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Zimbabwe: Prospects from a Flawed Election

International Crisis Group
The international community needs to have contingency plans ready in anticipation of rigged elections in Zimbabwe on 29 March that could precipitate a potentially violent crisis.
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Africa Report N°138
20 March 2008


The regional mediation offering the most realistic chance to resolve Zimbabwe’s eight-year crisis has failed. South African President Thabo Mbeki’s stated objective in talks between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was to secure conditions for free and fair elections that would produce an undisputed outcome. But on 29 March 2008, Zimbabwe will hold elections already flawed by pre-poll misbehaviour, notwithstanding what may occur on polling day and thereafter. The results are likely to be heatedly disputed. Though the playing field is far from even, and efforts to create a united opposition have failed, ex-ZANU-PF politburo member Simba Makoni is seriously challenging Robert Mugabe’s re-election. The 84-year-old president probably has the means to manipulate the process sufficiently to retain his office, though possibly only after a violent run-off, but there is little prospect of a government emerging that is capable of ending the crisis. If the situation deteriorates, the African Union (AU) needs to be ready to offer prompt mediation for a power-sharing agreement between presidential contenders and creation of a transitional government with a reform agenda.

Primary responsibility for the failure of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiative lies with Mugabe. He and his party conceded changes to security, media and election laws, while obtaining MDC acceptance of a constitutional amendment that paved the way for simultaneous presidential, parliamentary and local government elections and facilitated his opportunity to use the parliament to select his own eventual successor. But at the end of January 2008, Mugabe unilaterally called snap elections and ruled out passage before the polls of the new constitution that was supposed to be the single most important product of the negotiations. ZANU-PF has subsequently been using all the extensive means at its disposal to maintain an unfair advantage. The bitterly divided opposition must also share blame: it gained relevancy from the mediation but was unable to agree on an electoral strategy at a time of acute national crisis, thus exposing a serious failure of leadership. The MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai retains a following and may reach a run-off against Mugabe but appears to have little chance of election.

Makoni, who is also a former finance minister and head of SADC, announced his presidential candidacy on 5 February. This first open challenge to Mugabe from within the ruling party since independence in 1980 is engineered by some ZANU-PF heavyweights, notably retired General Solomon Mujuru in the background and former liberation war commander Dumiso Dabengwa in public. While some of Makoni’s backers are driven by economic self-interest, others want genuine change and have made overtures to the MDC for a government of national unity; Arthur Mutambara has put his breakaway MDC faction behind the ruling party renegade. Makoni’s candidacy is viewed favourably by regional governments, who have long considered a reformed ZANU-PF able to control the security apparatus the most desirable transition option.

Makoni’s late entry and limited grassroots support, as well as the opaque nature of his establishment backing work against him, but his challenge has thrown ZANU-PF into turmoil and left Mugabe unsure of his allies. Influential actors within the security apparatus are quietly lining up behind Makoni. Mugabe, however, is likely prepared to do whatever is necessary to defeat him, quite possibly including escalation of violence in the event of a run-off, even at the risk of sparking bloody factional fighting within ZANU-PF.

Only “friendly” countries and institutions have been invited to observe the polls, and it is critical that the AU and SADC judge the overall electoral environment and preparations, not just conduct on election day itself, in strict accordance with their regional principles. In the event the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which he appears to dominate, declares Mugabe the winner in the face of massive abuse and manipulation of the overall process, the outcome should be rejected. While the national circumstances are different, if the situation deteriorates the AU should have contingency plans in place to offer emergency diplomatic assistance to the parties as it did recently to defuse the Kenya crisis. 

A negotiated settlement need not necessarily remove Mugabe. He might, for example, serve as a non-executive head of state during a transitional period until new elections can be held. The important point at this stage is for the region to be prepared to act quickly if, as is likely, the elections do not produce a clearly legitimate government that can deal with a national crisis whose consequences are increasingly being felt beyond Zimbabwe’s borders, especially in terms of migrant pressures. With South Africa and SADC having lost some credibility, the AU needs to take the lead.  

Events in Zimbabwe are outrunning international policy. If the elections go badly, so that violence increases, the humanitarian crisis grows worse, and the population exodus puts the stability of regional neighbours under greater pressure, the Security Council may yet need to take up the deteriorating situation. For now, the wider international community must be ready to provide concerted backing to an AU-led mediation, including by offering an economic and political recovery program guided by principles of good governance and designed to promote institutional and security sector reform. The EU and U.S. have little appetite to re-engage with a ZANU-PF dominated government, particularly if there is still a place in it for Mugabe, but if that is the result of a genuinely negotiated agreement that aims at reconciliation and renewal, they should not hold back.


To the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC):

1.  Extend voting to a second day if confusion caused by the redrawing of electoral boundaries makes this necessary in order to allow all registered voters the opportunity to cast a ballot.

2.  Give maximum transparency and credibility to the results by publicly announcing tallies at the constituency level and allowing party agents, as well as national and international observers, to monitor the compilation at the national command centre.

To the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), National and Other Foreign Election Observer Teams:

3.  Observe the elections and assess their legitimacy in strict accordance with regional and international standards.

To the AU Chair, Jakaya Kikwete, in coordination with South Africa and SADC:

4.  Conduct contingency consultations and planning so as to be prepared in the event that the announced results of the elections are heatedly disputed and national and regional observers report credible evidence of widespread irregularities, whether occurring before the election, on polling day or during subsequent counting of votes, to:

(a)  issue a joint statement that the regional bodies are withholding recognition of the results; and

(b)  dispatch a high-level AU mediation to assist negotiation of a power-sharing agreement between ZANU-PF, the MDC factions and the camp represented by Simba Makoni, with a view to establishing a transitional government that would implement institutional, economic and security sector reforms in advance of new elections.

To President Mugabe and his Allies within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF):

5.  Desist from escalating the violence during the remaining campaign period and in particular in the event of a run-off.

6.  Engage constructively in negotiations facilitated by the AU to establish a government of transition if the results of the elections are heatedly disputed and not accepted by the African regional bodies.

To the ZANU-PF Faction Led by Simba Makoni and the MDC Factions Led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara:  

7.  Eschew violence, form a united front of all opposition forces in parliament and demand an AU-led mediation with the objective of establishing a transitional government of national unity if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declares President Mugabe re-elected in the face of major vote rigging.

To the U.S., European Union (EU), EU Member States and Wider International Community:

8.  Review the targeted sanctions lists following elections and consider:

(a)  extending the measures against human rights abusers in the security services and/or those blocking a political settlement to the crisis; and

(b)  relaxing the measures against individuals within ZANU-PF who show an open and genuine commitment to engage in power-sharing talks and join forces to restore democratic governance.

9.  Intensify planning for an economic and political recovery package guided by principles of good governance and designed to promote institutional change and state publicly an unambiguous intention to re-engage if a government of national unity is established and key constitutional, political and economic reforms are implemented.

10.  Refer Zimbabwe for discussion at the UN Security Council in the event of a massive outbreak of violence or other grave developments threatening peace and security in the country and the region.

Pretoria/Brussels, 20 March 2008

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Zimbabwe govt, opposition engage in tussle over poll conduct

Yahoo News

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Zimbabwe's government and opposition on Thursday
engaged in a verbal tussle over the conduct of the March 29 general
elections in which President Robert Mugabe is seeking a sixth mandate.

While officials of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Unity - Patriotic
Front (ZANU-PF), is upbeat about the conduct of a free and fair joint
parliamentary and presidential poll next week Saturday, the opposition is
crying foul ahead of the exercise.

Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, on Thursday assured
that the elections would be "free and fair for everybody".

"Things are all in place, the country is so peaceful. Political parties are
conducting themselves exceedingly well, carrying out their rallies, their
campaign," he told foreign journalists in Johannesburg.

"We believe that the election will be free and fair for everybody. Of course
this is to the chagrin of our detractors led by London and Washington who
have wished chaos ... That won't happen. We are going to continue with this
peaceful atmosphere," he said.

But Zimbabwe's main opposition leader and presidential candidate in the
poll, Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday in Harare declined to share that
optimism, alleging instead that the voters' register was filled with tens of
thousands of ghost voters.

Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), also charged
that the poll could be rigged in favour of Mugabe because of a separate vote
counting system after the polls.

He threatened to pull out of the elections if the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) if presidential ballots were going to be counted at a
separate venue.

He told a news conference that independent investigations had revealed that
90,000 names appearing on the roll for 28 rural constituencies could not be
accounted for.

"In all the 28 rural constituencies these independent analysts have done,
there are 90,000 unaccounted voters," Tsvangirai said.

"You can imagine with 210 constituencies what's the figure of the people
that have been identified as registered but do not exist," he said.

For the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum, a coalition of several civil society
groups, the poll will not be free and fair with millions of citizens in the
diaspora disenfranchised.

"We are very concerned that while the election process itself has been very
uneven from the start, millions of Zimbabweans in the diapora are unable to
come and vote," Tapera Kapuya, spokesman of the forum, told AFP on Thursday.

"There are in excess of over four million people scattered all over, in
South Africa, in the United Kingdom, in the United States and in Australia,"
Kapuya said.

Zimbabwe's electoral law excludes anyone who has not been resident in a
particular constituency or province or has been outside the country for more
than a year from voting, a rule which many critics say favours the ruling

Economic hardship and fear of political victimisation in the past years in
the southern African country has forced millions of its citizens to migrate,
especially to neighbouring countries.

"Elections are not free and fair when other people still fear for their
lives," Bishop Paul Verry of Johannesburg's Central Methodist Church which
harbours hundreds of Zimbabwean refugees said here.

