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

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21 March 2005

‘Confessions’ of ‘MDC Youths’ Are Part of An Orchestrated Attempt to Discredit the MDC

The MDC has always advocated non-violence. The new beginning desired by the MDC and the people of Zimbabwe can only be achieved through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. Violence and chaos will not lead to job creation and food security.

The MDC’s unequivocal commitment to non-violence and democracy underlines the absurdity of claims that the MDC is training youth to cause chaos ahead of the elections.

Such claims are not only deeply mischievous and baseless they are also part of a calculated attempt by the Mugabe regime to tarnish the image of the MDC in the eyes of voters ahead of the March 31 polls.

A story carried in today’s edition of the government controlled ‘Herald’ reports that five MDC youth yesterday surrendered themselves to police and ‘confessed’ that they had undergone training in South Africa with the aim to  destabilize Zimbabwe.

The MDC would like to place it on record that the five youth have nothing to do with the MDC and that this pathetic saga has been stage-managed by the Mugabe regime to discredit the MDC.

The MDC has it on good authority that a war veteran and CIO employee called Ephraim Chikabaya (‘Comrade Dhega’) recruited the 5 youth in question in Johannesburg in January 2005. The unemployed youth were offered money and subsequently traveled to Zimbabwe in February. They were kept at a secure location in Harare before being ‘handed over’ yesterday to the Law and Order Section of the police.

This nefarious tactic is not new; it has been used before by the Mugabe regime on numerous occasions. 

For instance, on the eve of the March 2002 presidential poll, 17 army ‘deserters’ were paraded on ZBC. The Mugabe regime claimed that the 17 ‘deserters’ had been arrested for plotting to cause disruption ahead of the poll. No evidence was ever produced to support this claim. After the election the issue of the ’17 deserters’ and their alleged crimes was never mentioned again by the regime.  

In November 2001, 5 MDC activists were arrested for the murder of war veteran Cain Nkala. At the time Mugabe claimed that their arrest proved that the MDC was a party bent on using violent means to achieve its political objectives. After being held in prison for over two years, and subjected to torture, all 5 were acquitted last year.

The complicity of senior members of the police in this latest attempt to malign the MDC provides further confirmation of the extent to which the police, as an institution, is harnessed to the election campaign of the ruling party.

The observers who are now in the country should now be under no illusions as to where the loyalties of the police lie. No observer report can afford to omit such blatant political bias and its central role in undermining the legitimacy of the forthcoming parliamentary poll.     

We are also reliably informed that hundreds of MDC t-shirts are being stored at Zanu PF’s Headquarters in Harare. During the March 2002 presidential elections a number of incidents were recorded of Zanu PF youth committing acts of violence wearing MDC t-shirts. We are under no doubt that this tactic is about to be repeated again and used as a pretext to arrest hundreds of MDC supporters.

By resorting to such desperate tactics less than two weeks before the polls the Mugabe regime has betrayed the level of panic which has consumed its ranks.

While the MDC tours the country talking about the issues of the day (food, jobs, housing, education) the Mugabe regime is focusing its energies on deploying devious and sinister tactics to derail the MDC campaign. It has no answer to the people’s basic grievances; its manifesto is bankrupt of ideas and policy solutions.

It is time everyone woke up to the depressing reality that Zanu PF is no longer a party that puts the interests of the people first. It has long since abdicated its commitment to the ideals of the liberation struggle.

Paul Themba Nyathi
Secretary for Information and Publicity
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Fears Over Security At Polling Stations

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)

March 20, 2005
Posted to the web March 21, 2005

Valentine Maponga

THERE are fears that unruly elements could take advantage of the dark and
disrupt the vote counting after the 31 March poll, especially in the rural

The chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, (ZESN), Dr Reginald
Matchaba-Hove, said in an interview with The Standard that logistical
problems could arise when vote counting starts.

Polling on 31 March will start at 7 am and end at 7 pm.

"In most places, especially in rural areas, it will be very dark that
problems could be encountered in the counting process. I have observed
one-day elections in a rich country like South Africa but in some instances,
when they were trying to turn on the lanterns to use for light, some of them
would not work."

Most parts of Zimbabwe do not have electricity and this could hamper the
counting process.

"If the counting is being done by candle-light, some unruly elements could
just blow out the candles and cause commotion," Matchaba-Hove said.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice George Chiweshe, said he
believed the issue of lights would be overcome.

"I am sure there must be some lanterns somewhere, which can be used and some
government departments will come in to provide lighting."

Chiweshe referred further questions to the Chief Elections Officer, Lovemore
Sekeramayi, who when approached, said: "We are in the process of acquiring
candles and lamps to use during the elections."

Chiweshe confirmed that they had so far secured 43 660 ballot boxes out of
the 50 000 they had ordered.

He also revealed that the number of polling stations had been increased to 8
227, up from the less than 5 000 used during the 2000 Parliamentary

"The polling stations have been distributed as follows: Bulawayo 120, Harare
522, Manicaland 1 134, Mashonaland Central 821, Mashonaland East 1 104,
Mashonaland West 984, Masvingo 1 060, Matabeleland North 630, Matabeleland
South 594 and Midlands 1 168," Chiweshe said during a recent press

The translucent ballot boxes, upon arrival were stashed at the Harare
International Airport, before distribution to the various destinations in
the country.

Chiweshe said they were expecting more deliveries of the ballot boxes from
China. He believed the Commission had covered 95 % of all the arrangements
that should be in place for the elections to be held "fairly and freely".

Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,
said the ink to be used in the elections was bought from a Swiss company and
that as far he could tell, everything was progressing well.

"We are ready for the election," he said.

ZEC officials were not immediately available to provide details of the cost
of the ballot boxes last week, saying they were not ready and could only
give out the details later.

Sekeramayi said he would only be able to give out the costs of the ballot
boxes and visible ink this week.

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Comment from The Sunday Times (SA), 20 March

Will SA's observers be free and fair?

All indications are that the SA missions will not make a judgment based on
anything they may witness on the ground, writes Elinor Sisulu

'Our demand is just and legitimate. We demand a free and fair election where
international observers will oversee." - Josiah Magama Tongogara (1978),
Zimbabwe national liberation hero and Zimbabwe African National Liberation
Army military chief, who died in a car accident on the eve of Zimbabwe's

If awards were given out for successfully rigged elections, Zimbabwe would
rank among the leading nations in the world. The Zimbabwean government has
become a past master at cynically manipulating elections to ensure victory
for the ruling party, Zanu PF. Since the parliamentary elections in 2000,
Zimbabweans have endured nine by-elections and the presidential elections in
2002. All these polls have been characterised by intimidation of voters
through a ruthless propaganda campaign that legitimises violence against
members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on the
grounds that they are nothing more than puppets of the West. Zimbabweans
preparing for parliamentary elections on March 31 2005 do so with a terrible
sense of déjà vu. All indications are that this election will be as flawed
and contentious as the 2000 and 2002 elections.

If anything, the electoral environment has, in many ways, deteriorated since
2002 with the enactment of legislation such as the Public Order and Security
Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the
Broadcasting Services Act. These pieces of legislation combine to deny the
Zimbabwean electorate the basic freedoms of assembly, speech and
association. Furthermore, the independence of the judiciary has been
severely compromised as a result of state harassment. The voters' roll is
fundamentally flawed, constituencies have been demarcated to favour the
ruling party, there is absolutely no voter education and, while levels of
violence may be lower than they were in the run-up to previous elections,
members of the opposition party continue to suffer harassment and physical
abuse. One of the main components of the Mugabe regime's elaborate election
manipulation process has been the massive disenfranchisement of citizens.
This is achieved by various means, such as confiscation of identity
documents and the stripping of citizenship from Zimbabweans of foreign
descent on the grounds that these people would most likely be supporters of
the opposition. Denial of citizenship, first aimed at the white Zimbabwean
community, has been extended to Zimbabweans of Malawian, Zambian, Mozambican
and Indian descent.

But the most dramatic form of disenfranchisement has been through the exodus
of citizens. In the past five years millions of Zimbabweans have been
compelled by circumstances - political repression, fear of violence or the
collapsing economy - to migrate to other countries. Thus the Mugabe regime's
disastrous policies have effectively disenfranchised several million
Zimbabwean citizens by forcing them to leave the country. The right of
citizens, including those temporarily living abroad, to vote in national
elections in their home countries is one that is recognised in most
democracies. However, Zimbabwean citizens living abroad are denied this
right. The reason for Zanu PF's decision to exclude non-resident citizens
from voting is obvious. The majority of Zimbabweans in the diaspora are
disenchanted with the Mugabe regime and might vote for the opposition. If
Zanu PF believed that it could draw substantial support from Zimbabweans
living abroad it would not hesitate to make arrangements for them to vote.
Their exclusion is a matter of sheer political expediency.

Sadly, and this has been the case since 2002, the governments of the region
have provided the Mugabe regime with their unqualified support in the run-up
to the March 2005 election. President Thabo Mbeki and various senior members
of the South African government have recently proclaimed that there is no
reason to believe that the Zimbabwean elections will not be free and fair.
All indications are that the South African observer missions will once again
go to Zimbabwe and make a judgment based on a deep sense of solidarity with
the Zimbabwean government rather than on anything they may witness on the
ground. The outlook is indeed bleak.

Sisulu is a Johannesburg-based author of, most recently, Walter & Albertina
Sisulu: In Our Lifetime

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ABC News
Violence, Intimidation, Restrictive Laws Skew Zimbabwe Elections, Report

By ALEXANDRA ZAVIS Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa Mar 21, 2005 - Five years of violence,
intimidation, voting irregularities and restrictive legislation have skewed
Zimbabwe's electoral playing field in favor of President Robert Mugabe's
party, Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday, days before parliamentary

The New York-based group is the latest of numerous local and international
rights organizations to sound the alarm about the March 31 polls, seen as a
test of Mugabe's legitimacy after nearly 25 years at the helm of the
troubled southern African country.

