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South African Opposition Observers Say Odds Stacked Against a Free Election

SW Radio Africa (London)

25 March 2008
Posted to the web 25 March 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has
expressed serious concerns about the prospects for free and fair elections
in Zimbabwe.

DA parliamentarians on the SADC observer mission already in Zimbabwe,
submitted a preliminary report Tuesday that said "the odds are heavily
stacked against the 29th March poll being genuinely democratic."

This was backed up by evidence from several briefings given to SADC
observers in the country over the last five days.

The DA's electoral observers are MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard and MP James
Masango, who are part of the SADC observer mission, along with MPs from the
ruling ANC party and from other African countries.

Kohler-Barnard and Masango identified key issues that they believe are
hurdles for the electoral process. Most worrying is the fact that party
agents and observers will not be allowed to witness the counting of
presidential election ballots. This is because observers are accredited only
until 29th March, making it impossible for them to be present when results
are tabulated.

A statement released by the DA said: "This may already render the
Presidential poll invalid before it has even begun."

But the SADC delegation has expressed dissatisfaction with the tough
questioning of Zimbabwe officials by Kohler-Barnard and Masango, who
responded by saying; "... rest assured that DA representatives will continue
to ask hard questions as is their duty as election observers. The people of
Zimbabwe deserve nothing less."

The DA MPs identified several key issues that need to be addressed,
including the gerrymandering of constituency boundaries to favour ZANU-PF,
the limited number of polling stations available in urban areas, the
estimated 3 million "ghost names" on the voters roll, biased reports on the
state controlled media and the use of resources from state institutions such
as the Grain Marketing Board as political tools.

Also criticised by the DA observers were the voter education drives which
they said were inadequate, given that Zimbabweans will be faced with four
different ballots for the first time. Mugabe's amendment to the electoral
law, allowing police officers to "assist illiterate voters" inside polling
stations, was viewed as "highly intimidatory" and "a clear violation of the
agreements reached during the South Africa mediation process."

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Zimbabwe police arrests opposition officials, pilot


Tue 25 Mar 2008, 14:05 GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe police on Tuesday arrested opposition officials
and a pilot delivering campaign material for Saturday's general election at
a small airport just outside Harare, a spokesman for the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) said.

An opposition parliamentary candidate representing Morgan Tsvangirai's
faction of the MDC was among those arrested.

"One of our candidates, Jameson Timba, and his election agent Garikai Chuma
were arrested this morning at Charles Prince airport as they were receiving
campaign material," Luke Tamborinyoka, an official in Tsvangirai's MDC told

"Apparently, the pilot was also caught up in the raid."

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena declined to comment on the matter, saying
he was yet to briefed.

Although opposition parties have said there were fewer cases of violence in
the run-up to this week's poll, they have accused the police of siding with
President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party.

Earlier this month, the head of the country's police service vowed that
"western puppets would never rule" Zimbabwe. Mugabe frequently accuses the
MDC of being puppets of former colonisers Britain.

The March 29 polls present a major test for Mugabe's 28-year hold on power
as he faces long time rival Tsvangirai and former finance minister Simba
Makoni in a battle for the presidency.

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Mugabe threatens fresh prices crackdown


    March 25 2008 at 12:49PM

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is set to order a new
round of price cuts only days before the country holds a general election,
state media reported on Tuesday.

The state-run Herald quoted Mugabe, as ordering firms to reduce prices
of goods and services to February 12 levels when teachers and other civil
servants were awarded salary hikes. He hopes to win a sixth term in office
on Saturday.

The 84-year-old president said he had convened a meeting with industry
bosses where he would threaten them with nationalisation if they did not
reduce prices.

"We are meeting with them in Harare. They will meet officials from the
ministry of Industry and International Trade and the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe because we want them to reduce prices to those which were in effect
before the salary hike," Mugabe said at an election rally.

"We are going to read the riot act to them. If they refuse, we will
also not cooperate.

"We are going to use the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act which
stipulates that all companies, be they mines or manufacturing companies,
with foreign ownership, without black shareholders or with black
shareholders without a majority should have at least 51 percent shares
reserved for indigenous people."

Three weeks ago, Zimbabwe passed a new equity law to ensure the
population got a majority stake in public-owned firms.

Under the new legislation, government would only allow firms to
restructure or merge if indigenous Zimbabweans held 51 percent of shares.
New investment would not be approved unless a controlling stake was reserved
for locals.

In June 2007, the government also ordered businesses to halve the
prices of their goods and services. It claimed some of them were colluding
with what it called Mugabe's foes in the West to plot his downfall.

The crackdown led to the arrest of more than 12 000 retailers and

While the move was initially welcomed by Zimbabweans, who were able to
stock up in supermarkets on goods which had been beyond their means, it was
widely regarded as having backfired when the stores rapidly ran out of

Shops often hike the price of their goods several times a day in order
to keep pace with an inflation rate, which is now running at more than 100
000 percent.

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Zimbabwe's Election Season: A Time of Hope and Skullduggery

Published: March 26, 2008
HARARE, Zimbabwe - When 100 young men stormed onto his property last week,
Knox Solomon Danda, an opposition candidate for Parliament in rural Zvimba,
hid under a table with his wife and children, he said, pulling the
tablecloth low to the floor to better conceal their cowering shapes. His
5-year-old daughter began to whimper. He held her close to muffle the sound.