The MDC has also raised doubts on the impartiality of observer teams from
the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC), and some other
regions, most of whom were handpicked by the government.

On its part, the South African government Thursday urged all Zimbabweans to
ensure that they create conditions for free and fair elections next week

"The South African government appeals to all Zimbabweans to do everything in
their power to create conditions that would ensure free and fair elections,"
said a South African government statement released after a cabinet meeting.

Veteran Mugabe, 84, who has been in office since the nation's independence
in 1980, is seeking a sixth term in the elections where he faces a challenge
from his former finance minister Simba Makoni, as well as Tsvangirai.

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Tsvangirai threatens to withdraw over vote count fear

Monsters and Critics

Mar 20, 2008, 17:35 GMT

Harare - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai threatened Thursday to withdraw
from elections next week, if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government
fails to follow electoral law on the vote count.

The head of the larger faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change claimed at a press conference that electoral authorities were
planning to carry out the count in a 'national command centre,' instead of
in each of the country's 11,000 polling stations.

'We now hear the counting of house of assembly and senate (the lower and
upper chambers in the legislature respectively) votes will be in
constituency centres, and the presidential vote will be counted in a
national command centre,' he told a press conference, without elaborating on
the source of the information.

'If that happens I will not participate in such a process.' According to
election watchdog groups, the 'national command centre' was the final stage
in the result process, staffed largely by military officers, and where
results in previous elections had been changed to suit Mugabe. The command
centre does not appear in electoral law.

Tsvangirai also said that the election would not be free and fair, but
added, 'we accept all that,' and said the MDC had been hoping to 'minimise'
abuses and irregularities.

Presidential, house of assembly, senate and local council elections are due
to be held on a single day on March 29.

Zimbabwean electoral law prescribes counting of ballot papers for candidates
in each of the elections to be carried out in the polling stations where the
ballots were cast. The totals for all candidates then have to be written out
and stuck on the door of the polling station as public notices.

This law, and several others, are part of reforms that were agreed in
negotiations, sponsored by the Southern African Development Community, the
14-nation regional alliance, and held under the chairmanship of South
African president Thabo Mbeki. Opposition parties and human rights
organisations say Mugabe has abrogated all the significant reforms.

Tsvangirai also highlighted Mugabe's use of extraordinary 'presidential
powers' published Wednesday that abolished a new electoral reform that
excluded police from being present in polling stations.

'We know that they will be CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation, Mugabe's
secret police), military and militia (ruling party youth militia) in police
uniform,' he said.

He described the voters' roll as 'a shambles,' and said investigations had
revealed irregularities where football fields and empty housing lots were
used as addresses for fictional voters.

He also cited an analysis by a local research body of the number of voters
in 28 constituencies which showed that the total number of voters claimed in
the constituencies by the state-appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,
which is meant to run the elections, was 90,000 more than were on the actual

'With 210 (parliamentary) constituencies, you can imagine the total number
of people that don't exist.

He also produced a letter which he claimed was a copy of an order from ZEC
to the state mint to produce 600,000 postal votes. Mugabe has banned
ordinary Zimbabweans residing outside the country from casting postal votes,
and given the right only to diplomats and members of the uniformed services.

'The total number of army, police and diplomats (abroad) do not exceed
20,000,' he said.

Tsvangirai also said that the mint had been ordered to print 9 million
ordinary ballot papers, when there were 5.9 million people on the voters

'What for?' he asked rhetorically.

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Zimbabwe: poll unfair without citizens in diaspora, civil society says

Yahoo News

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Elections in Zimbabwe will not be free and fair with
millions of citizens in the diaspora disenfranchised, a group of the
country's civil societies said Thursday.

"We are very concerned that while the election process itself has been very
uneven from the start, millions of Zimbabweans in the diaspora are unable to
come and vote," Tapera Kapuya, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum,
a coalition of several associations, told AFP after a media briefing.

"There are in excess of over four million people scattered all over, in
South Africa, in the United Kingdom, in the United States and in Australia,"
Kapuya said.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said recently that it has recorded more
than six million people, almost half of Zimbabwe's population, on its
voters' roll who are not eligible to vote on March 29.

Zimbabwe's electoral law excludes anyone who has not been resident in a
particular constituency or province or has been outside the country for more
than a year from voting, a rule which many critics say favours Mugabe's
ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.

Economic hardship and fear of political victimisation in the past years in
the southern African country has forced millions of its citizens to migrate,
especially to neighbouring countries.

"It is horrendously unfair," Kapuya said. "Most of us are running away from
political persecution and deplorable economic conditions which leave us
finding ourselves looking for better life elsewhere."

Bishop Paul Verry of Johannesburg's Central Methodist Church which harbours
hundreds of Zimbabwean refugees said the country was "at war with itself" by
alienating its citizens from voting and excluding them from rebuilding the

"One would have hoped that they (refugees) will be taken back to be part of
the reconstruction process. But citizens who are supposed to help
reconstruct Zimbabwe are being alienated, ostracised, victimised when they
go back," said the cleric.

"Elections are not free and fair when other people still fear for their

Nixon Nyikadzino of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said his group was
concerned about the ruling party's "politicising" food aid in the build-up
to elections "and the militarisation of the elections" by allowing soldiers
in the polling booths.

"This puts the electoral playing field unacceptably and undemocratically
skewed to the advantage of the ruling party," Nyikadzino said.

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Soldiers And Police Officers Forced to Vote Under Supervision

SW Radio Africa (London)

20 March 2008
Posted to the web 20 March 2008

Tichaona Sibanda

Over 75 000 members of the country's security forces have already cast their
votes, in an exercise that has been a closely guarded secret, according to
information received by the MDC.

In Bulawayo most police officers were allegedly forced to vote several
times, while in Mutare soldiers were ordered to write their force numbers on
the back of their ballot papers.

Eddie Cross, the MDC's policy advisor for the Tsvangirai formation and their
parliamentary candidate for Bulawayo South, told us on Thursday that the
issue of postal votes would be as controversial as the 2002 presidential
elections. 'The Zimbabwe Election Commission has said only the police force
has requested 8000 postal votes. To our surprise, we have information that
postal votes, cast and sealed, are over 75 000. Where have the rest come
from?' asked Cross.

When the issue of postal votes was raised during a ZEC briefing on Monday,
its chairman George Chiweshe said only the police force had requested them.
There was no mention of any other section of the security forces having had
access to postal votes.

'We have no problem with members of the armed forces and diplomats voting in
advance, but we worry when the whole exercise is held in secrecy and we get
information that they are forced to vote for a particular candidate,' Cross

The MDC plans to go to court to force the ZEC to disclose the actual number
of postal votes sent out to the security forces. In 2002 there was a similar
problem with the postal votes, which increased Mugabe's electoral votes, in
comparison to Tsvangirai's.

Cross said; 'We didn't know how many they were (postal ballots) or where
they had come from but what we know is they were used to make sure Mugabe
had more votes that Tsvangirai.'

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai claimed on Thursday that the ZEC ordered
between 600 000 and 900 000 postal votes to be printed by Fidelity Printers.
This a far larger number than the total of the country's armed forces, whose
strength is army 35,000, police 40,000, airforce 4,000 and the prisons
service 3,000. Diplomats posted outside the country account for another 200.
Out of these 82,000 members of the armed forces and diplomats only about
20,000 are eligible to use the postal votes.

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Zimbabwean Government Mobilizes Machinery as Elections Near


By Darren Taylor
20 March 2008

Supporters of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe are doing all they can to
ensure that he wins re-election next Saturday (March 29). The 84-year-old
Mr. Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since 1980. Now he faces challenges from
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former finance minister Simba
Makoni. Mr. Mugabe wants to take 51 per cent of the vote, to avoid a run-off
against either of his rivals. Many international observers are predicting
that the ballot will not be free and fair. President Mugabe and his ruling
ZANU-PF party stand accused of rigging previous elections. In the build-up
to the polls, Mr. Mugabe's security forces have again been arresting and
assaulting opposition supporters. In the fourth of our series on the
Zimbabwe elections, VOA's Darren Taylor examines the state of the ruling

President Mugabe has presided over the worst economic crisis in Zimbabwe's
history. There are food and fuel shortages, mass unemployment and the
highest inflation rate in the world. Mr. Mugabe, though, remains a hero to
millions of Africans and much admired in the developing world for his
anti-Western views. In the 1970s, he fought a war of liberation against the
white minority Rhodesian government and won independence for his people.

After he took office in 1980, Mr. Mugabe preached reconciliation, and
economic reforms led to sustained growth. The country's agriculture sector
boomed, with Zimbabwe becoming a regional breadbasket. But the country is
now a net importer of food, and agriculture has collapsed. President Mugabe
blames the situation on persistent drought. But many analysts trace Zimbabwe's
agricultural implosion back to his land reform program: in 2000 the
government began seizing farms owned by white Zimbabweans for what it said
was "redistribution to landless blacks." Yet in many cases, the land went to
Mr. Mugabe's allies in the ruling party.

It is for reasons such as these that he commands a loyal and boisterous
following from Zimbabwe's army and police, former liberation war veterans
and the much-feared ZANU-PF youth militia.

President Mugabe also blames the food shortages, high unemployment and
skyrocketing inflation on Western sanctions - even though the United States,
European Union and others have not instituted economic sanctions against
Zimbabwe. These countries have, however, launched "targeted" sanctions
against individuals in Zimbabwe, by means of which Mr. Mugabe and other
senior ruling party members are banned from traveling to America and certain
parts of Europe and their assets there have been seized.

ZANU-PF "at its weakest"

Leading up to the March 29 ballot, analysts say the ZANU-PF campaign has
been in relative disarray.