Researcher Tiseke Kasambala urged governments of the Southern African
Development Community among the few allowed to observe Zimbabwe's elections
not to judge whether the poll is free and fair based on what they have seen
over the past week alone.

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"If SADC members fail to take into account abuses in the long run-up to the
polls, SADC's ability to foster democratic change in the region will be
compromised," Kasambala said in a statement.

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki drew widespread criticism when he said
recently weeks before any ballots were cast that he saw no reason why
Zimbabwe's election wouldn't be free and fair.

Levels of violence have declined markedly since the last legislative poll in
2000, which was closely followed by the often bloody seizure of thousands of
white-owned farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

Human Rights Watch's 35-page report documents numerous cases of political
intimidation including threats, arbitrary arrests and beatings against
opposition parties, their supporters and other citizens by the ruling
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and its allies.

Traditional chiefs have been asked to compile lists of potential opposition
supporters, and voters in desperately hungry rural areas have been told they
might not get food aid if they don't vote for the ruling party, Kasambala
said at a news briefing in Johannesburg.

After years of violence, she said, Zimbabweans know ruling party supporters
and officials are "more than capable" of making good on their threats.
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The Zimbabwean

MPs violated eight times on average

Continuing the Zimbabwe Institute report on human rights abuses experienced
by opposition MPs and election candidates.

Every MP and candidate interviewed or researched had human rights violations
of one kind or another on record. In every instance it was claimed that the
perpetr-ators were government agencies or Zanu (PF) supporters.

There were 616 entries into the various categories of human rights
violations, based on the reports from the 78 individuals. Actual numbers of
violations are higher than numbers of categories indicated for each person
in many instances.

For example, MPs who have been arrested more than once are registered as
having been arrested, but numbers of arrests is not recorded. Job Sikhala,
for instance, claims to have been arrested more than 10 times, but this is
only reflected as a simple positive in the category of arrest. Several
interviewees claim to have survived more than one assassination attempt,
others had multiple threats, assaults and/or property loss. 389 category
entries were made for the 50 MPs. 227 category entries were made for the 28
Candidates 2000.

The average number of categories of violation reported by each MP was
approximately 8. The average number of categories of violation reported by
each Candidate was approximately 8. The highest number of categories of
violation reported by any MP was 24 (R. Bennett). The highest number of
categories of violation reported by any Candidate was 17 (M. Tsvangirai).

1. Violations against self

More than 90% of MPs reported violations that had directly affected their
own person, such as murder attempts, torture, assault, arrest and detention.
MPs were almost twice as likely to report violations against themselves
personally as candidates were, with 50% of the latter reporting violations
against themselves. 24% of MPs reported surviving murder attempts, and in
some instances, MPs reported surviving several such attempts. 22% of
candid-ates reported surviving murder attempts. 42% of MPs reported being
personally physically assaulted and 16% reported torture. Torture included
electro-shock torture, being stripped naked and whipped and being beaten on
the soles of the feet. In some instances such torture is reported as having
taken place in police custody. 32% of candidates reported assaults and none
reported torture.

2. Disruption of campaign

Candidates were three times more likely than MPs to report their campaign
activities had been interrupted or that access to their constituency was
limited during election 2000. 100% of candid-ates reported interference with
their campaign, compared with 30% of MPs. Interference ranged from police
refusal to allow rallies or violent disruption of rallies, to arrest and
assault while trying to enter a constituency to campaign. Candidates also
mentioned not being able to access all or part of their constituencies
because ZANU (PF) war veterans and supporters created 'MDC no-go' areas.

3. Property violations

44% of MPs reported their homes vandalised, and in 6% of these cases this
meant 100% loss of house and all property through arson. 48% of MPs reported
vehicles vandalised and 14% reported businesses vandalised, and in some
cases loss was total. More than 50% of MPs reported at least one type of
property loss, and 22% reported property losses in more than one category,
such as vandalism of business and home.

4. Violations against family or staff

More than 60% of MPs reported attacks and/or threats involving immediate
family, and nearly 80% of candidates reported this. Actual violence against
family members was reported in 22% of MP families and 18% of candidate
families. In one instance a candidate's brother was beaten to death with
iron bars (Pfebve) and in another instance a candidate from 2000 was himself
beaten to death in 2002 (Nheya). In three instances, MPs reported murders of
their staff. One candidate reported staff murders. Nearly 40% of MPs
reported having to relocate their families for reasons of safety after
threats or attacks, and 64% of candidates reported this.


MPs were most likely to report the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) as
perpetrator. 50% of violations against MPs were attributed to uniformed or
formal units of government, namely the ZRP, the Central Intelligence
Organis-ation (CIO) or the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). The remaining 50%
of violations against MPs were at the hands of war veterans and ZANU (PF)
supporters and youth militia.

Candidates were most likely to report ZANU (PF) supporters or war veterans.
In 86% of cases they report violations by these groups. In only 14% of
violations against candidates are formal state agencies implicated. In no
instances did a candidate implicate the army, whereas 6% of MPs implicated
the army.
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The Zimbabwean

Open letter to President Mbeki
18th March 2005

His Excellency
The President of the Republic of South Africa
Hon Thabo Mbeki
Dear Sir

As a last-ditch attempt to save our country from another fraudulent election
by the ruling Zanu (PF) we feel compelled to write to you expressing our
alarm at your continued pronouncements concern-ing the forthcoming elections
in Zimbabwe.

We are horrified that, despite irrefutable evidence that Zimbabwe has not
compli-ed with the SADC norms, you continue to make no condemnation of this
state of affairs. In fact, you have actually bolstered the Mugabe regime by
making positive utterances to the effect that the elections will be free and
fair. There is absolutely no evidence that your statements have any basis in
fact whatsoever.

We find it inconceivable that, with all the information-gathering resources
at your command, you appear to be so ill-informed about the reality on the
ground in Zimbabwe today. Zanu (PF) is starving the people, using food as a
campaign tool. The militias, the army and the police are exercising a reign
of terror throughout the nation. Campaigning by the opposi-tion has been
hamstrung. Just because people are not being killed in large numbers in no
way diminishes this reality.

You did express concern over the shambolic state of the voters' roll. How
can the will of the people be determined under such conditions? Surely this
alone, even if this is the only thing that concerns you, would be sufficient
grounds to invalidate the poll.

Furthermore, it would appear that your strategy of quiet diplomacy - which
has made you a laughing stock in the international diplomatic community -
really means tacit approval of Mugabe's policies and actions. The Zimbabwean
government has stated publicly, through justice minister Patrick Chinamasa,
that the SADC norms are 'mere guidelines' and not legally binding. Clearly
it has no intention of observing them.

On behalf of concerned Zimbabweans everywhere, and do not be mistaken Mr
President - there are many of us - we appeal to you to face reality and act
accordingly. And please do not be confused by the anti-west, anti-white
rhetoric which has been to obscure the real issues at stake here. We are not
puppets of Blair. This is not about race or colonialism. It is about
respecting the will of the 12 million black people of Zimbabwe as expressed
through the ballot box.

Wilf Mbanga, Editor.
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The Zimbabwean

Tsvangirai - 'a skilled and charismatic administrator'


THE leader of Zimbabwe's largest and strongest opposition, the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, has in the space of a short time
catapulted himself from ordinary trade unionist to a national icon, however
much Zanu (PF) chooses to malign him in their monopolised and mediocre
While the ruling party has put forward the argument that his simple
background reflects a lack of sufficient sophistication to deal with the
intricate demands of running a country, it has opted to forget this is
exactly what endears him to the majority of Zimbabweans. People do not want
leaders who are complicated, aloof and stubborn. They prefer simplicity and

The eldest of nine children and son to a bricklayer, Tsvangirai was born in
Gutu, Masvingo in 1952. He left secondary school after his O-levels to
become a textile weaver to support his family. In the current economic
environment, this is what most people are having to do and they can relate
to it easily. He ended up working at Trojan Nickel Mine in Bindura,
northeast of Harare.

In the 10 years he spent there he rose from plant operator to general
foreman and was finally elected branch chairman of the Associated Mine
Workers' Union. It was not long before he made the national executive of the

In 1988 Tsvangirai became the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions (ZCTU). This kind of prog-ression in the unions says a lot
about his charisma and ability as a solid adminis-trator. The MDC owes a lot
of its organi-sational capacity to his human resource management skills.

In 1989 he was imprisoned for six weeks on charges that he was a South
African spy, all because he had led the ZCTU to break away from its alliance
with Zanu (PF). In 1997/98 he led a series of successful strikes dubbed
"stayaways" to protest tax increases by Mugabe's regime which was eager to
shore up resources to appease ex-combatants with gratuity and pension

The nationwide strikes were so success-ful that even Mugabe, well-known for
his stubbornness, backed down. Tsvangirai's political clothes were thus
sewn, ironed and ready to be worn.

Riding on his new-found success, the unofficial opposition leader took the
next logical step in the political process. It was very clear that workers'
problems were emanating mainly from political decis-ions. A permanent
solution thus meant a change of government.

Tsvangirai does not seem to need the presidency as desperately as Mugabe
needs to keep hanging on to it. His mandate is clear. It's hard to think of
Mugabe outside the presidency since he has lost much of the respect people
had for him. Through ruling like a dictator, besieged by imaginary forces
while in power, he would just be another has-been outside it.