"I don't know whether these men meant to kill us or simply scare us," he
said. The intruders pelted the house with bricks, and while Mr. Danda and
his family escaped unhurt, he said two of his supporters suffered a terrible
pummeling in an adjacent field of maize, one of them enduring a gash to his
ribs from the chop of an ax.

Election time has again come to Zimbabwe - expectant days of hope and
suspense, but also of fear, with the queuing up at the polls customarily
preceded by a campaign of state-supported intimidation and skullduggery.

Voters go to the polls this Saturday, with President Robert Mugabe, the
iconic leader of a nation enduring catastrophic hardship, trying to retain
the power he has held for 28 years. Here in Harare, there is the usual
speculation about the political winds. In what provinces is the president's
party strong? Where is it weak? But the more frequent conjecture involves
the mechanics of an outcome that is presumed to be rigged.

"Even if Mugabe only gets one vote, the tabulated results are in the box and
he has won," said Andrew Moyse, who coordinates a project that monitors
coverage in the Zimbabwe news media.

Echoing the sentiment, Noel Kututwa, the chairman of a coalition of civic
groups dedicated to honest elections, said, "We will not have a free and
fair election. There is desperation for change. But in the end I can't say
that Mugabe won't win, because he probably will."

The 84-year-old president - a hero of the nation's liberation struggle and
one of the last of Africa's ruthlessly autocratic "big men" - is often
imputed here with mythic cunning. Certainly, great advantages have accrued
to his incumbency. The state controls radio, TV and the only daily
newspaper, with the reporting of events reliably biased toward Mr. Mugabe,
extolling his courage and generosity while depicting his opponents as little
more than footmen for the British, who were once Zimbabwe's colonial

In a country suffering rampant hunger, the government bolsters its standing
by giving out subsidized food, routinely favoring, critics allege, members
of Mr. Mugabe's party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
In a country enduring epic inflation of more than 100,000 percent, the
campaigning president has been able to bestow tractors and plows to village
chiefs whose gratitude is expected to be a reciprocal harvest of votes.

Then there are the brass tacks of the election itself. Groups like Mr.
Kututwa's complain about an election commission dominated by Mr. Mugabe's
cronies; rules that bar people from registering in cities where the
president is less popular; a paucity of polling stations in those same
locations; and long outdated voting rolls that in the past have allegedly
permitted guileful ZANU-PF activists to cast the ballots of the dead.

"There are many tricks to play; the illiterate stand in separate queues and
we mark the votes for them," said Gift Mukumira, a former ZANU-PF youth
organizer who has grown unhappy with Mr. Mugabe. He lives in Epworth, on
Harare's outskirts. "Last time, our people were bussed from Mutoko and
allowed to vote a second time in Epworth."

But for all of Mr. Mugabe's wily tactics, he is burdened by an economy that
went into freefall in 2000 when white farm owners were ousted from their
property, a seizure of agricultural land that has so far reaped only
disaster. About a quarter of Zimbabwe's 13 million people have fled the
country; about 80-90 percent of those left behind are unemployed. The
president now acknowledges his people's hardship but defends his policies as
a matter of post-colonial justice, insisting that "national sovereignty" is
at stake.

His two leading opponents argue that the confiscated farms have not been
used to benefit the poor but rather to reward Mr. Mugabe's chums.

One of those candidates is Morgan Tsvangirai, a one-time trade union leader
who received 42 percent of the official vote in 2002 and claims the election
was stolen from him. Last March, Mr. Tsvangirai was so badly beaten by
police at a prayer rally that his bruised head resembled a melon that had
been rolled down a hillside. This time, he has campaigned largely without
interference, speaking to huge crowds.

"We expect the enemies of justice to engage in every trick in the book," Mr.
Tsvangirai said during one speech this week. Members of his party, the
Movement for Democratic Change, allege that 9 million ballots have been
printed, even though there are only 5.9 million voters; they suggest the
surplus may well end up marked for Mr. Mugabe.

The other main challenger is Simba Makoni, a former finance minister and
longtime ZANU-PF stalwart who is leading a rebellion within the party
itself. He has the vocal support of a few other well-known party dissidents
and perhaps the furtive backing of many more. It has become a common parlor
game in Harare to speculate which of Mr. Mugabe's professed loyalists now
secretly support Mr. Makoni - and whether that clandestine support might
somehow pry apart the party's vote-rigging apparatus.

By law, the votes are supposed to be counted at each polling place, with the
totals publicly posted. If that is widely done, groups like Mr. Kututwa's
Zimbabwe Election Support Network can use sampling techniques to assess the
accuracy of the nationally-announced results. "But this posting of the vote
has never happened," Mr. Kututwa said.

International election observers are being restricted to a select group of
invitees from non-Western nations like China, Iran, Libya, Russia and
Venezuela. Also present is a delegation from the Southern Africa Development
Community, a bloc of Zimbabwe's neighbors. In recent elections, as Mr.
Mugabe's opponents cried foul, S.A.D.C. observers pronounced the voting
process to be fair.

This past year, a S.A.D.C. delegation led by President Thabo Mbeki of South
Africa attempted to get the political rivals in Zimbabwe to agree on new
election procedures. Though several accommodations were reached, Mr. Mugabe
has since reneged on most of them, the latest being the overturning of a ban
on policemen inside polling stations.

Whatever the vote count, the outcome is likely to be vigorously disputed.

Indeed, the commander of the nation's military, Constantine Chiwenga, has
been quoted as saying the army will not abide by a result that favors
"sell-outs and agents of the West." He and others cast the election as a
continuation of the liberation struggle.