"For the simple reason that when all the social indicators in the country
are negative, what is ZANU-PF trying to sell to the electorate? They have
ruined the economy; there are (power) outages; there is no water, no
sanitation; (there's) hunger, poverty. What message are they going to sell
to the electorate? On what basis would Mugabe seek re-election from the
people of Zimbabwe?" asks Sydney Masamvu, a Zimbabwean analsyst with the
International Crisis Group.

As the election nears, there've been reports of ZANU-PF candidates being
imposed on constituencies and of individuals openly defying the party and
registering themselves as candidates in the municipal and parliamentary
polls that'll be held on the same day as the presidential ballot.

In addition, some ZANU-PF members have been abandoning the party to join
their one-time colleague, former finance minister Simba Makoni, who has
broken ranks to oppose President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan

"More than anything else, the entrance of Makoni into the race has resulted
in paranoia and panic in ZANU-PF ranks," Masamvu contends.

Blessing Zulu, a journalist with VOA's Studio 7 Zimbabwe Service, agrees. He
says, "They (ZANU-PF) don't know who is really supporting them and who is
not. So what they've resorted to saying is that every parliamentary
candidate, councilor or senator, before they start campaigning, they first
have to tell the electorate to vote for President Robert Mugabe, as a way of
ensuring that Mugabe does not lose this election."

The president himself, though, is seemingly undeterred. He has promised a
"landslide victory" to "shame" his critics in the international community.
He is supremely confident of winning another five-year term.

But Briggs Bomba, a former student activist in Zimbabwe now working for the
Africa Action lobby group in Washington, D.C., says despite the "bravado"
that Mugabe is exuding - which includes branding his opponents "witches,"
"charlatans," "two headed creatures" and "prostitutes" - the president
clearly feels threatened ahead of the polls.

"ZANU-PF is at its weakest at the present moment.. That's why it's not given
that they'll take the election now (if it's free and fair). Every other time
we've sort of known: Oh, Mugabe is (going to be) winning."

Bomba attributes this state of affairs to "the Makoni factor" and the fact
that other senior ruling party members, such as former Interior Minister
Dumiso Dabengwa, have switched allegiances from Mugabe to Makoni, causing
uncertainty in the ruling party ranks.

Masamvu concurs: "I think when you see people like Dumiso coming out
(against Mugabe), it's a very strong signal that ZANU-PF is imploding; that
ZANU-PF will never be the same again. It's disintegrating."

Dabengwa is highly respected in Zimbabwe. He's a liberation war hero who
commanded guerrilla fighters during the country's bush war, before being
jailed without trial by Mr. Mugabe in post-independent Zimbabwe.

Dabengwa maintains there are other senior ruling party officials who are
supporting Makoni against president Mugabe - albeit secretly at this stage.

Last December, discord was sown in ZANU-PF when Mr. Mugabe subverted the
party's constitution to avoid a challenge to his leadership. This, says
Makoni, resulted in the ruling party congress merely "rubberstamping" yet
another presidential term for Mr. Mugabe.

"We also saw other sections of the war veteran element - some of them quite
senior - breaking ranks away (from the president) and joining Makoni's camp.
In Bulawayo, there are reports that the army and certain sections of the
police were clandestinely throwing out some fliers for the Makoni campaign,"
says Bomba.

Michelle Gavin, of the United States' Council on Foreign Relations, and
author of the group's Special Report on Zimbabwe, says there's "long been a
power struggle" between various factions within ZANU-PF - "different
elements of the party who recognise that continuing to go on the way they've
been doing in recent years isn't really in their best interests. They have
significant holdings and investments, and at a certain point, this economic
collapse - that's been very lucrative for some in the inner circle - starts
to threaten the long-term outlook of these investments. So there's been a
kind of jockeying for position and unrest in the ruling party for quite some

She says, though, that despite all the talk of "Mugabe in crisis" and
"ZANU-PF dissolving," Mr. Mugabe is a great survivor.

"President Mugabe's always been very effective in being able to divide and
conquer, to keep each faction off balance."

Mugabe to try to avert "embarrassment"

Under revamped electoral rules, a candidate must win 51 per cent of the vote
in order to be declared an outright winner - unlike in the past, when a
simple majority sufficed to ensure victory. If he fails to secure this, then
he'll face a run-off - to be held 21 days after the ballot - against the
candidate who secures second place in the popular polling.

Bomba comments, "For Mugabe, he wants to avoid the embarrassment of a
run-off, so I'm sure he's going to use his machinery to ensure that the
constituency that will vote for him turns out in record numbers. So I'm sure
the villages, the rural areas, are going to be whipped massively so that
they turn out very massively. The question that is not clear at the moment
is whether the opposition will have a similar strategy to bring out the
urban electorate which is traditionally loyal to the opposition, so that it
turns out in equally record numbers."

But analysts concede that both Tsvangirai and Makoni face a far more
daunting task in motivating support than Mugabe does.

"It's difficult for them to do, because they don't have access to state
resources. Previous elections have seen army trucks taking Mugabe supporters
to the polls, for example," says Masamvu.

But the analyst remains confident that there will indeed be a run-off: "When
you have three strong candidates it will need a fairly efficient and
sophisticated rigging machinery for Mugabe to garner the 51 per cent of the
votes (he needs to gain an outright victory).. We are likely to see that the
three-way context will cause a split after the first round of voting, and
then there will be a run-off between Mugabe and either Makoni or Tsvangirai,
with the candidate who finished third supporting his former opponent against

Speaking from Harare, M.D.C. supporter Janet Gono told VOA, "We're hoping
that the outcome of the election will trigger a run-off which will force all
the opposition forces to come together. This can only be a good thing for
Zimbabweans. Then we will celebrate, no matter what, because hope will be

International and local analysts, though, still can't foresee a Mugabe
defeat in a run-off.

ZANU-PF mobilizing its machinery

Bomba says ZANU-PF is "not sleeping right now, trying to ensure that they
tightly secure their strongholds and whip up people through coercion and
also through this patronage system that they've always had - these handouts
that always come out during election time - to ensure that especially the
rural vote comes out for Mugabe."

Zulu says almost 80 per cent of Zimbabwe's population lives in the rural
areas, "and that is President Mugabe's stronghold. Both Tsvangirai and
Makoni have been finding it difficult to penetrate these areas."

Ahead of the polls, President Mugabe has given hefty salary increases to
civil servants. Makoni accuses him of "using money to buy votes."

Brendan Murphy, Studio 7 chief, warns that the extent to which ZANU-PF is in
disarray could be "overstated."

"The ZANU-PF apparatus is still running. They still have the war veterans
firmly behind them; they spent the whole past several months marching around
the country to endorse Mugabe.. They have the (ZANU-PF) youth militia who
are not going to easily abandon Mugabe, I don't think. They have the
bureaucracy of government pretty firmly under their control."

Murphy says the ruling party has all its resources that have proved so
effective in securing elections in the past in its favor "turned on" and
"cranked up."

"(The ZANU-PF machine) is in motion right now. They're hoping to re-run this
election like (the victorious polls) in 2005, 2002."

Gavin is also convinced that ZANU-PF's "implosion" may to a large degree be
"wishful thinking" and "exaggeration" on the part of the party's opponents.

"It seems to me also to be the case that  ZANU-PF isn't just going to
disappear (no matter the outcome of the polls).  ZANU-PF is going to be a
part of any transition that comes in the future."

But Zulu says even if Mr. Mugabe is emerges victorious once again, the
president's future "won't be smooth."

"The economy is going to determine the future of Zimbabwe," Zulu states.
"For how long can the people continue to suffer? That is the problem for Mr.
Mugabe. His biggest enemy will be the economy. That's one thing that he
cannot rig."

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Agency Acts to Stop Election Food Aid Abuse

20 March 2008
Posted to the web 20 March 2008

The World Food Programme, determined to prevent food aid in Zimbabwe from
being used to influence voters in this month's national elections, is
speeding up the delivery of its food supplies to avoid overlap with the
run-up to polling on March 29.

The WFP, a United Nations agency, said in a statement issued on Thursday
that it aimed to provide all 2.6 million beneficiaries with their food aid
by the end of this week.

It noted that there were two "entirely separate food pipelines" in Zimbabwe:
that in which the government supplied subsidised food for sale through the
country's Grain Marketing Board; and the free food supplies which the WFP
and its partners handed out to "the most vulnerable people based solely on

This second progamme, the WFP said, was operated under "a rigorous set of
controls and procedures to ensure that there is no political interference."

It added: "WFP does not tolerate any political interference in the
distribution of its food assistance, which is provided strictly according to
need and without regard to political affiliation..."

"Many allegations about political interference in the distribution of food
aid relate to the fact that WFP does not have the resources to feed all
those in need of assistance, focusing instead on the most vulnerable people.
Anyone who feels excluded can raise their concerns with the local complaints

The WFP said that in February it and its partner NGOs had distributed about
39,000 metric tons of food - including maize, beans, and cooking oil - to
2.4 million Zimbabweans in the rural areas worst affected by drought and
last year's poor harvest.

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'If you show that you support MDC, you will starve'


By: Tiseke Kasambala
By , published in Mail&Guardian online

March 19, 2008

Credible elections in Zimbabwe were among the main objectives of the talks
between the Zimbabwean government and the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) last year. But despite new regulations, Zimbabwe's polls are
unlikely to be free or fair.

President Robert Mugabe's government would like the world to believe
otherwise, arguing that political space has been opened up for the
opposition to campaign. Neighbouring states should look beyond the rhetoric
as, sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

For weeks now, I've been travelling through Zimbabwe's 10 provinces.
Ordinary voters around the country described to me how supporters of the
ruling party have physically attacked and intimidated people perceived to
support the opposition.