In 1999 the Tsvangirai-led ZCTU created the Movement for Democratic Change,
which challenged Zanu (PF) in the June 2000 parliamentary election. Just
before this election there was a referendum on a new constitution, that
deliberately had a clause on seizing white-owned farms without compensation
just to ensure a "yes" vote by the majority. The tactic backfired miserably
and government lost the referendum in a clear vote of no confidence.

The organisation that led the "no" vote campaign, the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA), had Tsvangirai as its founding chairperson.
This was the most dramatic political setback for Robert Mugabe's Zanu (PF)
since Indepen-dence.

A visibly dejected Mugabe appeared on national television to tell the people
his government would accept the "no" vote. The humility Mugabe displayed on
television masked the seething anger he felt and events later showed how he
would get his revenge.

In the June election, the MDC won 57 seats compared to Zanu (PF)'s 62, a
major shock considering the MDC was only a few months old.

The state-controlled media has tried to portray Tsvangirai and his MDC as
British-funded puppets eager to reverse the land-grabbing exercise. What
shows you this tactic is not working is the regu-larity with which it is
repeated. They will never mention how in the presidential election a
"puppet" party garnered over 1,2 million votes.

The MDC leader has clearly stated that his party's policy on the land issue
is to see an equitable, fair and transparent reform programme. However,
those opposed to this apply selective compre-hension and tell the electorate
the opposition wants to give land back to the British.

Their arguments are sometimes so childish you could laugh your head off. But
then you begin to realise the majority of their remaining supporters are not
so sophisticated and more easily swayed by delivery than by content. This is
where you get Mugabe punching the air and swearing by his mother's grave -
he knows his audience.

We are regularly told Tsvangirai has a simple educational background. They
will never mention he is a graduate of Harvard University's John F Kennedy
School of Government and holds a diploma from the school's Executive Leaders
In Development programme. We are also curious as to what Mugabe's degrees
from prison have accomplished besides attracting high degrees of suffering
and violence?

Do the millions of Zimbabweans who don't have degrees represent the
unelectable community? Whose standard is it that all world leaders should
hold degrees? The best example of education and commonsense being mutually
exclusive is Jonathan Moyo whose sole lesson to Zimbabwe is that political
opportunism is the fastest route to wealth and power.

The MDC leader turned down the opportunity to contest in the easily-won
urban constituencies, preferring instead to contest in his rural home of
Buhera. Predictably, it was won by Zanu (PF) - courtesy of a violent

This ability to align himself to his grassroots constituency has been
overlooked by most commentators who focus on the defeat itself while
ignoring his political astuteness in leading by example and not words.
Despite his growing stature he remains aligned to his roots.

There have been three assassination attempts on Tsvangirai so far despite
the regime trying to downplay them - notably in 1997 when unknown assailants
burst into his office and tried to throw him out of a tenth floor window. If
Zanu (PF) wanted people not to take him seriously they were certainly going
about it the wrong way.

That Tsvangirai has soldiered on in spite of regular arrests on trumped up
charges, harassment and intimidation is a remarkable feat of courage when
you consider how fleet-footed others in similar circumstances have become.

Does a trade union background then ensure someone will become a good leader?
The question has no fixed answer. It depends on the personal attributes of
each leader. Former Zambian president, Frederick Chiluba, who ousted Kenneth
Kaunda in the 1991 polls is often used as an example by the state media to
rubbish the track record of trade unionists who ascend to power. The problem
with the analogy is that Chiluba's MMD grew out of a break up of Kaunda's
governing party while in Zimbabwe the MDC built itself from scratch.

No one can underestimate the enormity of the challenge the MDC leader faces.
Every aspect of the political landscape, the media, judiciary, law
enforcement, legislation is heavily lopsided in favour of the incumbent.

Those from the opposite side can bark all they want about puppetry,
re-colonisation and sovereignty, but the truth is that Tsvangirai has come
to symbolise the struggle for freedom in Zimbabwe more than those who sought
to perpetually feed off the liberation war.

The writer works as a Producer/ Presenter for SW RadioAfrica. The views
expressed here are his own.

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The Zimbabwean

Mugabe clamps down on Internet cafes
President Robert Mugabe's dislike of free speech has been overtaken by
technology and Zimbabweans in the diaspora are making good use of the
Internet to exchange independent news and information.
Since the descent of Mugabe's government into tyranny, human rights
activists and journalists from Zimbabwe have turned to the Internet to beat
govern-ment attempts to suppress the free flow of uncensored information,
often critical of the policies that have the country to brink of ruin.

The popularity of the use of the Internet is also mirrored in developments
back in Zimbabwe. A survey by a local daily newspaper showed that Harare has
over 30 thriving internet cafés, up from less than 20 two years ago.

Mugabe however, has not been taking the use of the Internet to criticise his
government and its policies lightly. Currently the government is in a tussle
with Internet service providers (ISPs) over its attempts to use them to
police the net. It wants ISPs to report citizens who use their e-mails to
criticise Mugabe and his regime.

So far these attempts have fallen flat following a constitutional ruling
which declared them illegal. The constitutional challenge was initiated by a
group of lawyers in 2000 and the ruling against the government was granted
in March 2004. A group of lawyers had approached the Supreme Court, claiming
as unconstitu-tional a section of the Posts and Telecommunications Act (PTA)
concern-ing the interception of phone calls and e-mails.

The lawyers contended that the act violated article 20 of the constitution,
guaranteeing freedom of expression and the right to receive and share
information without hindrance. The Supreme Court ruled that the act was in
indeed unconsti-tutional as the PTA's assertion of "rea-sonably justified"
interception was too vague to guarantee individual freedoms.

However, the loss of this case in the Supreme Court did not deter Mugabe. He
has since ordered ISPs - who all have contracts with the government-owned
telecommunications company, TelOne - to sign a new contract with an
amend-ment that requires that they inform the government of e-mails deemed
offensive or dangerous.

So far, no Internet service providers have signed the new contract and their
associ-ation said they would not sign. "What is now being requested is that
we sign an agreement to do what the Supreme Court said was
 unconstitutional," said an official who asked not to be named.

Despite this, a number of people have been charged with writing and
dissemin-ating information critical of Mugabe. They were arrested after a
raid on an Internet café following a police tip-off. Although no-one has
been prosecuted, there is fear that the government could be explor-ing more
ways of making access to the internet difficult.

As the presidential election in Zimbabwe scheduled for 31 March draws
closer, the use of the internet becomes of paramount importance to
Zimbabweans starved of news about their country because of the repressive
media laws in their country.

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The Zimbabwean

Operation Nyama decimates game in Hwange

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force reported last week that it had just
discov-ered a clandestine ransacking of game in Hwange National Park that
took place throughout 2004 under the guise of 'feeding the people'.
"Operation Nyama (meat)" took place in Hwange, supposedly to provide meat
for the people and it is alleged that a quota was issued, authorizing a
large number of animals to be shot," said Chairman Johnny Rodrigues in a
statement. "If the aim was genuinely to feed the people, it is strange that
most of the elephant bulls that were, and still are being shot, have 60 to
70 pound tusks and are in their prime. Older bulls with broken tusks are not
being targeted."

He said the task force had received several complaints from tourists.
"Operation Nyama was supposed to end on December 31, 2004 but we received a
report in February this year from a group of horrified American tourists.
They said they saw a National Parks truck, which had broken down inside the
park, fully loaded with dead impala and buffalo. An attempt had been made to
conceal the dead animals with branches and leaves but the Americans could
easily see what was in the truck," said Rodrigues.

"We have had other reports of tourists cutting their visits short because
they have witnessed animals being slaughter-ed by National Parks staff in
prime game viewing areas."

One of the camp managers in Hwange has threatened to remove his diesel
engines from the park because there is little point in spending millions of
dollars on fuel to pump water to attract the game just so it can be shot for

"The Zimbabwean government spends millions of dollars promoting tourism on
the one hand and on the other, National Parks staff seem to be making a good
job of destroying what is left of our touri-sm industry," said Rodrigues.
One of the wardens of Main Camp has been arrested for allegedly stealing 18
diesel pumps, most of which were donated by conservation organizations, and
selling them to the 'new farmers' who are all now hunting in the areas
adjoining the park.

It has been reported from Amsterdam that Dutch customs police have seized a
shipment of African elephant body parts including 22 feet, eight tusks,
eight ears, three tails, a skull and an entire hide. The cargo, originating
in Zimbabwe and bound for Germany was halted at Schipol Airport without
proper licences. The body parts were intended for buyers in Spain, Portugal
and the Czech Republic. As yet, no arrests have been made.

"Everybody hoped that when National Parks became an authority - as opposed
to a government department - the wildlife would once again enjoy the
protection it had before the onset of the land reform programme, but the
irresponsibility of the new National Parks Authority is beyond belief. It
has now reached the point where the wildlife is probably safer outside the
National Park areas because the people who have been entrusted with
safeguard-ing this precious commodity are the very people who are destroying
it. The Zim-babwean Government should be held accountable for this
destruction of our national heritage," said Rodrigues.

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‘WEEKLY UP-DATE’ – an assessment of the extent to which the Zimbabwe Government is complying with the SADC Protocol on Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.



Issue 10:  11 March – 18 March











(During the time-period stated above)

GRADING: 1 = No Compliance  2 = Very Minimal Progress  3 = Minimal Progress  4 = Good Progress  5 = Full Compliance

Full Participation of citizens in the political process




17 March 2005 Kariba, Mashonaland West: The MDC candidate for Kariba, Nathan Makwasha was arrested together with his election agent Vengai Munyengeterwa on allegations that they were putting up posters without authority.   


15 March 2005, Chitungwiza: A group of MDC supporters were arrested in ward D for distributing MDC fliers for Goodrich Chimbaira, the MDC candidate for Chitungwiza.  On the same day, Chuimbaira’s house was stoned by Zanu Pf supporters. When he called the police to report the matter, he was told that they do respond to information received over the phone. 