Last week, the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that
seeks to prevent deadly conflicts, issued a report that called the situation
"volatile, with a high risk of violence." It asked the African Union to
prepare to broker a power-sharing deal that might save Zimbabwe from the
mortal consequences of a wildly disputed election.

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Criticism Surfacing in Mugabe Stronghold

Associated Press

By ANGUS SHAW - 14 minutes ago

MHANGURA, Zimbabwe (AP) - Poverty is written on the gaunt faces of Joe
Rushwaya and his friends, too listless even to beg as they sit on the steps
of an empty store in this once prosperous mining and farming town.

With Zimbabwe's presidential election on Saturday, Rushwaya wasn't saying
for whom he was voting. But he was clear about who he held responsible for
the plight of his hometown and his country.

"The country is a disaster. It's time for the old man to go. Everyone wants
change," he said.

In the past, ordinary Zimbabweans were reluctant to speak openly out of fear
of arrest under laws making it an offense to insult President Robert Mugabe,
84. But Rushwaya, 41, said he no longer cared who was listening.

Unlike past campaigns in this town 120 miles northwest of Harare, considered
a Mugabe stronghold, no one has bothered to tear down the posters of rival
political groups. There also has been far less intimidation by ruling party
militants, said Rushwaya, a former farmhand.

The field this year includes what many see as the strongest challenge yet to
Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe won independence from Britain in 1980. He
faces both opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 55, and former ruling party
loyalist and finance minister Simba Makoni, 57.

Makoni campaigned in Mhangura over the weekend, and while none of the others
has yet, their supporters have been busy papering the town's single street
of drab, dilapidated commercial buildings with posters.

The Mhangura copper mine closed a decade ago during a slump in world copper
prices. At least 40 white farmers were driven off surrounding land counted
as among the nation's most fertile during the often violent seizures of
thousands of white-owned commercial farms ordered by Mugabe in 2000.

Disruptions in the agriculture-based economy started an economic meltdown
that has left Zimbabwe with the fastest shrinking economy outside a war zone
and the world's highest official inflation at 100,500 percent.

The former regional breadbasket has been forced to import 800,000 tons of
corn, about half the nation's demand for the staple crop, and a third of the
population receives food aid.

Like towns and farming areas across the country, this district suffers daily
water and power outages, sometimes receiving electricity for just four hours
a day. Even the sole state-owned national broadcast station, a government
mouthpiece, is rarely audible because of acute gasoline shortages and
outages and breakdowns at rural relay stations.

Over the weekend in Mhangura, a few people with money bid for bread from a
black market trader who accepted 15 million Zimbabwe dollars - the
equivalent of 25 cents - double the government's fixed price for a small

Ruth Gava, a cashier at a nearby general store with mostly empty shelves,
said a single bottle of scarce cooking oil cost more than her monthly
earnings of $8.

Gava was born two years after independence from white minority rule in 1980,
an age group dubbed by Mugabe as the "born free" generation.

"Born free, that's rubbish. I am not free. We are slaves in our own
country," Gava said. "I am sick and tired of it. I know what to do (on
election day). We want new leaders."

Few crops are visible in fields outside town that are overgrown with weeds,
or "sora" in the local Shona language.

"Let us not grow sora. Let us grow soya beans," Makoni told an enthusiastic
audience at campaign rally in the grounds of the rundown Mhangura recreation

"There is chaos on the land and our people are hungry. Mugabe is lying that
I will give land back to the whites. Land must be occupied by all those who
know how to use it properly," he said.

Ruling party campaigners told local villagers hidden cameras in polling
stations recorded they way they would vote, Makoni said.

"This is false. Your vote is your secret. Let us unite and remove Mugabe. We
are saying to him: thank you for leading us to independence but please
retire because you are an old man and we want to get Zimbabwe working
again," he said.

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ZANU PF tells villagers to vote on Sunday

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Wednesday 26 March 2008

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Tuesday accused the
ruling ZANU PF party of embarking on a campaign to misinform its supporters
in some rural areas that they should vote on Sunday instead of Saturday.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told ZimOnline that ZANU PF
youths were telling villagers that Saturday had been reserved for ruling
party supporters while those supporting the opposition would cast their
ballots the next day.

Zimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday 29 March, to elect a new
president, parliamentarians and local government representatives. If
opposition supporters wait until Sunday, they would not be able to vote.

"ZANU PF thugs are misinforming villagers about how and when they are
supposed to vote. Villagers are being told that they should vote for the MDC
on Sunday and vote for ZANU PF on Saturday," said Abednigo Bhebhe, a senior
official of the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC.

 "They are also being intimidated by being told that the translucent
boxes will be used to identify those who will vote for the MDC instead of
ZANU PF," he added.

ZANU PF spokesman, Nathan Shamuyarira, could not be reached for
comment on the matter, while the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), in
charge of running elections and voter education, declined to comment saying
it had not received a formal report on the matter from the MDC.

"I cannot comment on that as we did not receive any report from the
MDC about the claims," said Utoile Silaigwana, the ZEC deputy chief

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) last January said it was
launching a massive voter education campaign to enlighten Zimbabweans on the
voting process.

But the MDC and non-governmental organizations say the poorly reourced
commission did not carry adequate voter education to sufficiently prepare
Zimbabweans to vote in the elections that are being held together for the
first time in the country's history.

Nelson Chamisa, the spokesman of the main faction of the MDC led by
Morgan Tsvangirai said the disinformation campaign would not work.