Food has become a political weapon. In nearly all the provinces I visited,
Zimbabweans told me that only supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF receive
state-subsidised grain or farming equipment. An elderly man from Marange in
Manicaland province told me: "If you show yourself to support the
opposition, you will starve."
In Mutare, even a Zanu-PF loyalist confirmed that the party manipulates the
distribution of food according to political loyalty: "It is very easy. Only
those who are on the councillors' lists can access the grain," she told me.
"At our rallies, only known supporters of Zanu-PF are allowed to attend."

Despite improved electoral laws, across Zimbabwe I found a chaotic -- and
easily abused -- voter registration process. The electoral commission is
unprepared and partisan. The voting procedure will be new and more complex
than before, but there has been minimal voter education around the country.
The opposition's access to the broadcast media is restricted.

A local activist from Makonde constituency in Mashonaland West province told
me about the intense intimidation of opposition supporters in his area. "The
opposition MDC are visited daily by Zanu-PF youth who shout and sing outside
their homes," he said. "They call them sell-outs and tell them they will
deal with the MDC candidates after the elections."

In spite of the intimidation, violence has been less conspicuous than in
previous elections - in part because of prohibitions in the reformed
Electoral Act. But, given the widespread violence during elections in 2000
and 2002, mere threats or allusions to past acts are enough to scare people.

In Masvingo province, a primary-school teacher told me how ruling party
youths attacked him after he urged people to register to vote.

"They hit me with clubs on my head," he told me. "They displayed me before
the rest of the school and now they are keeping an eye on me." Terrible
scars were still visible on his head a month after the attack.

The police claim they are taking a "zero tolerance" approach to violence
ahead of the polls, although many members of the police were previously
involved in attacks on the opposition, civil society activists and perceived
opposition supporters. None of these incidents, documented by Human Rights
Watch, have been investigated. The teacher in Masvingo reported the
incident, but the perpetrators were never caught.

The onus for reporting violations now rests on regional observers, in
particular the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer
mission. International and local observers who charged that previous
elections in 2000 and 2002 were blatantly fraudulent were not invited to
return for parliamentary elections in 2005, nor for the general elections.

Mugabe's government claims that the elections will conform to the SADC
guidelines and principles governing democratic elections. South Africans and
their SADC neighbours have a key role to play in the run-up to the
elections. SADC should call on the Zimbabwean government to grant access to
all election sites. To gauge compliance, observers need to judge the
political context in which the elections are being held, not just the voting
process itself.

Previous post-election assessments by SADC were alarmingly positive, despite
widespread human rights abuses and irregularities in the last three polls.
If South Africa and other SADC observers are serious about ending Zimbabwe's
political crisis, then another round of flawed elections in Zimbabwe cannot
be followed by a "business-as-usual" approach.

South Africans have already seen hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans vote
with their feet by crossing the Limpopo to flee hunger, violence and
persecution. Now is the time for SADC to help ordinary Zimbabweans to
exercise their right to vote freely at home.

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'Voters' register filled with ghost names'


     March 20 2008 at 04:08PM

Harare - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader and presidential candidate
in March 29 general elections said on Thursday that the voters' register was
filled with tens of thousands of ghost voters.

Morgan Tsvangirai also charged that the poll could be rigged in favour
of President Robert Mugabe because of a separate vote counting system after
the polls.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader told a news conference
that independent investigations had revealed that 90 000 names appearing on
the roll for 28 rural constituencies could not be accounted for.

"In all the 28 rural constituencies these independent analysts have
done, there are 90 000 unaccounted voters," Tsvangirai said.

"You can imagine with 210 constituencies what's the figure of the
people that have been identified as registered but do not exist," he said.

He said that the voters' roll was in a shambles and threatened to pull
out of the elections if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) goes ahead
with plans to count the presidential ballots at a separate venue instead of
polling stations where the other votes will be counted.

"We now hear that the council, the constituency and the senatorial
results will be conducted at constituency level but the presidential
(ballots) will be counted at the national command centre," Tsvangirai said.

"Let me say if that happens, I will not participate in such a process
and ZEC must understand that it is against the law. Every vote must be
counted at the polling station."

He also queried why the ZEC made an order for 600 000 postal ballots
when the people who would require postal ballots were 20 000.

Zimbabweans are going to the polls next week Saturday to chose a
president, parliamentarians and councillors.

Veteran Mugabe, 84, who has been in office since the nation's
independence in 1980, is seeking a sixth term in the elections where he
faces a challenge from his former finance minister Simba Makoni, as well as

The southern African country is reeling under economic crisis
characterised by high inflation officially put at over 100 000 percent and
chronic shortages of basic goods like sugar and cooking oil.

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Opponent says Mugabe abusing power to win vote


Thu 20 Mar 2008, 13:42 GMT

By Nelson Banya

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Thursday accused
President Robert Mugabe of abusing his position to rig next week's election
by changing the law to let police escort voters to polling booths.

Top police officers have come out in public to back Mugabe, facing the
strongest challenge to his rule on March 29 because of defections by senior
ruling ZANU-PF party officials and a deepening economic crisis.

The election law was changed last year to bar police from coming within 100
metres (yards) of polling stations to ensure they could not influence the
vote. The change followed South African-brokered talks between the ruling
party and opposition.

But Mugabe used his presidential powers this week to reverse the change so
police officers would be able to assist illiterate and disabled voters in
polling booths.

"One of the players is now acting like a referee and pretending to be a
competitor. Are we really in an election or are we in a contest already
decided by one man?," Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the larger faction of the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told a news conference.

Mugabe will also be facing ruling party defector Simba Makoni in the
presidential vote, being held alongside presidential, parliamentary and
municipal elections. He has branded his opponents as Western puppets and


Zimbabweans suffer from the world's highest inflation rate -- officially
over 100,000 percent -- and chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign
currency, but opposition divisions have increased Mugabe's chances of
keeping power.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch also accused the government this week of using
violence to intimidate opponents and using state subsidised food to gain an

Tsvangirai said opposition concerns over the electoral process -- such as
irregularities on the voter register -- had not been addressed. He
complained of limited access in state media and said some of his party's
rallies had been blocked.

The party said the distribution of polling stations was skewed in favour of
Mugabe's rural strongholds. It also said it was worried that presidential
votes might be counted centrally rather than at polling stations -- making
it easier to cheat.

"I will not be part of an illegal process," Tsvangirai said, making clear he
would not accept the result of such a count which did not take place using
the normal procedure.

Zimbabwe has banned vote observers from countries critical of Mugabe and an
observer mission from countries in the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) said on Wednesday it believed the atmosphere was conducive
to a fair poll.

"It does not appear likely that anyone in SADC would have the guts to stand
up to Mugabe," said Tendai Biti, a top official in Tsvangirai's faction.

"It is therefore not a surprise that the SADC observer mission in Zimbabwe
can state that the election will be free and fair despite gross and evident
electoral abuse."

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Forget The Hague - Mugabe Must Face Justice in Country

Fahamu (Oxford)

20 March 2008
Posted to the web 20 March 2008

Blessing-Miles Tendi

Blessing-Miles Tendi argues that If Mugabe is to stand trial for crimes
against humanity, he must do so as close as possible to the site of his
crimes - Zimbabwe.

On February 27, 2008, the BBC's John Simpson asked Simba Makoni if he 'would
not stand against the principle of sending President Mugabe to The Hague'.

Makoni replied: 'No. We will be a full member of the international community
and we will act in accordance with the normal standards of international

International newswires immediately went into an excited frenzy about the
prospect of Mugabe standing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC),
which functions to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes
against humanity.

This 'international' excitement needs to be shot dead in its tracks.

Since the treaty for the ICC was assented to by countries around the globe
in 1998, 105 countries have ratified the treaty to date. Zimbabwe is not one
of these 105 countries hence the ICC has no jurisdiction over Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, the ICC treaty came into effect in 2002. The ICC can only
prosecute crimes committed after 2002. The crime that could provide the
strongest basis for Mugabe standing trial at a court such as the ICC is the
Gukurahundi atrocities. However, the Gukurahundi was perpetrated before

Mugabe cannot stand trial for the Gukurahundi at the ICC.

Mugabe committed many crimes after 2002 but the burden is on those who
advocate for Mugabe standing trial at The Hague to prove how these crimes
qualify as genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

And while it is within the power of the UN Security Council to refer a human
rights situation to the ICC for investigation, this has failed to
materialise for years now and it is debatable whether consensus for such a
measure can ever be reached given some of Zimbabwe's long standing allies on
the Security Council.

States that have not ratified the ICC treaty can opt to accept the court's
jurisdiction but for Zimbabwe, this option is undesirable and unnecessary.

Zimbabwe's justice system has been corrupted by Zanu PF over the years but
it remains competent and it has retained a considerable level of
independence despite manifold state pressures. More importantly, there is a
pertinent tension between the universal jurisdiction embodied in the ICC and
the local.

Justice that is local or national is better felt than justice delivered in
distant international courts such as the ICC.

Justice at The Hague is not felt by widows deep in Tsholotsho who lost their
husbands to the Gukurahundi. It is not felt by the homeless and displaced
victims of Murambatsvina who are living like cockroaches on Caledonia farm.
If Mugabe is to stand trial, he must do so as close as possible to the site
of his crimes - Zimbabwe.

The appropriate place for Mugabe to face the judgment of history is in
Matabeleland where he had thousands slaughtered and in the areas where
Murambatsvina was conducted.

There are many unanswered questions in Zimbabwean history, and there is a
need for national healing and reconciliation. Mugabe has a part to play in
addressing these issues, and he can only do so adequately if his fate and
confessions are a national affair.