13 March 2005, Hwedza: Zanu PF district chair, together with Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere, toured the constituency warning people that Zanu Pf  has been busy recording the names of those suspected of supporting the MDC. People were told that after the elections all MDC supporters would be beaten up.

In the same constituency, Ray Kaukonde the Zanu PF Chairperson for Mashonaland East harassed  police officers accusing them of supporting the MDC and forced them to sing Zanu Pf songs.


12 March 2005, Manyame, Mashonaland West: A group of war veterans attacked an MDC campaign team resulting in some of them sustaining serious injuries. The injured were taken to Avenues Clinic. The war vets destroyed  MDC campaign material, ripped off MDC t-shirts worn by the  MDC team and also attacked the MDC vehicles.


11 March, Bulawayo:  Zanu (PF) candidate for Makokoba constituency, Sihle Thebe, warned people that they would be denied food if they voted for the MDC.  Thebe told residents, in the presence of Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, that the ruling party controls the GMB and has powers to freeze supplies to them if they backed the opposition.


6 March, Gormonzi: Two ZANU-PF supporters in Shumba Ward of Dombashava told a party meeting in Gormonzi that they would beat up people and burn houses and property belonging to all suspected opposition supporters in the area if ZANU-PF loses the parliamentary polls later this month. The threats were made to about 100 people from four villages in Shumba ward. The councillor for Shumba ward, Gibson Chiwara, and the ZANU-PF youth chairman identified only as Mapurani, also told four headmen who were present at the meeting that they should compile a list of all suspected MDC supporters so that the two officials would make sure that they were not allowed to vote on polling day.


5 March, Murehwa North, Mashonaland East: Four MDC youths were picked up by the police from their respective homes and were detained at Murehwa police station. 


In Chiredzi, a senior Zimbabwe National Army officer, Col Killian Gwanetsa, is campaigning for Zanu PF using an army vehicle. Last Friday 4 March, Gwanetsa instructed two war veterans Elson Muko and Flaxman Mpapa to pull down campaign posters for the MDC candidate,  Emmaculate Makondo. 



5 March 2005 Mudzi West, Mashonaland East: The MDC candidate for Mudzi West Shorai Tsungu was arrested at around 22 00 hours and was detained at Nyamapanda Police Border Post. Shorai was attending a meeting that had been called for by officials from the ZEC to discuss polling station locations and was held at Kotwa Business centre. He was arrested by the police on allegations that he was responsible for the graffiti that was made on the roads in the area. A docket no 16/03/02 was opened. The docket indicates that the crime was committed in 2002.


4 March Bindura, Mashonaland Central: The MDC candidate for Mount Darwin South, Henry Chimbiri and the Provincial chairperson for Mashonaland Central, Tapera Macheka and Petros Chiunye the election agent for Mount Darwin South, were arrested in Bindura. The three were looking for information relating to polling stations and were deliberately directed to a municipal council office where a ZANU PF meeting was underway. As soon as they got into the office they were apprehended by the ZANU PF group and were accused of having waved MDC slogans. They were taken to the police station and were detained at Bindura police station for more than 8 hours. They were released upon payment of admission of guilt fine of $25 000,00 each.



4 March: Nhamo Makwaza a youth in the Glen Norah Constituency was arrested at around 0300 hours for putting up MDC campaign posters. 


2 March: 11 MDC activists in Guruve North were arrested by police while distributing campaign material.


21 February: MDC activist Tendai Matsine and his wife were severely beaten up by Zanu PF youth in Huruingwe East. They were attacked after being caught putting up MDC posters. The incident was reported to the police but police informed the MDC officials that they had been given instructions by their superiors NOT TO ARREST Zanu PF activists engaged in acts of violence.


20 February: a group of MDC youth was assaulted by a group of Zanu PF youth led by Fidelis Kangwere whilst putting up posters for the MDC Makoni West candidate, Remus Mukuwaza. The MDC activists were told that Makoni West was a no-go area for the MDC.


20 February: 2 MDC youths in Hurungwe East were abducted by a group of Zanu PF youth while distributing MDC campaign material. They were taken to the local Zanu PF offices and severely assaulted.


10 February: the Government deploys more than 2,000 members of the notorious youth militia in Kamativi, a perceived MDC stronghold in Matabeleland North. The youth have already begun patrolling villages in Binga and Hwange, two areas represented by MDC legislators. Hwange MP, Jealous Sansole, reported that people in his constituency were now afraid to attend meetings due to the presence of the militia. The militia have also been registered to vote in Hwange and Binga, despite not ever having resided in either of the constituencies.


8 February: Members of the army brutally attacked 15 MDC supporters as they departed a rally in Nyanga.



Freedom of Association


The government has barred opposition and independent candidates from canvassing for support amongst members of the uniformed forces. Commanders at army, police and prison camps have in the past few weeks refuse candidates permission to hold meetings or to distribute flyers in the camps where thousands of personnel live with their families. Ruling party candidates are able to enter the camps and canvass for support.


At Harare Central Prison, prison officers have allowed posters of the Zanu PF candidate to be put up all over the prison.  


18 March Zaka, Masvingo: MDC President Morgan Tsvangarai was forced to postpone his campaign rally in Zaka on Thursday because it clashed with that of Robert Mugabe who was scheduled to address a rally in the same area.


14 March, Rusape: Zanu PF militants force-marched residents and workers to attend a political campaign rally addressed by Vice-President Joyce Mujuru at Makoni Country Club.


13 March Manyame, Mashonaland West: The MDC candidate for Munyame, Hilda Mafudze and her campaign team of more than 50 people ,who were campaigning in Tongogara camp were severely assaulted by a mob of ZANU PF war veterans in the area. More than 20 of the MDC supporters who were injured in the ZANU PF attack were taken to a Harare hospital. Police later arrested Mafudze on the absurd grounds that she had entered the camp without police approval, eve though Norton police had earlier given her approval.


6 March: Police ban an MDC rally in Harare South


5 March: Police ban an MDC rally in Harare South.


17 February: riot police beat up protesters, and arrested 14 of them, during a March in Harare for free and fair elections.


16 February: Police in Harare raided a training session of the MDC’s 120 candidates. Police claimed the meeting was illegal under POSA. Ian Makone, the MDC’s Director of Elections, was arrested.


12 February: police arrested 40 women in Bulawayo following a march organised by Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) ‘to spread the message of love’.


8 February: Godrich Chimbaira, the MDC candidate for Zengeza, was arrested for holding a meeting at his house with members of the local structures.  



Political Tolerance



14 March 2005, Hwedza: MDC supporters who were campaigning at Mushipe ward were assaulted by ZANU PF PF supporters who told them that this was a no go area for the MDC. 


15 March 2005 Makonde, Mashonaland West: The MDC candidate for Makonde Jefat Karemba reported that two huts belonging to MDC supporters Richard Hondo and James were burnt down by suspected ZANU PF agents in the Naison Dip area of Makonde Constituency. A report on the incident was made at Kanzemba police station but no arrested were made.


13 March: Soldiers based at Tsanga Lodge rehabilitation camp for injured soldiers, about 120 km north of provincial capital, Mutare, seized two men and a woman who were wearing MDC party regalia as they passed by the camp.The three were taken into the camp and severely beaten up before the soldiers left their camp for surrounding villages where they randomly beat up several more people accusing them of voting for the opposition in the 2000 parliamentary election.


10 March 2005, Marondera West, Mashonaland East: The MDC ward 16 Chairperson Parthias Ndati, 50, was attacked by a group of 10 youths aligned to Ambrose Mutinhiri, Zanu PF’s candidate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

They accused him of organising a rally on Wednesday 9 March that was addressed the MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai. The youths also beat-up Ndati’s two sons, Matthew and Silas. Among the assailants, Ndati identified Patson Nhumbe, Tendai Kasinamunda, Fungai Zvarehwa and Lawrence Mushangazhike.

Ndati has since made a report to the police in Mahusekwa


6 March 2005, Bindura Mashonaland Central: A group of ZANU PF supporters invaded the venue for an MDC rally and attacked MDC supporters, injuring several.


4 March: A war veteran identified only as Mr. Machabvonga, led 12 Zanu PF youths and 12 soldiers, armed with pistols, to attack MDC activists in Epworth. They ransacked the houses of  MDC activists Lameck Calisto, Najina Takadza and Mary Kurichapa and looted property valued at 8 million. The incident was reported to ZRP Epworth and was recorded under RRB numbers 0767380/05, 0767382/05 and  0767381/05 respectively. Epworth police are under pressure from the Zanu PF leadership to release the Zanu PF activists who have been arrested.    


3 March: Prince Chibanda, the MDC candidate for Zvimba North and Paidamoyo Muzulu the information and publicity secretary, were arrested and detained at Chinoyi police station.


2 March: a group of Zanu PF supporters in Harare East travelled round in a government owned bus removing Zanu PF posters.


27 February: the MDC candidate for Lupane, Njabuliso Mnuni, was arrested by police for allegedly threatening a Zanu PF official.


22 February: MDC youth activist, Thembekile Moyo, suffered a fractured leg after being attacked by Zanu PF youth in Insiza while putting up posters.


20 February: 3 MDC candidates were attacked by a group of soldiers whilst returning from the launch of the MDC’s election campaign in Masvingo. 2 were admitted to hospital to receive treatment for their injuries. The incident was reported to police but no arrests have been made.