"Peddling lies and misinforming people about the voting days and
procedures is a desperate measure by ZANU PF that will not work and it is
clear that Mugabe does not have support," said Chamisa.

"ZANU PF is sending confusing facts and signals about the elections.
Villagers are being told that they should report to the village headman
after voting to reveal the names of candidates that they voted for," he

Mugabe is facing his biggest electoral test on Saturday when he
squares off against his former finance minister Simba Makoni and a resurgent

The MDC has in the past few weeks expressed fears that Mugabe, who is
lagging behind in opinion polls, could resort to outright rigging to stay in
power raising the spectre of violent post-election scenes like that
witnessed in Kenya last December. - ZimOnline

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Economic crisis may deny Mugabe lifeblood rural vote

Zim Online

by Tafirei Shumba Wednesday 26 March 2008

SHURUGWI - The disused dusty airstrip stretching for a kilometer in Shurugwi
communal lands was partly seized by angry peasant farmers annoyed by the
government's failure to allocate them some of the more fertile farms
confiscated from whites.

Apparently, the desperate villagers wanted to convert the airstrip, situated
on state land here in Midlands province of Zimbabwe, more than 300 km
south-west of Harare, into small plots for cropping after the government
allegedly failed to provide them enough arable land under its controversial
farm redistribution programme.

Reports, including by several government-appointed commissions, say senior
officials of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party and government
benefited the most from land taken from whites, with some said to have
grabbed up to six farms each.

A stone's throw from the airstrip, at Chachacha - a rural service centre -
villagers from far afield spend the night sheltering from the driving rain
in shop verandahs as they wait their turn to have maize milled into the
staple maize-meal when the hammer-millers open for business the following

An acute fuel crisis gripping Zimbabwe since 1999 means there is no
guarantee the villagers would be able to have their maize milled before the
diesel-powered hammer-mill runs out of fuel.

In Furusa, further inland, electricity poles erected by the government, as
far back as 2001 under the national rural electrification programme, now
scatter the barren landscape after the project was shelved ironically as it
was only beginning because of spiraling costs.

Chachacha itself - a small but busy focal center for the surrounding
communities - boasted modesty enterprise, by Zimbabwe's rural standards,
until in recent years when it became another casualty of the economic crisis
gripping the entire southern African nation.

Without commodities to sell, shops started closing down one by one and
public transport shunned the impassable roads.

Across the country in Domboshawa rural, about 80 km north of Harare, the
situation is not any better either, with the dangerously potholed roads and
the dilapidated local government buildings a sign of collapsing
infrastructure across once vibrant Zimbabwe.

Unlucky patients are turned away at the local rural hospital that does not
have the barest of basic medicines and food, perhaps, so that they can go
and die quietly at home.

The same story is replicated in Chiweshe communal lands, 100km from the
capital in the north-central Mashonaland province, where villagers talk of
general dejection and betrayal by Mugabe's government.

The villagers of Chiweshe - one of the areas that witnessed the worst
fighting during the brutal 1970's independence war led by Mugabe and the
late Joshua Nkomo - accuse the administration in Harare for failing to
implement sustainable policies and projects to alleviate poverty in rural
areas over the years.

And the villagers appear to have ready answers when asked what they thought
went wrong with what seemed to be noble state rural development plans well
on course just 10 years ago.

Pedzisai Mukucha, a retired schoolteacher-turned-public bus driver told
ZimOnline in Chiweshe recently: "It is very easy to see that we have been
used all these years to entrench Mugabe's rule, now it's hard to remove him
from power. I have left the party (ZANU PF) because it is not serving the
interests of the ordinary man like me."

Chenai Matauke from Domboshawa refused to say where her political faith lay
but still revealingly declared: "I have made up my mind I want a different
leadership that can make my life better but my vote is secret."

Zimbabweans vote in Saturday's combined presidential, parliamentary and
local council elections that is increasingly looking to become the ultimate
test of rural voters' loyalty to Mugabe whose guerrillas they staunchly
backed during the armed struggle and whose government they have
traditionally voted for in previous elections.

Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe's 1980 independence from Britain, is seeking
another five-year term in an election coming in the backdrop of an acute
economic and food crisis and which every analyst agrees a sitting government
anywhere else in the world would lose.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, which
controls urban areas, has sought to make the economic crisis and
deteriorating living standards the central planks of its campaign to rob
Mugabe's government of its lifeblood rural vote.

"It is very clear that our (MDC) momentum in the rural areas is unstoppable
now and shows that even more people are coming up to stand for political
change as we approach election-day," said Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman of the
larger faction of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Former finance minister Simba Makoni, who has rebelled to stand as an
independent against Mugabe in the presidential race, has also been telling
rural voters that they should vote for change because they stood to benefit
just as much as their cousins in cities and towns.

ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira was not immediately available for
comment but Mugabe has repeatedly vowed at his rural campaign rallies that
neither the MDC nor Makoni would ever win the rural vote or let alone be
"allowed" to rule Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, who remains a wily and cunning politician even at age 84, has been
doling out food, computers for rural schools, buses, farm equipment and cows
at his well attended rallies in rural areas, in what analysts say is a clear
attempt to keep rural voters indebted to him.

However, Chamisa was adamant that even rural voters were now used to Mugabe
dishing out goodies in days before elections to gain their favour only to
abandon them after winning. He said: "Yesterday rural people could be fooled
with food handouts but in this day and age you can't hoodwink those rural
voters who are all too familiar with Mugabe's tricks."