The likes of John Simpson, the 'international' media, the executive director
of the International Bar Association Mark Ellis, and some members of the
British House of Commons, who make a lot of noise about Mugabe standing
trial at The Hague must be reminded that Zimbabweans have a strong
historical perspective, and that Zimbabweans are not blind to their double

For instance, were it possible for Mugabe to stand trial for the Gukurahundi
at The Hague, serious questions about British sins of omission and
commission in Zimbabwe would arise. Britain was aware of the killings in
Matabeleland but in 1983, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in
India, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did not raise the matter of
the Gukurahundi.

In the same year, Malcolm Rifkind, Foreign Office Minister, visited Zimbabwe
and held diplomatic consultations with Mugabe. Rifkind did not mention the
Gukurahundi in his report to the British House of Commons on his return to

Perence 'Black Jesus' Shiri, the dreaded commander of the Fifth Brigade
during the Gukurahundi, was the first Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officer
to attend London's Royal College of Defence Studies as an honoured guest in
1986. The Royal College of Defence Studies describes itself as 'the senior
Defence academic institution in the United Kingdom... the most prestigious
institution of its kind in the world'.

Retired General Edward Jones, Director of the British Military Advisory and
Training Team (BMATT) in Zimbabwe from 1983 to 1985, explained the motive
for Britain's offer of tenure at the Royal College to Shiri as follows:
"Undoubtedly, he was the man who was going to be important in Zimbabwe and I
think it was important that we should influence him positively in so far as
we could." In 2000, Tony Blair's Labour government authorised the sale of
spare parts for British made Hawk 200 jets to the Zimbabwe Air Force, now
commanded by the same Perence Shiri. Farm invasions during the Third
Chimurenga were coordinated by ZNA officials with Shiri playing a key
coordinating role.

The military man whose excesses Britain had turned a blind eye to in the
past, honoured at London's Royal College and supplied with military parts
became a key impediment to attempts at ending the violent farm invasions. In
light of this, the 'international' moral grandstanding about Mugabe going to
The Hague must be abandoned.

There is no powerful 'international' lobby for Tony Blair and his
associates - or George Bush and his cronies for that matter - to stand trial
at the ICC for their naked crimes in Iraq. The few criminal cases the ICC is
dealing with today involve countries such as the Central African Republic,
Sudan, the DRC and Uganda. Thorny questions about African sovereignty are
brought into play by this focus on crimes in Africa. There is clearly one
standard of international justice for the powerful and another one for the

The 'international' clamour for Mugabe to stand trial at The Hague must be
seen against this background.

*Blessing-Miles Tendi is a researcher at Oxford University.

**Please send comments to or comment online at

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Mugabe's spokesman reads riot act to foreign correspondents

New Zimbabwe

By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 03/20/2008 23:26:34
ZIMBABWE President Robert Mugabe's press secretary on Wednesday summoned and
read the riot act to journalists working for foreign publications over
coverage of the March 29 elections.

George Charamba summoned 12 journalists from Zambia's Post newspaper, China's
Xianua, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Al Jazeera,
Reuters and AFP for the meeting which lasted an hour.

A scribe who attended the meeting said Charamba told them that all
journalists have been placed under surveillance to ensure that they do not
harbour unaccredited foreign journalists.

"When we arrived, Charamba told us to put our books and pens away. He said,
this was not a press conference and he wanted to talk about what he called
administrative issues," the journalist said.

"He said the country's security agents were on high alert and journalists
were under surveillance."

Charamba, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and
Publicity, also revealed that two weeks ago, journalists from a European
television station, France 24, "sneaked" into the country to cover the polls
but were arrested and deported.

The journalist added: "Charamba said if we entertained any foreign
journalists, our accreditation would be revoked."

Last week, the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper reported that the
government is screening foreign journalists on suspicions that some may be
spying for "hostile Western nations".

The paper said at least 300 foreign journalists have applied for
accreditation but priority was being given to journalists from Africa and
other developing nations that are sending election monitors.

The Mail reported: "There is an unprecedented request for field studios and
most of the media organisations want to deploy their star anchorpersons. The
CNN wants to deploy Nic Robertson, who is coming straight from Baghdad,
while ITN wants to deploy the world renowned Jon Snow."

It also quoted Charamba as saying: "The deployment of think-tanks suggests
that the elections will be much more than a news item, while there is a
strange alliance building between traditionally rival networks for the
purposes of covering the elections.

"What this suggests is a shared objective. The story from Zimbabwe has to be
uniformly echoed for propaganda purposes. Commercial rivalry has been set

President Mugabe has barred Western observers from the March 29 elections in
which he faces the challenge of his former finance minister, Simba Makoni,
and opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

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Harare Prints Z$680 Trillion

The Zimbabwean

 Thursday, 20 March 2008 10:50

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's government printed Z$680 trillion to meet
massive salary increments to restive civil servants this month and to fund
its bid to win tricky elections next week.

The sources, who are senior figures at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ),
said the government ordered the central bank to provide $166 trillion to
quell a teachers' strike for more pay that was threatening to spread to
include other equally disgruntled state workers and in the process
overshadow the government's campaign to remain in office.The administration
requested another $514 trillion to purchase buses, tractors, motor cycles,
combine harvesters, generators, small farm implements and cows that Mugabe
has distributed to beneficiaries in recent weeks, in what analysts have said
was a clear attempt to buy support ahead of elections. "As of February 29,
the central bank had advanced $514 trillion to the government for the farm
mechanization programme and its recurrent expenditure," said an RBZ official
who declined to be named for professional reasons. "Between February 29 and
March 7, the RBZ delivered $166 trillion to the government to meet the
salary increments for civil servants," added the official. Public school
teachers, who had boycotted classes since February, only returned to work
two weeks ago after the government hiked their salaries and those of other
civil servants by more than 800 percent. The increments were unbudgeted.
Mugabe, who told a campaign rally last Tuesday that the salary hikes were
necessary to defeat a plot by business to increase prices and cause more
hardships among Zimbabweans in order that they vote against his government,
also raised allowances for traditional leaders who have backed his
administration. Efforts to get comment from RBZ governor Gideon Gono were in
vain yesterday as his office said he was outside the country. But Gono,
accused by critics of keeping the printing machine running to prop up an
unpopular government, has in the past said he would print money if it were
needed to fund national projects. However, economists and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) blame Gono for compounding Zimbabwe's economic crisis
through quasi-fiscal activities that have seen the central bank pump
trillions of dollars into financing the government's populist projects. They
say printing money was fuelling inflation, which at more than 100 000
percent is the highest in the world. Mugabe's government faces what analysts
say is probably its toughest electoral test in the combined presidential,
parliamentary and local government elections on March 29, which take place
amid one of the worst recessions and food crises in the world outside a war

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Mugabe at loggerheads with businesses


March 20, 2008, 19:00

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is once again at loggerheads with
businesses in the country. Following sharp price increases of commodities
over the past month, the veteran leader has directed retailers to stop any
further increases forthwith or risk losing their businesses to government.

Mugabe condemned a recent spate of price hikes, which he said were intended
to erode pay increases given to civil servants last week. He said companies
found to be "profiteering" will be the first to be taken over by his

"We are certainly going back to last June's scenario. There is likely to be
nothing more in store within the next week or two as many people will resort
to panic buying," says economist John Robertson.

Robertson does not believe businesses are to blame. "We cannot blame
businesses because they have to source foreign currency from the black
market and that is what determines how much they charge for their goods and
services," says Robertson.

It has taken months for businesses to replenish supplies following last
year's crackdown by government.

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Mugabe threatens to take over "profiteering" companies

Monsters and Critics

Mar 20, 2008, 7:13 GMT

Harare - President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe says white-owned companies
found to be 'profiteering' will be the first to be taken over by his
government, reports said Thursday.

At a rally attended by thousands of supporters in the central town of Kadoma
Wednesday, the 84-year-old president condemned a recent spate of price
hikes, which he said were intended to erode pay increases given to civil
servants last week.

'Comrade Mugabe rapped the unilateral price hikes by some big companies,
particularly bakeries, saying the increases were part of the detractors'
quest for regime change,' said the state-controlled Herald daily.

Mugabe blames former colonial power Britain and other Western nations for
Zimbabwe's economic meltdown, marked by the world's highest rate of
inflation at more than 100,580 per cent, high unemployment, poverty and
chronic shortages of consumer goods.

But opponents blame Mugabe's mismanagement of the economy and his
controversial seizure of white-owned farms that formed the backbone of the
country's economy.

At Wednesday's rally, Mugabe ordered companies to immediately reverse recent
price hikes, said the Herald. The economy is a key issue in elections due
next week.

Mugabe and his party are facing a stiff challenge from veteran opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, and
independent presidential candidate, Simba Makoni.

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Govt agents accused of trying to rig elections


March 20, 2008, 18:30

Zimbabwe's central intelligence organization stands accused of working in
collaboration with external forces to rig the March 29 polls.

A key advisor to presidential candidate Simba Makoni alleges that seven CIO
operatives have been deployed with the Zimbabwe electoral commission to do
what he calls the dirty job.

Meanwhile opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he would not recognize
any count of the presidential ballot done centrally and not at polling
stations. In addition, the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) is concerned
about the Zimbabwe electoral commission's handling of preparations for next
Saturday's polls.