11 February: the MDC candidate for Hurungwe West, Godfrey Gumbo, was abducted by a group of Zanu PF supporters and taken to their HQ in Harare where he was severely assaulted. Mr Gumbo was abducted along with Stanley Razaro(the District Chairperson for Hurungwe) and Masavhaya Dipuka (the Organising Secretary). ALL THIS HAPPENED IN THE PRESENCE OF THE POLICE


10 February: Zanu PF activists, led by the son of the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Abednico Ncube, ordered a church sponsored feeding programme (responsible for feeding 300 children) to be stopped on the grounds that the ‘church was working with the MDC’.


8 February: 13 MDC supporters in Gwanda were arrested and fined Z$25,000 each by police for waving their open palms at Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Abednico Ncube.


8 February: Chiefs in Tsholotsho, Umzingwane and Insiza (Matabeleland South) ordered their subjects to attend Zanu PF rallies only and warned those who defy the order and attend MDC rallies that they will be denied food aid. Matabeleland South is currently affected by acute food shortages with a significant proportion of the population in desperate need of food aid.

Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media



“We hereby lodge a formal complaint concerning the manner in which you handled our programmes on national television and radio. We are concerned and aggrieved by your continued sabotage of the party. You seem to be going out of your way to ensure that MDC efforts are thwarted….Yesterday ZTV featured an interview with MDC legislator and secretary for economic affairs Tendai Biti. As you are aware, in the major cities, the programme was clear only in Harare and Masvingo. In areas such as Gweru and Mutare the interview was not clear, as there was severe interference in the form of feedback from radio. In Bulawayo there was complete loss of transmission.


As far as the MDC is concerned this was deliberate sabotage. It appears to us that the blackout and severe interference was not coincidental”, said MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube in his letter to ZBH chairman Rino Zhuwarara (7 March 2005)




1 March: MDC allotted 12 minutes on ZBC to present Manifesto. The party has also been given 9 free to air slots on both radio and TV.


20 February: The launch of the MDC’s election campaign in Masvingo was not carried live by the Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation (ZBC). Instead it gave the event 2 minutes and thirty five seconds coverage later that evening. This was followed by a two-hour live interview with President Mugabe. The launch of the Zanu PF campaign on 11 February was allocated 18 minutes on a prime time news bulletin. In addition, the party’s 4 hour launch was covered live with ZTV’s presenters wearing Zanu PF t-shirts.


This does not equate with Government claims that it has allowed opposition parties ‘reasonable’ access to the state controlled electronic media.


In its weekly monitoring reports, the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe observed the following:


14 – 20 February: in the state press 19 of 28 articles about the election campaigns defended the ruling party, while the other 9 disparaged the MDC.


21-27 February: 58 of 66 articles covering the election campaigns were devoted to Zanu PF.



28 Feb – 6 March: 33 (83%) of the 40 stories that ZBH (ZTV, Radio Zimbabwe and Power FM) carried on campaigns were positive portrayals of the ruling party. Four (10%) reports were on the MDC while the remaining three (7%) were on the independent candidate Silas Mangono’s attack on the MDC. Notably, while the four reports on the MDC deviated from the usual vilification of the party as a stooge of the West, the MDC was denigrated in most of the stories on ZANU PF.


Similarly, 85% of 27 stories the government Press carried gave positive coverage to the ruling party while only three (11%) were on the MDC.


7 March – 13 March: 49 (92%) of the 53 stories the government papers carried on campaigns gave positive publicity to ZANU PF. The MDC was only featured three times (6%). 


Two of the three stories on the MDC distorted and manipulated MDC official Tendai Biti’s interview with ZTV.


Only one report that appeared in The Manica Post reported fairly on MDC campaigns.


Similarly, ZBH covered the MDC in only seven stories (9%) out of the 78 stories it carried on political party campaign activities, while the rest of the contestants were ignored. But it devoted a massive 71 stories (91%) to the ruling party’s campaigns.


The official media’s unbalanced coverage of the parties’ campaigns was further illustrated by their sourcing, which was predominantly ZANU PF.


Zimbabwe’s electoral framework continued to receive uncritical coverage from the government media.


THE government media continued to downplay cases of politically motivated violence, evidently to portray the pre-poll period as peaceful. As a result, they largely ignored rights abuse issues reported in the private media.



“The little airtime accorded to MDC – around 12 percent on a weekly basis – is mostly devoted to portraying the party in a negative light,” said Nhlanhla Ngwnya of the MMPZ


The Government confirmed that the new regulations will not permit access to the state controlled print media which continues to refuse to carry adverts from opposition parties. 


Constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of citizens


There has been no move to repeal those aspects of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) that place severe limitations on citizens’ basic civil and political rights. POSA continues to be used to ban MDC meetings and prevent free political activity.


On 14 January amendments to AIPPA were signed into law by Mugabe. The amendments tighten restrictions on journalists and under the new regulations journalists who work without a licence from the state controlled Media and Information Commission, face a two-year jail sentence or a fine or both. 

Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections


 Gordon Moyo, the chairman of the Bulawayo Agenda, a civic education group, last week told the media that political violence, intimidation and the use of food aid to coerce voters was increasing ahead of the elections. Moyo further alleged that voters were being told that the use of translucent ballot boxes would enable the authorities to trace each vote cast.


20 February: An article in the Zimbabwe Standard alleges that the government has ordered Chitungwiza municipality to surrender more than 1,000 housing stands to Christopher Chigumba, the Zanu PF candidate for neighbouring Zengeza.

Non-discrimination in the voters’ registration



Under the new electoral reforms the exercise of voter registration remains in the hands of the office of the Registrar General; an office which has a proven track record of gross manipulation of the voter registration process to the political advantage of the ruling party.  The Registrar General is openly supportive of Zanu PF.


The Registrar General’s office embarked on a mobile registration exercise in May 2004 but the exercise was discriminatory because in urban areas the RG’s office was only issuing birth certificates and identity documents. In the rural areas, a massive door-to-door voters’ registration exercise was conducted.



Existence of an up-dated and accessible voters’ roll



Voters have been arbitrarily removed from the voters’ roll. Inspections that have been carried out thus far on sections of the voters’ roll have revealed an alarming number of anomalies.


The Registrar General has consistently refused to provide the opposition with an updated electronic version of the voters’ roll which would enable them to check its accuracy in an efficient manner.


The discriminatory nature of the voter registration process that has been undertaken ahead of the parliamentary elections has raised deep concerns about the accuracy of the voters’ roll. These concerns have been increased by the recent boundary changes, carried out by the Mugabe appointed Delimitation Commission, on the basis of the voters’ roll submitted by the Registrar General. 


In areas perceived to be MDC strongholds the Delimitation Commission reduced the number of constituencies. For instance, Harare lost two constituencies on the spurious grounds that the number of voters had fallen by 46,780. This is absurd given that official census published by the Government last year confirmed that Harare’s population had grown by 500,000.


The areas of Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West, where Zanu PF is perceived to have popular support, gained three constituencies.  



Establish impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies


The recently established Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)  will be chaired by Justice Chiweshe whose impartiality is questionable. More importantly, the ZEC is subject to the authority of the Electoral Supervisory Commission which is entirely appointed by Mugabe. All the other electoral bodies are entirely chosen by, and beholden to, the Executive.


Ensure that adequate security is provided to all parties participating in elections


The police and other state security agents continue to discharge their respective mandates in a partisan manner and deny MDC members their right to protection under the rule of the law.


14 March:  Eriah Chipamawanga, a kraal head in Machingambi ward in Zaka West Constituency, teamed up with Rasmos Majada, a police officer based at Veza Base Camp to destroy MDC campaign posters which had been put up by Fredy Machachavangwa and other MDC activists. The two also threatened staff at  Machingambi Secondary School, accusing them of having allowed the MDC activists to put up campaign posters near the school.


9 March: a truck carrying MDC campaign materials worth millions of dollars was commandeered by police at a roadblock. The truck was heading to Chimanimani (Manicaland) from the party HQ in Harare. It was carrying t-shirts, bandanas and posters, fuel and cash for use in the final leg of the campaign for the 31 March general election. Police have confiscated all the campaign materials.

23 February: MDC candidate for Bindura, Joel Mugariri and Mashonaland Central Provincial Chairperson, Tapera Macheka, were arrested by police for putting up posters.


23 February: Hilda Mafudze, MDC candidate for Manyame, reported that 11 MDC youths were assaulted by Zanu PF supporters while distributing campaign literature. The incident was reported to Norton police station but the police refused to arrest the Zanu PF youth. 


15 February: 7 MDC supporters were arrested by police in Bulawayo for distributing MDC campaign material. All campaign material was confiscated.




The increasing number of youth militia and war veterans being incorporated into the police force further erodes public confidence in the police to act impartially.


Independence of the judiciary


In a recent statement, the civic organisation, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), expressed its concern at the increasing incidences of intimidation of the justice administration officials by state security agents. ZLHR said that most of the victims were prosecutors, lawyers and judges handling human rights-related cases or those deemed politically sensitive.


            The conduct goes to the root of the independence of the judiciary. In particular, such conduct           seriously erodes the public’s confidence in the Courts and has grave consequences for the rule of law.”

Safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens, including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression and campaigning




 22 February: MDC candidate for Shamva, Godfrey Chimombe, was arrested along with five MDC activists while putting up posters.

Counting of votes at polling stations


The Electoral Act contains a provision expressing the need for votes to be counted at polling stations; however, the Act fails to make it clear whether or not this process will be mandatory.

Voter Education


The clauses in the ZEC Act that ban civic society from engaging in voter education and ban foreign funding for civic education are unconstitutional.

Polling stations should be in neutral places


Section 51 of the Electoral Act requires only that polling stations be established at ‘convenient’ places, determined solely by constituency election officers (section 17 of the Act allows the military to be constituency officers) and even permits a polling station outside the boundaries of the constituency.