A recent survey by the respected Mass Public Opinion Institute also appears
to back opposition claims that the March 29 polls will be the last Mugabe
will run as incumbent president, with the veteran leader shown trailing
Tsvangirai whose support is surging as voting day draws nearer.

University of Zimbabwe mathematics lecturer and a political commentator
Heneri Dzinotyiwei said the huge turnouts seen at Mugabe's rallies in rural
areas were not necessarily a show of support but villagers attended in the
hope they would also be able to benefit from the many freebies distributed
at these gatherings.

He said: "The rural people realize that nothing short of change will be
better for them. And so people have gathered enough courage to attend MDC
rallies in big numbers as a show of support."

However, with Saturday beckoning the jury is still out on whether the ties
Mugabe forged with the rural community during the bitter days of the
liberation struggle and that have seemed unshakeable - at least not until
after the present generation of voters is gone - have been finally
severed. - ZimOnline

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Zimbabwe police to crush premature election celebrations

Yahoo News

Tue Mar 25, 10:20 AM ET

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's police vowed on Tuesday to crush any premature
victory celebrations ahead of the official release of results from this
weekend's general elections.

"Let me at the onset indicate that we will not brook any situations of chaos
or conduct likely to cause a breach of peace, pandemonium, commotion, tumult
or disturbance of peace," assistant police commissioner Faustino Mazango
told a news conference in the capital Harare.

"We will not countenance any mischievous claims by anyone winning an
election just because they have led in one part of the constituency whether
it be council, parliamentary, senatorial and presidential election.

"We urge politicians not to excite members of the public when they have a
lead at one time or the other in any part of the constituency."

Mazango urged people to rejoice only after announcement of official results
but warned against provocative celebrations.

"We are more than prepared to deal a deadly blow to any such repugnant
forces," Mazango said.

"These are not mere threats, but words of advice to our brothers and sisters
and indeed everyone, lest people fail to understand and appreciate our
actions to situations of anarchy."

Last month, police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri warned that his
force was prepared to use firearms to stamp out violence during or after
joint presidential and legislative elections this month.

The police have also banned the carrying of weapons such as knives,
catapults, axes and clubs in the run-up to the polls, and for two weeks

Zimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday to elect the president, members of
parliament and local councillors.

Veteran President Robert Mugabe, seeking a sixth term in office, has urged
his supporters to desist from violence.

The other two candidates opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai and former
finance minister Simba Makoni have made similar appeals.

Zimbabwe's last presidential elections in 2002 were marred by claims of
vote-rigging and violence.

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More Opposition Support Visible As Election Nears

SW Radio Africa (London)

25 March 2008
Posted to the web 25 March 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

For the first time ever during elections Zimbabweans are reported to be
wearing t-shirts, caps and party regalia to openly support opposition

Fear has prevented this for years because the ruling party has used the
youth militia and other state agents to assault or harass anyone seen to be
sympathetic to the opposition, especially the MDC.

Political commentator and lecturer Dr. John Makumbe told Newsreel on Tuesday
that people are wearing and displaying items supporting the MDC and Simba
Makoni,. This is happening not only in the urban areas that are considered
opposition strongholds, but out in the remote areas where ZANU-PF still
alleges that it is dominant.

Makumbe said people are suffering terribly under Mugabe's leadership and the
hunger is so deep that it has led them to speak out. There is also an
increased level of honesty about the issues.

Makumbe explained: "People used to lie to Mugabe and to ZANU-PF to get the
crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. But they have found out that the
crumbs do not last long, and they become destitute again."

He added that people now appear to have the courage to say; "No, I will not
be used anymore." Some die-hard ruling party supporters have also been
reported to be openly supporting Tsvangirai and Makoni.

Reports from the ground indicate that ruling party officials are having a
hard time mobilising supporters to attend their rallies. One report said
many people walked out of a rally that was being addressed by Vice President
Msika over the weekend.

Robert Mugabe himself did not have better luck. As we reported, he finally
addressed a small crowd of about 2000 supporters in Bulawayo on Sunday,
after postponing this so-called "star rally" twice, because his organisers
had failed to mobilise large crowds. Schools are currently closed so there
were no school children to bus to these rallies, as has been the practice in
the past.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Biggie Chitoro, a ZANU-PF thug from
Mberengwa district, south of Masvingo, is now campaigning for Simba Makoni
in the same area. He is reported to have confessed that he used to kill for
ZANU-PF and switched allegiances because there were too many unfulfilled

Makumbe urged Zimbabweans to come out in large numbers and vote on March 29.
The more people come out to vote, the harder it is to rig.

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MISA-Zimbabwe Alert: Secret Service bid to gag private weekly

Media Alert
25 March 2008

Secret Service bid to gag private weekly, MIC blacklists journalist from
being accredited

Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) on 20 March 2008 sought a
High court order to bar the private weekly Zimbabwe Independent which was
about to disclose details relating to the organisation's director-general
Happyton Bonyongwe.

The ex-parte application was served on the paper and listed the CIO as the
applicant and the Zimbabwe Independent as the respondents. Attached to the
application was a print-out of the unedited version of the story. The
Independent in its edition of 21 March 2008 reported that it was still to
establish how it ended up with the CIO before the paper had been published.

According to the paper the annexures to the application appeared to have
been routed through the In an affidavit supplied
by Bonyongwe he said the story was "manifestly and palpably false and
malicious and should thus not be published.