With just a week to go, these allegations appear to be setting the tone for
the elections while at the same time presenting a real challenge for SADC

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Nkomo threatens chiefs

The Zimbabwean

Thursday, 20 March 2008 16:22
BULAWAYO - The ruling party has been accused of threatening
traditional leaders with unspecified action if they do not successfully
rally their subjects behind President Robert Mugabe and other Zanu
Since the formation of the MDC in 1999, most parts of Matabeleland
have strongly rejected Mugabe. With another landslide victory for the
opposition being predicted in the forthcoming elections, Mugabe's party led
by former freedom fighters and party officials, have gone on an offensive,
threatening unspecified action of "weak" traditional leaders who "get
everything" from the Government yet "fail to command" their subjects to vote
for the ruling party.
In Tsholotsho, some traditional leaders said that they were threatened
by Zanu (PF) Chairman John Nkomo and his party's deputy national commissar,
Richard Ndlovu, who visited the district.
"They held a meeting with us on March 12 in the offices of the
Tsholotsho Rural district council, where they said we should ensure that
Jonathan Moyo [independent Tsholotsho MP] loses to Zanu (PF) this time. They
threatened to withdraw government support from the district, saying that
they would close the GMB depot that is serving us and also deal with us if
we betray them," said a headman who requested not to be named for fear of
Chiefs in Matobo also confirmed last week that they had been told by
Zanu officials to rally villagers behind their candidates.

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Of dodgy pollsters and strategic leaks

New Zimbabwe

By Trudy Stevenson, MP
Last updated: 03/20/2008 22:30:00
I WAS interested to see the "leaked results" of the Mass Public Opinion
Institute - MPOI - survey regarding who would win the Presidential election
this year.

I have known MPOI since my dear late friend and colleague Professor Masipula
Sithole set up the Institute some years ago.

In Mas's day, we could trust results from this institute to be a genuine
reflection of whatever question was being surveyed.

Unfortunately, since then the Institute seems to have lost some of its
impartiality, perhaps because one particular political party has its
headquarters only two buildings away, at Harvest House.

My skepticism of the survey results published on Studio 7 and in the
Zimbabwe Independent last week is based on the fact that in 2005 MPOI
conducted a survey and then kept the result secret "because some of your top
people didn't like it" in the words of Professor Eldred Masunungure,
Director of MPOI.

The survey conducted then was a snap survey in Harare on the issue of the
forthcoming Senate election. The question was whether people were in favour
of MDC participating in that election. This survey was taken in September,
2005, one month before the disastrous split of the MDC over this issue.

Prof Masunungure told me, on the fringe of another encounter in early 2006,
that some 75% of respondents in Harare were in favour of participating the
Senate election, and that this is what "some of your top people" were not
happy about. MPOI therefore suppressed that result, and the entire world was
allowed to come under the impression that Zimbabweans as a whole rejected
the Senate project.

This impression was false - and Morgan Tsvangirai's sudden volte face in
August to reject anything to do with the Senate (when in March and April he
was promising people Senate seats) was publicly supported by MPOI's silence
on their findings.

So now we have MPOI declaring that Morgan Tsvangirai will win the
Presidential election, with Mugabe coming second and Makoni third, while
over 30% of voters still keep their vote their secret.

Since more than 30% of respondents would not say which presidential
candidate they would vote for, and since even Tsvangirai got less than 30%,
I do not believe this poll to be a very reliable indicator of the actual
election result. Was it leaked to campaign for Tsvangirai?

Trudy Stevenson is MP for Harare North constituency and the secretary on
local government for the MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara

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The Godfather and the Zanu PF Mafia Part III

New Zimbabwe

By Dr Alex T. Magaisa
Last updated: 03/20/2008 22:29:58
"I CAN'T do it anymore”, remarks a tired and resigned Don Michael Corleone, The Godfather, in that moving scene as the immortal film, The Godfather Part III creeps toward the conclusion. It signifies the end of an era.

As he departs, members of the Corleone Family make a procession to kiss the ring on the hand of Vinny Mancini, the traditional salutation to the new Don Corleone.

When Mwalimu Julius Nyerere realised that he, too, was tired and could do no more, he took the Don Corleone way and handed over to Ali Hassan Mwinyi. Today, in Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania has a new Mwalimu, a leader to whom power has been handed over the Tanzanian way.

President Robert Mugabe could have done the same. He could have done a Don Corleone; he could have performed a Mwalimu. He could have said, ‘I am tired; I have done my part but I can’t do it anymore’. Because, plainly, there is nothing more he can do to save Zimbabwe. He could have handed over the reins to a new Don. We could have called it the Bob way. But he rejected it and now he faces a challenge from one of his Family and a potentially ignominious end. It didn’t have to be that way.

Last year, this column featured two articles (part I, part II) which attempted to explore the workings of Zanu PF using the image of the Mafia. Readers called for a third part, in line with the sequence of The Godfather Trilogy, from which the articles borrow the title. Recent developments in Zanu PF, characterised by the emergence Simba Makoni as a contender for presidential office provide the perfect background for the sequel. This is it.

We have here, in Mafia vocabulary, an indirect challenge by a young Don against the authority of The Godfather. We have here, the classic case of an embattled the head of the Family struggling to maintain his traditional grip on the Family due to his own failure to recognise when to hand over the reins to a successor.

As the Capo di tutti Capi (the Boss of all Bosses), Mugabe has maintained command of his Zanu PF Family through a composite system of patronage, fear of the unknown and respect for seniority. In Mafioso parlance, Zanu PF is a family, complete with its own set of ‘made’ men and a system of "making men" through structures such as the Central Committee and the Politburo. As with the Mafia, to become a ‘made’ man, one has to meet specific criteria, chief of which are liberation war credentials.

Becoming a ‘made’ man carries expectations of privilege, command and, ultimately, ascendance to the highest-rank of being the Capo. Yet the path to becoming the Capo is a maze; a road filled with landmines; a terrain full of shadowy figures, conspiratorial whispers and lurking hazards.

The Makoni challenge is a manifestation of the frustration that the ‘made’ man and women of Zanu PF have endured under a Capo who refuses to acknowledge that his continued presence is detrimental to the collective interests of the family. But as with the Mafia, challenging the Capo is a hazardous undertaking, regardless of the legitimacy of the grievance.

But what of those within the family, rumoured to be backing Makoni but, as yet, unable come out publicly? Again this behaviour resembles that of the underworld. Each member of the family has interests to protect and will, therefore, engage in hedging tactics so as not to expose himself to failure.

The greatest instrument available to the Capo is information. Mugabe is supposed to know everything about everyone in the family. His influence over the family lies in his ability to use or misuse this information whenever convenient. In this respect, the failure to come out openly to back Makoni by those members of the family is a function of self-preservation more than allegiance to the Capo.

But the biggest problem for the Capo is that his greatest asset now appears to have become his greatest weakness. It is no longer clear-cut who exactly are his friends and enemies plotting for his downfall in the family. Even those that are making fervent declarations of loyalty cannot be trusted. After all, it was just hours after his lieutenant, Msika, vouched for Dabengwa, that the latter came out in support of Makoni.

It is also notable that unlike in 2002, the statements of support by the security forces were not synchronised. There is a temptation to think that they may have merely damage-limitation statements by these men. Zimondi might simply have come out to pre-empt any indications of links with Makoni. And after Zimondi came out, how could Chiwenga and Chihuri possibly remain quiet without being accused of being complicit in the Makoni project?

It is especially telling that the Capo has been reduced into an embarrassing position of having to declare allegiance to himself on behalf of others like General Solomon Mujuru, who have been rumoured as Makoni backers. Surely, if Mujuru wanted to declare allegiance he could have easily done so personally? When the Capo takes it upon himself to do it, plainly, something is not quite right. In fact, that Mujuru himself has not said anything direct on Makoni’s candidature reveals more than it conceals.

This lack of clarity has clouded the politics of the Zanu PF family, leaving the Capo in a vulnerable position. Even Oppah Muchinguri, of the powerful Women’s League, who has previously threatened to remove her garments in symbolic defiance should anyone dare to challenge Mugabe have yet to fulfil their threats now that there is a clear challenge.

What then are we to make of the Makoni’s group in this Mafia dramatisation? Pentito is a term used to describe he who has repented. It is often used to designate former members of the Mafia who have abandoned it to collaborate with the authorities. The plural is Pentiti. Pentiti receive favourable treatment by the authorities in return for assistance in the war against the Mafia.

In Zimbabwe, the opposition is fighting a Mafia-type organisation. What role can the Pentiti play in this regard? In Part II, we argued that it would be useful if the opposition were able to find Pentiti from the leading members of the Zanu Family because clearly, in order to stand a chance in breaking the compromised electoral system, those with inside knowledge and influence in the system may be useful. Perhaps then, the Makoni group represents this Pentiti phenomenon.

There is nothing unusual or wrong with making use of Pentiti. It is pragmatic and practical to embrace Pentiti. In justifying the use of Pentiti, former President of the Italian Antimafia Commission, Luciano Violante once remarked, “We do not find information about the Mafia among nuns” a clear indication of their utility in breaking the Mafia. There are many people that feel strongly against Zanu PF leaders but arguably, the opposition needs the cooperation of Pentiti.

Of course, it is understandable that there is a desire to have a complete break with the Zanu PF machinery and way of doing things. But, however, desirable this is, it is not entirely practical. There is too much invested within the current system by the Zanu Family to expect them to give up completely without a long-drawn and detrimental fight. What the Makoni group seems to represent is that there are people in the Zanu Family who would prefer change from the status quo. To that extent there is common ground with most of the opposition on that point.

This was an opportunity to forge those links and fight the common battle with the Pentiti to achieve the initial goal. But one fears that this will be lost. The ideal outcome of complete change may seem to be within grasp but could be lost because of forces beyond the ballot box. The opportunity presented by the Pentiti will also be lost because of the pursuit of pure change from Zanu PF. And The Godfather will have outwitted everyone again ... Who knows, there might yet be another chapter beyond March 29.