"Some of the polling stations have been put in areas which are not easily accessible and I think this is a deliberate attempt by Zanu PF to rig this election,” said Paul Themba-Nyathi 

MDC candidate for Mudzi West, Shorai Tsungu, has reported that some of the polling stations in his constituency were situated at known Zanu PF supporters' homes and headmen's homesteads.

A list of the polling stations in Mudzi West shows that Hodzi Homestead, Tizora Homestead, Chitseke Tuckshop and a number of Villages are going to be used as polling stations..

MDC candidate for Zengeza constituency, Goodrich Chimbaira, was worried about a polling station, which is in Chawasarira bus garage. However, a list from ZEC indicates that the polling station would be on an open space.

"The polling station is supposed to be an open space but there is no open space at all. We tried to argue that this was not the right place but Christopher Chigumba (Zanu PF candidate) insisted," Chimbaira said. There are 29 polling stations in the constituency.

In Harare there are a number of polling stations that are situated in housing co-operatives that are dominated by Zanu PF.

The affected constituencies include Harare North, Harare South and Tafara-Mabvuku.



Regular intervals as provided for by the respective National Constitutions


The constitution provides for parliamentary and presidential elections every 5 years and 6 years respectively.

Take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud, rigging or any other illegal practices throughout the whole electoral process in order to maintain peace and security



18 March: a report in the Mail & Guardian alleged that in Mwenezi Zanu-PF candidate Isaiah Shumba had stopped the GMB from selling grain directly to the public and now only permits its sale through Zanu-PF structures so as to screen beneficiaries. Shumba is the Deputy Education Minister.


Umguza constituency, Matabeleland North Governor, Obert Mpofu, is reported to be intimidating resettled villagers in the Nyamandhlovu area telling them that they risk losing their land if they vote for the MDC.

17 March: Pishai Muchawaya, the MDC spokesperson for Manicaland reported that ruling-party youths have been deployed at GMB depots all over the province "to vet people coming to buy food".

"A Zanu-PF card has been declared the first requirement to be considered for buying food," he said

The Zimbabwe Independent reported on Friday 18 March that in the eastern town of Chipinge the local ruling-party candidate, Enock Porusengezi, was issuing badges to people who attended his rallies, and had ordered the local GMB depot to sell food only to people who could produce his badges.

The emasculation of the independent media, the presence of youth militia and the likelihood that members of the military will act as election officers raises the possibility of widespread incidents of electoral malpractice.


The Government has raised allowances and salaries of headmen and village heads by 150%, with effect from January. This was a blatantly political move aimed at securing the loyalty of the chiefs ahead of the parliamentary elections. In recent elections chiefs and village heads have threatened villagers with expulsion if they are suspected of having voted for anyone but Zanu PF.


The government plans to spend Z$8 million to import 15,000 tonnes of maize to feed 1.5 million people until the harvest in April. The timing of the announcement has raised concerns that the ruling party will use food aid to coerce the electorate – as it has done in previous elections.


The removal of the incumbent Registrar General would go someway towards signalling the Government’s determination to prevent electoral malpractice from occurring.


The establishment of multi-party liaison committees, as provided for in the ZEC Act, potentially provides a useful mechanism for preventing or resolving conflicts and enhancing peace and security during the entire election period.




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      Zimbabweans to hold protest poll in SA

      Date: 21-Mar, 2005

      JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabweans living in South Africa will hold a mock
election to protest their exclusion from participating in the March 31
parliamentary poll.

      The mock election will be held on March 29.

      The mock poll is being organised by Zimbabwe civic society
organisations which are based in South Africa.

      Some of the civic organisations involved in organising the mock poll
are Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition,Concerned Citizens
Abroad and Zimbabwe Political Victims Association.

      Chairperson of the coordinating committee, Daniel Molokele, said the
mock poll will be conducted from 10 am at the Zimbabwean embassy.

      "It will be like a normal picket outside the embassy but the
difference is that there will be polling booths," Molokele told The Daily
News Online in Johannesburg. "People will arrive by bus and vote for
political parties in Zimbabwe."

      "After voting they will join the demonstration. We will invite
different organisations from South Africa and Zimbabwe to give solidarity

      Molokele said results of the mock poll will be announced on the same

      "We will also present a petition to the High Commission protesting the
exclusion of the Diaspora from the vote. With effect from tomorrow morning
(Tuesday 22 March) we are starting a sms poll," he said.

      He said Zimbabweans wishing to vote through short message services
(sms) should text their message votes to 34383 and those wishing to vote by
telephone should dial 082 234 8683.

      The South African based - civil society organisations estimate more
than one million Zimbabweans are staying in South Africa - both legally and

      Last week the Supreme Court ruled that more that three million
Zimbabweans living outside the country will not participate in the crucial
March 31 parliamentary poll.

      The election has attracted international attention amid allegations
the political playing field is tilted heavily in favour of the ruling Zanu

      President Mugabe's Zanu PF party which has enjoyed 25 years of
absolute power is being challenged by the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) Zimbabwe's main opposition political party.

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Parliamentary election pits "Tony Blair" against Robert Mugabe

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BULAWAYO, 21 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in for a
hiding when he contests Zimbabwe's 31 March parliamentary poll, according to
65-year-old Thokozile Hlatshwayo, a subsistence farmer in rural

Although she has not voted in the last few elections, she is itching to cast
her ballot in this month's poll, and aims to be among the first in the queue
to register her support for the ruling ZANU-PF party. "He [Blair] should
stay away from us. What does he want in our country? Why should he
participate in our election?"

For Hlatshwayo it's a simple choice: either ZANU, which fought for
independence against white minority rule - and two years ago allocated her a
plot of land under its farm redistribution programme; or the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which she believes is led by the
British prime minister.

"Tony Blair is one of the whites we defeated in 1980, and I wonder what
makes him think that he can win this election. He is up to no good. If he is
voted into power, we know that he will take away our land and return it to a
minority white population," she told IRIN.

Hlatshwayo's confusion over the leadership of the MDC and its policy
programme is understandable. She, along with many other rural Zimbabweans,
have taken literally the government's campaign message that the election is
between ZANU-PF and Blair's Britain - the former colonial power - which has
been highly critical of President Robert Mugabe.

At the launch of his party's manifesto last month, President Mugabe declared
the parliamentary poll "a protest against Blair". He told supporters at a
recent campaign rally: "You will be lost if you vote for the opposition
because it would be as good as voting Tony Blair into power."

Rarely does the ZANU-PF campaign make direct reference to Morgan Tsvangirai,
the MDC leader, or the labour-backed party itself, analysts have noted.

Tsvangirai told IRIN: "While they are busy denigrating Blair, we, as a
people-oriented party, are talking about job creation and an end to
starvation; we are not concerned about their smear campaign."

However, in the drought-hit southern province, rural people, like
Hlatshwayo, rely on the state-controlled media.

The MDC also complain that their campaign activities have been frustrated by
the police, who must approve all public rallies, while civic organisations
involved in voter education have been constrained by an NGO bill that bans
foreign funding for human rights and governance issues.

IRIN was unable to get comment from government officials on Monday.

"Government knows full well that no adequate voter education has been done
to date and, to make matters worse, we are only left with a few days to go
before the polls. Civic bodies have been barred from conducting this process
under the yet-to-be approved NGOs Bill and, really, this is very sad," said
Felix Magalela Mafa, the head of Post Independence Survivors' Trust, an NGO
which works with victims of the government's counter-insurgency campaign in
Matabeleland in the 1980s.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, in charge of running the poll, dispatched
a voter education team across the country only at the beginning of the
month - far too late for any meaningful work, the MDC has alleged.

"With the anti-white animosity ZANU-PF has managed to instil into the hearts
of its supporters, and the rhetoric that it has churned out for a long time
now, it has managed to convince the vulnerable ones that the MDC is a
British creation. So, to them the opposition has become synonymous with
white rule and, in essence, I think this propaganda has worked wonders for
Mugabe's party," commented political analyst and former war veteran Max

The MDC ran ZANU-PF a close second in the last legislative elections in 2000
in a poll marred by violence. The MDC decided last month to lift an election
boycott following the government's acceptance of Southern African
Development Community electoral guidelines.

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Market Questions Whether Inflation Has Actually Fallen

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)

March 20, 2005
Posted to the web March 21, 2005

Our Own Correspondent

THE market was last week reluctant to accept the February inflation data
published by the government's Central Statistical Office (CSO) on Wednesday,
suspecting a behind-the-scenes conspiracy by the statistical data bank to
cook up figures, specifically the rent component of the quantity weights
used to compound the month's consumer price index (CPI).

The CSO claimed in its February statistical digest of group commodity and
service indices that rents have gone down by almost 22 % since January, a
phenomenon that starkly contradicts the actual behaviour of residential

But this rent deflation figure computed by CSO effectively reduced the unit
contribution of rents and rates to the overall change in the CPI by about
1,3 % on a month-on-month basis, causing the CPI to shed 6,4% to close at

Economic consultant John Robertson described the index as a "serious flaw"
with a far-reaching bearing on the February inflation rate, as given by the
consumer price index.

Said Robertson: "Nowhere in this country has there been a decrease in rents
and rates. I suspect this should be mistake, although I believe the
government would like to claim that it is a truthful report. But, it has in
effect reduced the February inflation rate which should be higher than

A snap survey conducted soon after the release of the statistics confuted
the official "hard truth" claims about a falling rent index, instigating an
authenticity crisis, which also sucks in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)
in terms of the accuracy of its inflation targets and quarterly progress

A senior property consultant at Siff Properties, who preferred anonymity,
told StandardBusiness that residential rents have gone up between 50 and 100
% since the beginning of the year, a trend that he attributed to cost-push
forces of demand prevalent in the property market.