Contacted for comment, the Zimbabwe Independent said there were issues that
were still being clarified regarding the matter.

Meanwhile, the state-controlled Media and Information Commission has
reportedly blacklisted several journalists by asking the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission to bar them from being accredited to cover the 29 March 2008

Hopewell Chin'ono a local freelance journalist was on 11 March 2008 denied
accreditation by ZEC on the MIC's instruction. According to his lawyers the
ZEC advised the journalist that he was on the blacklist provided by the MIC.

Chin'ono is duly accredited by the MIC in terms of the repressive Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) as a freelance reporter
and his press card is valid for the duration of the year.

In a letter to the ZEC his lawyers argued that it was 'inescapable that the
ZEC was deliberately impeding the full coverage of the election process"
through selective accreditation of journalists.

"We have perused all the laws relating to the elections and the media and we
have been unable to find in them any provision which allows the MIC to
interfere with the supposedly independent functions of the ZEC,' said the
lawyers in their letter to ZEC.


For any questions, queries or comments, please contact:

Nyasha Nyakunu
Research and Information Officer

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70,000 rush to be poll officials

Africa News. Netherlands

  1.. Posted on Tuesday 25 March 2008 - 09:47

  Zvenyika Mugari, AfricaNews reporter in Harare, Zimbabwe
  About 70 000 civil servants from across all sectors including Education,
Health, Agriculture, and from Parastatals are mobbing Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) Offices across the country seeking recruitment as poll
officials for the 29 March election.

  Sources in ZEC say each polling station is supposed to be manned by not
less than 12 polling officials. If one works with an average of 700 polling
stations per province, (some provinces actually have more) and given the
fact that we have 10 provinces in Zimbabwe, it means we will have
approximately 7000 polling stations to conduct the forthcoming election and
that translates to slightly more than 70 000 election officials who may fail
to exercise their right to vote because they will have been deployed away
from their constituency and ward.

  The elections are ward based meaning that no one may exercise their voting
right outside their designated ward unless they qualify to do so through the
postal ballot, a privilege limited to only those in the military, and in
diplomatic missions.

  The postal ballot though open for use by those on ZEC duty is technically
unavailable to the polling officials since process will have been closed by
the time ZEC recruits its Polling Officials.

  ZEC doesn't seem to have made any arrangements to ensure that these
citizens who will be on national duty are not disenfranchised and sadly
enough no political party seems to bother anywhere to raise this issue.

  It seems ZEC is saying it's a give and take kind of arrangement where one
is expected to forego one's right to vote in exchange for the few millions
of dollars of ZEC remuneration. But impoverished as most Zimbabwean Civil
Servants are the offer to augment one's income is too tempting to ignore.
It's a matter of selling one's birthright for a plate of soup.

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Some Zimbabwe shops stop selling till after elections

Monsters and Critics

Mar 25, 2008, 8:11 GMT

Harare/Johannesburg - Some shops in Zimbabwe have stopped selling their
merchandise until after this weekend's presidential and parliamentary
elections, state media reported Tuesday.

President Robert Mugabe Monday appeared to be threatening another price
blitz when he warned his government would 'read the riot act' to price

The owner of a store selling domestic goods told prospective buyers to come
back after the elections. 'None of these things (on my shelves) are on the
market right now. You can come back and buy them after the elections,' he
was quoted as telling the official Herald newspaper.

Another shop assistant reportedly told the paper she'd been instructed not
to sell anything until next week. 'Our manager said nothing was to be sold
until the election results had been announced,' the woman said.

Godwills Masimirembwa, the head of the National Incomes and Pricing
Commission (NIPC), warned 'corrective measures' would be taken. 'We will be
asking those who are refusing to open shop or to sell goods why they are
doing so,' he told the Herald.

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Black market keeping Zimbabwe afloat: economists


March 25, 2008, 10:15

Adel van Niekerk
Zimbabwean economists say the country is surviving on its informal sector
and that trade in the black market represents more than 80% of the country's
economy. The economic crisis and hyper-inflation of around 100 000%
dominates political campaigns ahead of the weekend's presidential and
parliamentary elections.

Zimbabwean economist Ian Ndlovu says citizens are forced to rely on the
black market due to chronic shortages of cash and goods. In Bulawayo, the
country's second largest city, numerous businessmen survive by importing
goods form neighbouring South Africa and Botswana and trading it on the
black market.

Economists say this parallel economy is what is keeping the country afloat.
Analysts have described it as the fastest shrinking economy outside a war
zone - and this has been dominating election campaigns of all candidates
ahead of the weekend's presidential polls where President Robert Mugabe is
said to be facing his biggest political challenge ever.

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Mugabe: Opposition win would be a 'curse'

Mail and Guardian

Harare, Zimbabwe

25 March 2008 11:06

      President Robert Mugabe says an opposition win in Saturday's
tightly contested polls would be "the greatest curse" for Zimbabwe.

      Mugabe, who is battling for his political survival, called on
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters to "come home" to
his ruling Zanu-PF, the government-mouthpiece Herald reported on Tuesday.

      Speaking at a rally Monday at the Hwange Colliery Stadium in
Matabeleland North, the 84-year-old leader admitted the MDC would win some
seats in the parliamentary elections, which are being held at the same time
as presidential polls.

      "Yes, they may win some seats, but they cannot win the majority
of seats in Zimbabwe. Impossible!" he declared. "That's the greatest curse,"
he added.

      MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was leading Mugabe by eight points
in a recent opinion poll, with 28,3% of voters polled against 20,3% for the
veteran leader.

      A third contender, former finance minister Simba Makoni, had
nearly 8,6% of the vote, the poll said. The MDC leader has been running his
campaign under the theme "Morgan is more" and has emphasised family- and
people-centred strategies the party will implement if elected into power.

      Mugabe's team also recently tried to emphasise the leader's
family credentials, running full-page pictures of a youthful Mugabe leaving
his family to fight for Zimbabwe's independence. The advert said he spent 11
years in prison away from his family during the country's struggle for
independence from white minority rule.

      Meanwhile, stung by recent criticism from churches in Zimbabwe
ahead of the elections this weekend, Mugabe says the church must be

      Churches must be run by Africans, he told members of the
Apostolic sect in Bulawayo this weekend.

      "Our people must be able to head even the old churches and
perhaps the new ones also," Mugabe said in comments carried by Tuesday's

      "We want to see the Africanisation of the church, which does not
mean bringing in an African God because there is only one universal God, but
[means] the running of the church," he said.

      The Apostolic church in Zimbabwe commands a large following and
its white-robed members are a constant feature at Mugabe's rallies. Other
churches, though, have dared to speak out against perceived excesses and
abuses by Mugabe and his government.

      Last week the recently appointed Anglican bishop of Harare,
Sebastian Bakare, suggested "fundamental change" was needed in Saturday's
polls. Change is a slogan used by opposition candidates.

      Despite the flight of many white Zimbabweans during the last
eight years of economic turmoil, there are still a number of white pastors,
clerics and missionaries operating in Zimbabwe, including those at churches
like Harare's wealthy Celebration Centre.

      Mugabe has loyal and often-paraded clerical allies in the shape
of Bakare's predecessor, ousted Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who
describes Mugabe as a prophet of God, and the Reverend Obadiah Msindo, who
has appeared on state TV exhorting Zimbabweans to vote for Mugabe.

      Msindo has a rape case pending against him.

      At the church rally, the president promised the Apostolic church
a nearby farm and a tarred road. -- Sapa-dpa

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Zimbabweans hungry for change

Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 18:41 GMT
By Orla Guerin
BBC News, Livingstone, Zambia

Woman on the Zambian side of the Zimbabwean border
Some who have fled to Zambia have been driven to prostitution

Ask Zimbabweans scraping a living in neighbouring Zambia how they intend to vote in Saturday's elections in their homeland, and many will give you the same reply: "For change."

"Maria" is one of them. With 10 mouths to feed, she's preoccupied with earning enough money to survive.

But, like many others, she is determined to get home to vote.

"I'm hoping for something better," she said, "something that will change everything.

"It's a very important election, and I have to participate. If I don't participate, then who will I have to blame?"


Maria has more reason than most to feel bitter about where Robert Mugabe has led his country.

Once the proud owner of a hair salon, she now works as a prostitute - driven to this by hunger, poverty and the need to support her family.

In addition to two children of her own and her elderly mother, she is caring for seven nieces and nephews - orphaned when their parents died of Aids.

"Most of the time we depend on porridge and water," she said.

"When I was growing up we used to eat bread with margarine, eggs and the like.

"But these days my kids don't even know what margarine is. My son just knows it from the television.

"He asks me, 'Mum, when can we eat bread with margarine?' and I tell him things are tough.

"At times we have no water for drinking or bathing - sometimes for up to five days."


Maria is one of as many as 300 Zimbabwean women working in prostitution in the Zambian border town of Livingston.

Their numbers are increasing, and their rates are the cheapest in town - such is their desperation.

Zimbabweans cross into Zambia from neighboring Zimbabwe in Livingstone, Zambia
Many Zimbabweans seek a better life, with basic commodities, abroad

In better days, many of these women led very different lives - among them a policewoman, a soldier, and a bank official.

Now they huddle in the doorway of a brothel in the downtown area, waiting for customers.

"I feel a very deep pain just to think that I was once a businesswoman," Maria said.

"And now I am a mere prostitute. Can you imagine?

"I ask God to forgive me and just to give me something, so that my kids will have something to eat.

"I wasn't expecting this, but from the situation back home we have no choice. We do what we can do to put something on the table."

'No food'

Recently Maria watched her 29-year-old niece die - needlessly, she believes.

"She passed away in December," she said. "She needed a lot of food and I had no food.

"She was getting some treatment for TB, but the hospital had no blankets, and no food to give her.

"We had to look for food to give her. You could see this person was dying not because of the illness, but because of the situation."

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe greets party supporters upon his arrival in Mahusekwa
President Mugabe has been in power for 28 years

In Zimbabwe these days, the business of death is a struggle, just like the business of living.

It was difficult for Maria to give her niece a decent burial.

"We had no coffin. We had to look for some wood - we broke the wardrobe to make something to bury her. Even the mortuary was not working."

I asked Maria if she had a message for her President. Her reply was swift: "Please just retire."

At the local market we met other Zimbabweans hungry for change.

They make a living selling what they can, including biscuits and sweets - some of the few things still made in Zimbabwe.

With the money they earn they buy basic supplies to take back home - flour, cooking oil, soap, even bread.

Voters' roll

Some were afraid to speak out. But one young man called Unify, who supports the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told us he was worried he would not be able to vote.

"When I went last week to check my name on the voters' roll I did not find it.

"It's a trick by the Mugabe regime because they want to limit the number of voters in urban areas. Why? Because they know voters in urban areas are for the MDC."