Alex Magaisa is based at Kent Law School, UK and can be contacted at

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Zimbabwe poll winner must immediately organize new vote: activists

Monsters and Critics

Mar 20, 2008, 12:21 GMT

Johannesburg - Zimbabwean pro-democracy activists on Thursday called on
whoever wins Zimbabwe's March 29 elections, which they said they expected
would not be free and fair, to immediately set about organizing a new

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, National Constitutional Assembly and
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum in South Africa were addressing a joint press
conference with the South African Communist Party in Johannesburg.

'There is no question that this election will contravene the SADC (Southern
African Development Community) guidelines for free and fair elections,' the
groups said in a joint statement, citing evidence of widespread voter
intimidation and human rights abuses ahead of the poll.

Whoever wins the election should start by establishing a government of
national unity and making arrangements for a truly free and fair ballot,
they said, presenting a list of demands to the next government.

Zimbabweans are being called on to choose between incumbent Robert Mugabe,
84, longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 56, former finance
minister Simba Makoni, 57 and little-known Christian candidate Langton
Towungana, 41, for president for the next five years.

Parliamentary and local elections are also being held on the same date.

Many Zimbabweans fear the upcoming elections will be a replay of the 2002
presidential vote, which was marred by widespread voter intimidation and
allegations of rigging.

South Africa's take on the election would be key in this regard, the
activists and Communist Party member said.

'We can see a new impetus towards democratization in Zimbabwe (within South
Africa's ruling African National Congress),' Solly Mayisela of the Communist
Party said, referring to an ANC statement expressing concern over
interference by military and police chiefs in the election.

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When the generals say no

Comment from The Mail & Guardian (SA), 19 March

Martin Rupiya

Since 2002, the Zimbabwean military has consistently threatened to veto any
poll that goes against its preferred candidate. So what can voters do? How
should the region react to an incumbent ruler who portrays the election
campaign as little more than an attempt to reverse the gains of the
liberation struggle? History can help. Zimbabwe's situation today has
something in common with the Rhodesian government's predicament in 1979. Its
rulers are isolated, ostracised and under sanctions from the international
community. The use of force to crush opposition has become routine, but
dissenting voices cannot be silenced. While the formal economy has
collapsed, the government continues to spend heavily on internal troop

The securocrats appear undeterred - at least in public. Defence forces Chief
General Constantine Chiwenga has signalled his readiness to set aside the
Constitution should Robert Mugabe be defeated at the polls: "The army will
not support or salute sell-outs and agents of the West before, during or
after the elections," he said recently. Chiwenga's statement followed
similar comments from the Commissioner of Prisons, Major General Paradzayi
Zimonti, who publicly ordered his officers to vote for Mugabe. Such
statements recall the infamous "strait-jacket" declaration by Zimbabwe's top
brass which preceded the 2002 presidential election. Then generals appeared
on television to warn viewers that "anyone without liberation credentials
would not be allowed to take office, even if they won the vote."

The deterioration in Zimbabwe since the last presidential election has
substantially altered the role of the military. The entire country is now
under some form of military control. The political and administrative role
of the joint operational command has been expanded and entrenched, as
high-ranking officers have been deployed to run railways, industry and
parastatals in the country's ten provinces. Much analysis and debate that
portrays the upcoming election as an opportunity for political parties and
candidates misses the point. In reality, the regime in Harare is fighting a
different kind of war. In its view, the ruling party is constrained by a
partisan international community whose "proxies", including Dr Simba Makoni,
enjoy freedom. This mentality is entrenched - and will persist beyond
election day.

Even if Mugabe is re-elected, hard­liners in the military will be unlikely
to change their attitude. They will continue to favour disengagement from
the international community and international institutions. National
reconciliation is not a priority. For many, the upcoming "election" is a
non-event. Accordingly, the onus for change has shifted beyond Zimbabwe's
borders. As in 1979, when all-party talks at Lancaster House ushered in a
transitional coalition government, the initiative for reform will not come
from military leaders embroiled in war talk. Theirs is a battle for
survival, by fair means or foul.

Dr Martin Rupiya is a programme director at the Institute for Security
Studies in Pretoria. He previously served as a lieutenant colonel in the
Zimbabwe National Army

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MDC Statement on Statutory Instrument No. 46 of 2008, Presidential Powers
(Temporary Measures) (Amendment of the Electoral Act)

The Zimbabwean

 Thursday, 20 March 2008 08:53

The enactment by President Robert Mugabe of Statutory Instrument No. 46 of
2008 being the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of the
Electoral Act) regulations of 2008 summarizes everything that is wrong with
this election in particular and Zimbabwe in general.

The above regulations seek to amend Sections 55, 59 and 60 of the Electoral
Act Chapter 2:13 as amended by the Electoral Laws Act Amendment No. 17 of
2007. Amendment No.17 to the Electoral Act, which became law on the 11th of
January 2008, was a piece of law negotiated between the MDC and Zanu PF
during the SADC sponsored talks facilitated by President Mbeki. That piece
of legislation was agreed to and signed by the parties in Pretoria on the
30th of October 2007 and presented to SADC through President Mbeki on the
very same day. Thus, it could be said, without hesitation that, that
amendment together with amendments to the Public Order and Security Act,
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Act
which were all passed in Parliament on the 20th of December 2007 and
gazetted on the 11th of January 2008 are SADC documents contractually agreed
between the MDC and Zanu PF.

Before the SADC dialogue, the law allowed policeman and members of the
defense forces to assist the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and most
importantly allowed policeman to be present at any polling station. Further,
in terms of section 59 and 60, the presence of the police was required when
an official assisted a physically incapacitated voter. During the SADC
negotiations, the MDC's position was that the police had been abused and
used systematically to generate intimidation and threats. Furthermore, it
was argued that it was intimidatory to have an illiterate or physically
incapacitated voter vote in the presence of a police officer. Zanu PF
through its negotiators, Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche accepted the
unquestionability of this argument hence agreements on new provisions that
removed any reference to the police officers.

What President Mugabe has therefore done in the above regulation is to bring
the old order and allow police officers back into polling stations but most
importantly allowed incapacitated voters to vote in the presence of police

Quite clearly, the re-enactment of the old law confirms the presence of the
mischief that we had dealt with in the SADC dialogue. The mischief being
that police are indeed used as a weapon of intimidation in the Zanu PF power
retention agenda. Secondly, in our view, it is unacceptable that Mugabe, a
participant in this election can change the rules of the game when the game
is being played. Surely, one cannot be a player and a referee at the same
time. One cannot play tennis with continuously moving the baseline. Thirdly,
sight must not be lost of the fact that it was Parliament that enacted the
new law on the 20th of December 2007. For President Mugabe to place himself
above Parliament and bulldoze his way, as he has always done, reflects the
sickness of this establishment. How can one man be above the law and play
god with all of us. This election represents a turning point for Zimbabwe,
Mugabe has no right to privatize the same and treat this nation as Zimbabwe
Private Limited with one shareholder, Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

What is disturbing is that the Electoral Act Chapter 2:13 section 192 only
allows the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission powers of making electoral
regulations. The granting of powers to make regulations in terms of section
192 means that no one has regulatory powers. In our view therefore, Mugabe's
regulations are unlawful in that he has usurped the laws of ZEC under
section 192 of the Electoral Act.

Over and above, Mugabe's appetite of making Presidential decrees through his
legendary abuse of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act Chapter
10:20 is unacceptable as it is a clear breach of the rule of law. It is
quite clear that his powers to make laws using the Presidential Powers are
very limited. The President can only make regulations when it appears to him
that the situation that has arisen or is likely to arise needs to be dealt
with in the interest of defense, public security, public health, the
economic interests of Zimbabwe or the general public interest. How
disallowing or allowing a policeman into the polling station can be regarded
as a national emergency eludes one's wisdom.

It is our respectful contention therefore that the above presidential
contentions are clearly ultra vires the Electoral Act and the Presidential
Powers (Temporary Measures) Act. In addition, in any event, allowing Mugabe
to make decrees is a breach of the doctrine of the separation of powers. Put
simply, the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act is itself clearly
unconstitutional and there is only one law making body in Zimbabwe that is
the Parliament.

Lastly, it is quite clear that Mugabe's actions are an assault on the SADC
dialogue therefore an assault on SADC itself. Mugabe is clearly daring SADC
knowing clearly that the latter will blink. Unfortunately it does not appear
likely that anyone in SADC would have the guts to stand up to Mugabe. It is
obvious that the old-boys mentality which African institutions have been
accused of generating still remains the operational matrix. It is therefore
not a surprise that the SADC Observer Mission in Zimbabwe can state that the
election will be free and fair despite the gross and evident electoral
abuse. Of that abuse none is more obscene than Chapter 2:13.


MDC Secretary General

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Zimbabweans Devise Ways to Cope with Inflation


By Safari Njema
Harare, Zimbabwe
20 March 2008

Some Zimbabweans have devised various coping mechanisms, amid climbing
inflation. From Harare, reporter Safari Njema tells us that many are
battling to keep their heads above water.

Foreigners hearing about Zimbabwe's hyperinflation  are often curious about
how citizens manage to survive.  The country's annual inflation rate set a
new world recently when it skyrocketed above 100-thousand percent. The local
currency has tumbled to a record low of 25 million Zimbabwe dollars to one
single US dollar.

Queues for basic commodities, and services, are becoming longer while
consumers are able to afford fewer items.  While in supermarkets, shoppers
dump items when they realize they can't buy the products they're desperate
to take home.