Technically, the inflation rate is measured as the annual or monthly rate of
change in the CPI, constructed by identifying a market basket of goods and
services CSO assumes a typical urban consumer would purchase on a monthly

Holding this market basket constant, the inflation rate would then be
estimated by computing the changes in the price of each unit of the
commodities and services in this market basket, after which the CPI
estimates would be obtained by multiplying the current price of every good
in this bundle by the 1995 base year quantity weights.

This dead rat unearthed in the country's data engineering process has sapped
business confidence and heightened calls by industry for a prompt
privatisation of the country's data bank - increasingly being seen as a drag
in business planning and forecasting - and which reports to the Ministry of
Finance and Economic Development.

University of Zimbabwe Applied Statistics lecturer and former chairman of
Trust Holdings Limited, Tichendepi Masaya, said the emerging anomalies
demanded an all-stake-holder meeting to audit how the CSO arrived at such
questionable figures.

Last year CSO director Lazarus Machirovi, dismissed industry's
"incompetence" allegations targeted at the government department saying the
institution dealt with so wide a variety of highly desegregated data that
some irregularities would naturally not be ruled out.

"Of courses there could be one or two variables lagging behind but that has
to do with the complexity of the data that we deal with rather than
inefficiency. By international standards we're by far better than many
countries," Machirovi claimed at the time.

Efforts to elicit comments from Finance Minister, Herbert Murerwa, and RBZ
governor, Gideon Gono, this week proved fruitless, as their mobile phones
were both unreachable.

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      'Fear' mars Zimbabwe's election
      A climate of fear and intimidation means next week's parliamentary
elections in Zimbabwe will not be free and fair, Human Rights Watch says.
      Its new report finds there is less violence than in previous elections
but threats and fear remain widespread.

      The group urges southern African election observers, among the few
invited, to take this into account when compiling their report.

      South Africa's president has said he thinks the elections will be


      The report was complied by researcher Tiseke Kasambala who worked with
a team in Zimbabwe over several months.

      "If Sadc [Southern African Development Community] members fail to take
into account abuses in the long run-up to the polls, Sadc's ability to
foster democratic change in the region will be compromised," she said.

      The 35-page report lists numerous incidents where opposition
supporters have been arrested or beaten by ruling Zanu-PF activists with

      Traditional chiefs have been asked to compile lists of potential
opposition supporters, and voters in desperately hungry rural areas have
been told they might not get food aid if they don't vote for the ruling
party, Ms Kasambala said.

      The report reaches similar findings to one published last week by
another human rights group, Amnesty International.

      Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party denies rigging previous elections and
says the opposition MDC is crying foul because it is losing support.

      The government also points to electoral reforms, such as the setting
up of an Electoral Commission and Court.


      In the court's first ruling, it allowed jailed MDC MP Roy Bennett to
seek re-election.

      But President Robert Mugabe described the ruling as "madness" and
urged his supporters to ignore it, while also vowing to appeal.

      Zimbabwe has been accused of only inviting election observers from
groups which backed controversial elections in 2000 and 2002.

      The European Union has been banned, along with the Sadc parliamentary
forum, which the United Nations news agency, Irin, says was the only African
group to say the 2002 presidential poll was not free and fair.

      A delegation from South Africa's ruling ANC has been allowed, along
with groups from other southern African governments.

      Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean, which is produced by exiles and describes
itself as the only newspaper available to Zimbabweans internationally, is
due to launch online on Monday.
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Another Hospital in Intensive Care

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)

March 20, 2005
Posted to the web March 21, 2005

Our Correspondent

While the Zanu PF government trumpets its achievements in the area of health
in its bid for re-election on 31 March, the plight of Masvingo General
Hospital provides a stark contrast between its election promises and reality
on the ground.

During the first decade of independence the rallying slogan was "Health for
All by the Year 2000". However, five years after that timeline, maggots are
devouring bodies in trays in the dimly lit morgue at this main hospital
serving the whole of Masvingo province.

This is the sorry sight of one of the largest referral hospitals in the
country, because it suffers from staff, drug and equipment shortages.

The ruling party campaign platform says that the government has embarked on
a programme of rehabilitation and repairs of the referral hospitals in the
large cities because they also handle cases from provincial and even
district hospitals.

Zanu PF's 2005 election manifesto says: "Beginning this year, Z$40 billion
have been allocated to Harare Hospital for maintenance, rehabilitation and
repair work; another Z$40 billion has been allocated to Mpilo Hospital in
Bulawayo, and yet another Z$120 billion to United Bulawayo Hospitals, making
a grand total of Z$100 billion (sic)."

There is no mention of Masvingo General Hospital, although it is facing a
critical shortage of staff, drugs and equipment.

The refrigerators "recently" malfunctioned and the smell, emanating from
decomposing bodies, was unbearable.

Among the bodies was that of Petros Jeka, an activist for Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), who was murdered by some Zanu PF youths three years

A mortuary attendant at the hospital, Given Nyikavanhu, said the mortuary
refrigerators had not been working until a "few days ago", but already seven
bodies, including that of Jeka, had decomposed.

"When the mortuary broke down the relatives of the deceased could not take
the bodies because the doctor had not conducted a post-mortem so they
decomposed and some of them, including Jeka's were infested with worms,"
Nyikavanhu said.

The mortuary, with a capacity of 17 people, currently has 39 bodies and more
bodies continue to pile on a daily basis.

Problems at Masvingo General Hospital are spread across all departments.
There is a serious shortage of medical personnel, equipment and drugs.
Critically ill patients are being turned away without getting any form of

When The Standard news crew visited the hospital last week scores of
patients were milling around the out patients department, waiting for a
doctor to attend to them.

The doctor was said to be busy "elsewhere".

A hospital official, who declined to be named, said the hospital was
operating with only two doctors instead of the required 14 doctors. Nurses
have also left the institution for greener pastures. Presently, said the
official, Masvingo hospital requires about 50 trained nurses to operate at
full throttle.

"We are failing to cope because we are understaffed and the situation is
worsening by the day. If this continues, we are heading for a disaster," the
official said.

The laundry machines and boilers are not working. When The Standard visited
the hospital a forthnight ago, patients' clothes and linen had not been
washed for two weeks.

Last week, the hospital authorities took the linen that includes blankets to
Ndanga and Ngomahuru district hospitals for cleaning.

Apart from that, the toilets were not working and nurses were carrying water
buckets to flush the situation.

Masvingo General Hospital caters for patients from various district
hospitals in the province.

Patients who spoke to The Standard said they were struggling to be seen by
doctors at the hospital.

Richard Mudavanhu, who said he had travelled from Gutu, told The Standard:
"The situation here is bad. I have been here for the past six days but I
haven't been seen by the doctor. Every time I ask the nurses, I am told that
the doctor is busy. My condition is getting worse day by day."

Mudavanhu said he and the other patients, who were waiting to be attended to
by a doctor, were sleeping on the floor.

Morlene Chadeya, who appeared in a poor state of health and had been at the
hospital for several days, said: "I have witnessed a number of people losing
their lives before getting access to the doctor."

The Provincial Medical Director was unavailable for comment. He was said to
be in meetings.

The situation at Masvingo General Hospital is reflective of the state of
most public health institutions in the country. Recently the media
highlighted the deterioration in standards of health care and facilities at
Harare General Hospital, embarrassing the government into action.

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Harare Shops Reel From Soft Drinks Drought

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)

March 20, 2005
Posted to the web March 21, 2005

Our Own Staff

A SHORTAGE of soft drinks has hit Harare, hampering many city retailers and
outlets, StandardBusiness has established.

A survey last week revealed that most supermarkets in and around the capital
had ran out of bottled soft drinks while the few supermarkets that had the
scarce commodity had only one brand, Coke.

Few supermarkets had the plastic 500ml soft drinks commonly referred to as
PET, which were also in small quantities. Some of the major supermarkets
including OK Stores, Denenga Supermarket and TM supermarkets had erratic
supplies of the soft drinks last week.

One worker at a city TM supermarket said: "We have been getting less orders
than we usually had but I do not know the problem."

Theresa Ziyambi, a flea market operator said: "We have been having a
difficult time to source 300ml drinks for the past two weeks."

Fungai Mutasa, who runs a tuck shop in Harare, said it was now very
difficult for him to get the soft drinks and his business was affected
because the sale of soft drinks was a major source of income.

George Mutendadzamera, Delta Beverages' Corporate Affairs Executive
downplayed the shortages and said they were cause by a combination of a
technical failure at the bottling plant and strong demand.

"We are currently experiencing very strong demand for our products due to
the warm weather conditions prevailing in the country. Whilst this is good
for our business, it does create a supply problem which our valued customers
are experiencing now," said Mutendadzamera.

He dismissed reports that the shortages could be due to a shortage of
resources that could have been caused by the general scarcity of foreign

"Supplies of raw materials are currently adequate and the business is
operating normally," Mutendadzamera said.

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Mail and Guardian

      A glimpse of normality

      Godwin Gandu

      21 March 2005 01:59

            Tsholotsho has become a symbolic battleground in the Zimbabwean
elections with the ruling Zanu-PF, the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) and independent candidate Jonathan Moyo, former information
minister, vying for the parliamentary seat in the March poll.

            This otherwise sleepy town, 110km from Bulawayo, has impacted
like no other on the country's political landscape. Tsholotsho was the
location of a controversial meeting last November of the camp that supported
Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa's failed bid for the Zanu-PF

            Six provincial chairpersons were suspended for attending the
gathering, and Moyo, the town's favourite son, fell from Zanu-PF grace.

            Tsholotsho's 45 000 registered voters, like others who hail from
Matebeleland, traditionally support the opposition.

            "They practise tactical voting," an NGO worker who preferred to
remain anonymous told the Mail & Guardian. "They go for parties or
candidates that will deliver. They are naturally hostile to Zanu-PF, but if
you demonstrate you can bring development, you will get the nod.

