillies are occupied.
The other two luxury hotels at Victoria Falls, the Elephant Hills
Hotel and The Kingdom, also owned by the ZimSun Leisure Group, were also
"They [tour operators] are afraid of Kenya-style violence in the
election," says Sailos, a taxi driver.
Sailos hasn't transported a single customer in three days. "If
everything goes right in the election, it will be fine in April," he says -
a familiar refrain in the area.
At the Victoria Falls Backpackers hostel across town from the Falls
Hotel, the last inscription in the guestbook, from an Australian tourist on
March 5, hopes "it will soon become busier."
In the meantime, tourists continue to marvel at the blankets of water
hurtling into the Zambezi - but base themselves in Livingstone on the
Zambian side of the falls.
Zimbabwe's national parks, including the famous Hwange Park, are also
reportedly hemorrhaging tourists. A European couple who visited Hwange in
March told the receptionist at their Bulawayo hostel that they were the only
visitors that day to the park, which spans 14,600 square kilometres.
Reports in state-controlled media in December that tourist arrivals
grew an estimated 55 per cent in 2007 are met with disbelief in Victoria
"If Mugabe wins this election, I'm shutting up shop," says the owner
of one hostel. "I'm going to shut the doors, let go of the staff and just