Twenty-eight-year-old Martha Munhuweyi from Mabelreign says although prices
double about every 2 weeks, many have created imaginative survival
strategies.  Martha says her sister, who lives in South Africa, got a rude
awakening when she visited family in January. She'd been receiving regular
requests for financial assistance from relatives in Harare, while residing
in Cape Town.

But when she got to Zimbabwe she was amazed to see ladies sporting the
latest hair-styles and outfits. Martha says her sister was even more
surprised by the number of new clothing shops opening up in the capital.

Samuel Juma from Hatfield says he doesn't know how people still manage to
afford to stay in touch with styles, suggesting some may be home-owners who
are renting their properties. The 31-year-old says in high density areas
such entrepreneurs demand rent payments in foreign currency, mostly South
African rand.
But he argues it no longer makes sense to increase rentals monthly, adding
charging in rand simplifies the situation for both the tenant and the

Samuel, who is an office worker in government, says it's not uncommon for
those who own small apartments in the city to charge up to 300 United States
dollars per month.

Fifty-two-year-old Muneyi Zakariya from Dzivaresekwa explains many residents
of high-density areas have become vendors, selling a variety of commodities.
He says once they get their money at the end of the day, they immediately
buy foreign currency which they can resell at a profit. Government employees
are still able to go to work daily and leave for home with some money in
their pockets.

Manu Ziyambi, who's a receptionist in a government complex, says a number of
his colleagues have converted their offices into mini-supermarkets where
they sell scarce commodities. They are well-positioned because they have
phones at their disposal. The many people they deal with on a daily basis
are also a captive market of prospective clients. Their superiors receive
generous allocations to keep silent.

Reporters have noted selected spots in high density areas, where some men
spend the day seated under trees drinking beer or playing cards waiting for
clients who come to buy fuel. This is the heart of the parallel market.
Authorities are said to have either lost the will to control it. or are
pocketing kick-backs.

Chitungwiza resident, Sarudzai Mtetwa, alleges says these men are agents of
senior government officials who get fuel at subsidized government rates.
Mtetwa, who operates an outlet where she sells the Zimbabwean staple, sadza,
says the fuel dealers fall into the same category as illegal mineral dealers
who are reaping benefits from the country's economic chaos. She adds those
with relatives in the diaspora and those who are engaged in the cross border
trade are free spenders, managing to reap the best from the system.

However, Isidore Kanemavara from Mufakose says most are barely hanging on,
and the lucky individuals leading flashy lifestyles are the exception. He
sells sweet potatoes which he brings in from Rusape, adding he knows many
families who survive on a single meal per day. Kanemavara points to many
vendors who now sell one and two-kilogram packs of mealie meal and sugar.

Isidore says what this means is poor families can't afford ten or 20
kilogram packs and cannot stock anything in the house. Isidore says the
rising cost of food is also affecting non-resident students at tertiary
institutions. He explains he has friends who survive on a cooked mealie cob
a day.

School children are not spared either. 11-year-old Samantha Madyira has only
one uniform, which she washes when she returns home from school. Her dress
has already lost its color and is fraying at the seams. Her mother, Dadirai,
is a cleaner employed by the city council. She bought the dress for 25
million dollars in January. But as the same dress now costs almost 200
million Zimbabwe dollars, she won't be able to buy her daughter the second
dress (as promised) any time soon.

With a despondent look on her face, Dadirai says she hopes the coming
election will bring some magic remedy that will halt the rising prices.

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Students not behind Mugabe

Blessing Vava
Information and Publicity Secretary
Zimbabwe National Students Union

The Zimbabwe National Students Union, the official students representative
body in the country, with 44 tertiary institutions affiliate membership
wishes to dismiss claims by the Zanu PF backed and little known Zimbabwe
Congress of Students Union (ZICOSU)that the students are fully behind Robert
Mugabe's candidature ahead of the harmonised polls on 29 March. We are not
amused by ZICOSU's lack of ideology and vision, as the organisation has
failed to represent students since its formation by Border Gezi a few years
Instead the only time you hear of them is when there is a ZANU PF congress.
The students of Zimbabwe long rejected Mugabe because of his failure to
addressing socio economic and political issues for the last
28 years. The country is being faced by a record inflation rate, high
unemployment figures because of Mugabe's misrule.Mugabe lost elections in
2002 and is trying again to force himself to the people and is taking
advantage of the hunger and poverty in colleges and use some students in his
bid to stay in office.
At the last ZINASU congress which was attended by more than 200 students
drawn from all tertiary colleges in the country it was unanimously agreed
that we are backing Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC, because MDC is the only party
with a clear sound policy on education.
The country's education delivery system has declined because of Mugabe's
misgovernance.They deliberately scrapped funding for students in
institutions of higher learning and this resulted in thousands dropping out
of college due to high tuition fees. The students have also continued
falling prey in the dictator's hands as thousands of University of Zimbabwe
students faced evictions last year and were left homeless due to Mugabe's
lack of responsibility as the chancellor of the university.
Several students are currently on suspension, expulsion and some have been
killed, jailed all in defence of academic freedoms.It as against this
background that ZINASU urges all students not to be myopic and fooled by
such organisation like Zicosu who purport to be representing students when
they are operating at Munhumutapa offices and getting instructions from
Elliot Manyika.Lastly we urge all students to go out in their numbers and
vote for real change, and the change they can trust. The time is now and
victory is certain.

For and on behalf of the union.

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An election only in name

The Guardian

Mugabe can't win at the polls without rigging the vote - but telling western
journalists to stay away from Zimbabwe won't fool the rest of the world

Wilf Mbanga

March 20, 2008 4:00 PM
Robert Mugabe has a great deal to hide. That's why he doesn't want any truly
independent observers or journalists inside Zimbabwe to see what really
happens on March 29 - the day Zimbabweans go to the polls in the nation's
most hotly contested election since independence in 1980.

Mugabe has ruled the country he liberated from colonial rule ever since
then. In the process he has reduced it to a begging bowl - with more than a
quarter of the population in exile and where the world's highest inflation
and lowest life expectancy have reduced the dreams of majority rule to
bloodstained tatters.

Since things started to go seriously wrong in 2000, with the
government-sanctioned, violent invasion of commercial farms (largely owned
and run by whites), Mugabe has clamped down on the media. Draconian
legislation makes it mandatory for all journalists and media organisations
operating inside the country to be registered (that is, policed) by the
Media and Information Commission. Formerly headed by an unashamed Mugabe
apologist, Tafataona Mahoso, the MIC holds the dubious honour of having
closed down four independent newspapers in its first 18 months of existence.

During Mahoso's reign, countless journalists have been harassed, arrested,
beaten, tortured, locked up and released without being charged. Among them
was Gift Phiri, chief reporter for the independent weekly, The Zimbabwean -
which I edit and publish - who was badly beaten, tortured and had his finger
broken by Mugabe's goons in police uniform.

The Zimbabwean only manages to keep operating by exploiting a loophole in
the law, being published in neighbouring South Africa and trucked across the
border each week. It is now, at 150,000 copies a week for its Thursday
edition and 90,000 for its newly launched Sunday edition, the country's
largest circulation newspaper.

The MIC and the law governing it were high on the agenda of the inconclusive
Thabo Mbeki-sponsored negotiations between Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which dragged on for most
of 2007. The negotiators agreed that the MIC should be restructured - but
Mugabe refused. Instead, its licence fees were dramatically increased to
US$4,000 - a billion dollars in local currency, and totally unaffordable for

Since the media blackout began in earnest in 2000, several foreign
journalists - mainly from British media - have managed to sneak into the
country. Their reports of the collapse of southern Africa's once
most-promising independent state have shocked the world. Mugabe knows that
in order to win yet another election - his sixth since independence -
massive rigging will be necessary. He dare not expose his chicanery to the
prying lenses and microphones of the western media, particularly those
affiliated to his bête noire, Tony Blair, who will forever in his mind
represent all things British. Even al-Jazeera, which has a bureau in Harare
and is considered "friendly", has been instructed not to send its British
staffers to Zimbabwe. But Zimbabweans, and the world, will no longer be
fooled by Mugabe. Modern technology is no match for his heavy-handed news
blackout or his vitriolic media hangman, Mahoso.

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Speed silent as ICC sits on Zimbabwe report

From The Guardian (UK), 20 March

Matt Scott

The KPMG report on Zimbabwe Cricket's finances, which cleared the
organisation of any wrongdoing, will not be made public and has not been
distributed to the International Cricket Council's constituent nations. The
handling of the issue caused fractious debate at the Dubai headquarters of
the ICC during the world governing body's board meeting on Tuesday. In a
press release the board noted that the report had highlighted what it called
"serious financial irregularities" but, in a split decision, it voted not to
open KPMG's report to public scrutiny. The discontent was reflected in
Malcolm Speed's refusal to attend a press conference, which is understood to
have been because of his displeasure at how the Zimbabwe matter had been
handled. Speed is due to step down as chief executive at the ICC's annual
conference in June but opinion on Zimbabwe is polarised and will continue to
cause issues. The Anglo-Saxon nations are seeking to ostracise ZC from world
cricket but Zimbabwe has political allies in the ICC boardroom -
particularly neighbouring South Africa - and its historical support for the
Asian nations is also being returned. Caught in the middle is the Welshman
David Morgan, the ICC president-elect, whose job has been complicated by the
appointment of the Indian Inderjit Singh Bindra as "principal adviser". The
UK government is also set to be dragged into the row because the June
meeting is scheduled to be held at Lord's and Zimbabwe's representative on
the ICC board, Peter Chingoka, would expect to attend. The last time he made
an application to enter the UK, however, his visa application was rejected.

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