            "This time independent candidates have mushroomed. It will be
important to see how they fare. If they win, the people will be slowly
registering a protest vote against the opposition, which has to pull up its
socks if it is to pose a serious challenge."

            Tsholotsho bucks the trend of political intolerance that
pervades the rest of the country, where interparty violence claimed about
200 lives during the 2000 parliamentary election campaign.

            Beer halls and shops carry campaign posters of the ruling party
and the opposition, and party supporters can don their colours without fear
of reprisals.

            "There is nothing to fear here," says Kimpton Sibanda of the
MDC. "There hasn't been a single drop of blood that's been shed."

            Cephas Ncube, a Zanu-PF supporter, says, "We are all relatives.
There's no point fighting each other."

            Mtoloki Sibanda is the MDC candidate and Musa Mathema represents
the ruling party's effort to wrestle the seat from the opposition.

            Despite his lack of party backing, Moyo remains popular in the
area and is credited with establishing a grain marketing board depot,
installing tower lights and setting up a football team, Tsholotsho Pirates

            The opposition has significant influence in the surrounding
rural villages, however, where people bore the brunt of the violence in the
1980s when President Robert Mugabe unleashed the Korean-trained 5th brigade
to quell "insurgents", killing at least 20 000 people. And this could prove
to be Moyo's undoing - his allegiance to Mugabe. People in Matebeleland
defected from Zanu-PF en masse after the death of Matebeleland father figure
Joshua Nkomo.

            Last Saturday, a defiant black bull with a wrinkled neck emerged
and stood motionless under a tree, as the MDC candidate took to the podium.
"It shows the ancestors approve off what we are doing," said Sibanda. "We
are winning this constituency; what this bull has done is rare."

            Still, it is the Moyo name that is most closely associated with
the area.

            Residents describe Moyo as the man who introduced the locals to

            "If you walk around the market place, you will find street kids
talking on the cellphones," said a
            resident who gave his name only as George. "If you go to
Bulawayo, there are businessmen without cellphones. If Moyo is a thief, then
he is a good thief because he shares his money with others. He is not stingy
like those in Zanu-PF."

            But even though the ruling party's campaign in the area has been
fairly low-key, Tsholotsho registered the highest number of votes for Mugabe
of the 21 Matabeleland provinces in the 2002 presidential race. Opponents
dispute this statistic, charging irregularities, and claim that in a free
and fair election, neither Moyo nor a Zanu-PF candidate would retain a seat
anywhere in Matabeleland.

            Vehicles with Gauteng number plates have become a status symbol
and outnumber local cars. Hundreds of school dropouts jump the border in
search of greener pastures in South Africa. Marriages have broken down as a
result of the great trek south. Aids statistics have soared.

            "There are simply no employment opportunities for [the youth]
here," says Gibson Mathe, a trader at Tsholotsho business centre. "It is
just a dry region only suitable for ranching, and we can't all be on the

            Nevertheless, Tsholotsho is full of life every evening - because
of the tower lights. "That explains why Moyo is popular. Almost everyone
adores him," says resident Patrick Mathuthu.

            In Tsholotsho, Moyo glows as he struts around in his cowboy hat
and campaign T-shirt. After addressing a meeting of his party supporters
last Friday, he addressed journalists in the backroom of a bar. He avoided
taking a swipe at Mugabe, whom he lists in his manifesto as one of Zimbabwe's
five heroes, but he laid into Zanu-PF.

            Moyo's performance will be a key indicator to understanding the
psyche of the people of Matabeleland.
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From The Star (SA), 21 March

MDC president to meet SA observer mission

Tsvangirai's decision welcomed following refusal over 'free and fair' claim

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will meet the South African
government observer mission following his party's refusal to engage with the
team, according to the head of the mission. Labour Minister Membathisi
Mdladlana, who heads the team, said yesterday Tsvangirai, leader of the
Movement for Democratic Change, would meet the mission this week. "We
welcome the good gesture of the president of the MDC to meet with the SAOM.
I have indicated that, as the South African observer mission, we have an
open-door policy. We are willing to meet anyone, any organisation or any
political party whose interest is that these elections are run smoothly,"
Mdladlana said. Last week, the MDC said it would not engage with the team
until Mdladlana was replaced. It accused him of prematurely declaring the
polls free and fair. The minister denied this. He said yesterday it was in
the interest of Zimbabweans to have free and fair elections. "The SAOM will
observe these elections and will not hesitate to intervene if they notice
any activity which undermines and militates against free and fair
elections," Mdladlana said. While Mdladlana is attending an International
Labour Organisation governing body meeting in Geneva this week, former
Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi will head the team.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe's ruling party has accused its main rival and some
non-governmental organisations of training "thugs and hooligans" to
violently disrupt the March 31 poll, a state-run newspaper reported
yesterday. The Sunday Mail said the MDC, "working together with some
non-governmental organisations, has been training some desperate and
unemployed" Zimbabweans to unleash violence during the ballot. Zimbabwe's
last two elections, in 2000 and 2002, were tainted by charges of violence,
intimidation and electoral fraud. The upcoming elections will be closely
watched as a litmus test of Zimbabwe's commitment to a southern African
regional bloc to adhere to accepted principles on holding democratic
elections. Ruling Zanu PF election spokesperson Webster Shamu told the
newspaper that "the thugs and hooligans ... have been assigned various
missions around the country". "Information at hand is that in certain cases
the thugs and hooligans have been instructed to put on Zanu PF regalia and
wield our placards when they engage in violence," Shamu said. "We have
forwarded the information to the law enforcement agents for further
investigation." Nelson Chamisa, head of the MDC's youth chapter, dismissed
the claims as "cheap political propaganda". "Our youth are busy at the
moment campaigning peacefully for the elections. I wonder whether that can
be misconstrued for training of thugs." The MDC, formed in 1999 has posed
the stiffest challenge to President Robert Mugabe's nearly 25-year-rule,
although it has not fared well in by-elections after 2002. Weeks before
Zimbabwe's last parliamentary polls in 2000, then information minister
Chenhamo Chimutengwende claimed the MDC was training militias at unnamed
white-owned commercial farms but gave no evidence to back up the claim.
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      Zimbabwe polls pose big challenge for Africa media

      Mon March 21, 2005 11:24 AM GMT+02:00
      By Alistair Thomson

      JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's elections pose serious challenges
for Africa's media, faced with reporting a story which splits African public
and political opinion in a country with a history of media repression.

      Media analysts say many African media companies will simply not have
the cash to send teams to cover the March 31 parliamentary polls, while
others may not get accreditation under the government's strict media laws.

      With barely a dozen resident journalists working for foreign media
companies, Zimbabwe's foreign press corps is set to balloon in the run-up to
the vote, with more than 300 applications for accreditation, officials say.

      For those who get it, objective reporting could be hard.

      President Robert Mugabe's administration has waged a long campaign
against foreign and particularly Western media as well as independent
newspapers at home, some of which have closed.

      Mugabe frequently describes foreign journalists as tools of western
powers bent on punishing him for seizing white-owned farms to give to
landless blacks -- casting himself as an unbowed champion of Africa's
liberation struggle.

      Harare will not want to be seen harassing foreign reporters during
polls, but they may have problems, said Luckson Chipare, regional director
of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

      "They could be targeted by war veterans ... and there is no recourse
to the police. The police just look the other way," Chipare said, referring
to pro-Mugabe independence war veterans who have targeted opposition
activists in previous elections.

      Former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo was the villain of the piece
for many reporters who fell foul of Zimbabwe's media restrictions until he
fell out dramatically with Mugabe over his succession and was sacked.

      Jacob Ntshangase of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in
Johannesburg cautioned reporters, especially those from fellow Southern
African Development Community (SADC) countries, against using coverage of
the polls to settle scores.

      Some private newspapers in SADC member states have denounced the
organisation for failing to speak out against Mugabe.

      "Our media in SADC needs to go the extra mile to verify stories on
Zimbabwe. The journalists in Zimbabwe seem to be fed up with the situation.
There is a danger (that it can become) a propaganda thing," Ntshangase said.

      "I know it is often difficult to work in Zimbabwe."


      Media from other African countries have few representatives in
Zimbabwe, meaning fellow Africans often miss out on news or see it only
filtered through non-African news reports.

      Bestone Ng'onga, head of Zambia's Media Trust Fund, said her country
had seen a virtual blackout on news on the polls as part of a general effort
not to "offend the Zimbabwe government".

      "There are two scenarios to this blackout. Either the media do not
consider the story important, or they want to toe the government line by not
criticising the government of Zimbabwe."

      "We have been denied information on what is going on in Zimbabwe. I am
sure many people do not even know when the elections will be held in
Zimbabwe," Ng'onga told Reuters.

      Media in South Africa -- which is divided over whether President Thabo
Mbeki is right to avoid open criticism of Mugabe in favour of "quiet
diplomacy" -- are an exception.

      Both public broadcaster SABC and independent eTV plan to cover the
poll and are fighting an advertising war over the quality of their news that
has coincided with preparations in Zimbabwe.

      "0% Propaganda -- No fear. No favour," blast eTV's billboards in a
reference to a common perception that SABC's coverage is generally
sympathetic to government policy.

      "We don't write the script. The world does," SABC parries.

      Whatever its failings, most analysts agree South Africans will enjoy
the broadest and most balanced coverage of the polls.

      "The South African media landscape is providing a very free
environment for a broadcaster like the SABC. What the government is saying
will not pressurise the SABC," Ntshangase said.

      "State broadcasters in Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe -- in those
countries there is more pressure to see things in the same light as the
government. In those countries there will be a lot of pressure, he said.

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