A woman nearby with braided hair spoke up for the President.

"People say Mugabe is bad", she said. "But he is not bad. It's the ministers who are going wrong. I am proud of the president."

But a lollypop seller in a baseball cap - unwilling to give his name - told us the Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe should follow the example of Nelson Mandela, and make way for a younger generation.

"Mandela spent about 27 years in prison," he said "but after elections were held he quickly stepped down and left for the others.

"This is what we are willing our president to do. We are begging him to do that."

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US fears Zimbabwe will prevent free elections

Yahoo News

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States expressed fears Tuesday that the
Zimbabwean government has acted in a way that will prevent free and fair
elections at the weekend.

"We are concerned that actions of the Zimbabwean government will preclude
free and fair elections on March 29. Independent organizations report
extensive pre-election irregularities," State Department spokesman Sean
McCormack said.

The independent report cites "inaccurate voter rolls, violence and
intimidation of competing political parties and civil society," McCormack
said in a statement.

It also lists "overproduction of postal ballots for police, military,
diplomats, and electoral officials and absence of independent observation of
the counting of postal votes to prevent multiple voting," he said.

And it cites "inadequate polling stations in urban areas; bias against the
opposition in the government-controlled media; permission for police to be
present inside polling stations in breach of the recent SADC-brokered
agreement; and politicized distribution of government-controlled food, and
other benefits and government resources."

He was referring to an agreement brokered by the 14-nation Southern African
Development Community (SADC), a regional body.

"We call on the government of Zimbabwe, including the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission, to take concrete actions to address these significant
shortcomings, including respecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms
of the Zimbabwean people," McCormack's statement said.

"Despite these obstacles, we encourage all Zimbabweans to exercise their
democratic right to vote in a peaceful and orderly manner."

Zimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday to elect the president, members of
parliament and local councillors.

Veteran President Robert Mugabe, seeking a sixth term in office, has urged
his supporters to desist from violence.

The other two candidates opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai and former
finance minister Simba Makoni have made similar appeals.

Zimbabwe's last presidential elections in 2002 were marred by claims of
vote-rigging and violence.

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CNN denied permission to cover elections in Zimbabwe

From Kim Norgaard

(CNN) -- CNN has been denied permission to cover this week's parliamentary
and presidential elections in Zimbabwe, an official at the Zimbabwean
Ministry of Information and Publicity said Tuesday.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe waves as he leaves a rally in Bulawayo,
Zimbabwe, on March 23.

The official, who did not want to be named, gave no reason for the
government's decision to bar CNN from the crucial vote.

Reached on the phone in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, the official would not
reveal whether any international media organizations had been given
permission to cover the election.

A CNN representative issued the following statement in reaction: "CNN
regrets the Zimbabwean government's decision to deny us permission to enter
the country to cover the parliamentary and presidential elections on
Saturday March 29th. We hope that the government will reconsider its
decision. CNN will continue to cover the elections as widely as possible
from South Africa and surrounding countries."

South Africa's independent station ETV and British TV networks ITV and Sky
all said they were denied permission to cover the election as well.

In another development that has opposition leaders crying foul and has
increased their concerns about the Saturday poll, Zimbabwean police have
impounded a helicopter that was to carry a Zimbabwean opposition leader to
rallies, the aircraft's owner said. The helicopter's pilot was arrested, he

Wessel Vannenberg, owner of ATS helicopters, told CNN that all paperwork and
flight plans had been filed ahead of time with the authorities. He said
police gave no reason for their actions.

Movement for Democratic Change, a Zimbabwean opposition party, had hired the
helicopter to fly their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, to campaign rallies,
according to Vannenberg.

Roy Bennett of the MDC said the flight plan was filed with the authorities
in good time. According to Bennett, the helicopter flew from South Africa to
the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo on Saturday.
Only after the authorities discovered that the intended passenger was
Tsvangirai was the flight prohibited from taking off, he said.

As a result, the MDC was forced to cancel four rallies in Matabeleland
North, he said.

The pilot, Brent Smyth, was allowed to fly from Bulawayo to Harare early
Monday morning before being arrested in the capital, Bennett told CNN.

Vannenberg said the pilot was arrested at 7 a.m. at Charles Prince Airport
outside Harare and that the helicopter was grounded.

Smyth, a South African national, has been taken to Harare Central Police
station, Vannenberg said.

CNN was unable to reach the Zimbabwean police for comment.

A CNN representative issued the following statement: "CNN regrets the
Zimbabwean government's decision to deny us permission to enter the country
to cover the parliamentary and presidential elections on Saturday March
29th. We hope that the government will reconsider its decision. CNN will
continue to cover the elections as widely as possible from South Africa and
surrounding countries."

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Zimbabweans in South Africa Receive Free Ride Home to Vote


By Benedict Nhlapo
Johannesburg, South Africa
25 March 2008

A South Africa-based NGO is organizing free transport for Zimbabweans who're
eager to return to their homeland to vote in Saturday's presidential
elections. The Peace Democracy Project also set up 10 voter education
stations last month. From Johannesburg, Benedict Nhlapo has the story.

The Peace Democracy Project (or PDP) says it has received election-related
enquiries from more than 10-thousand Zimbabweans. PDP coordinator Bekithemba
Jama says they've decided to organise free transport after it received
requests from more than 500 eligible voters.

"The main objective," he said, "is to enable any Zimbabwean who is [a
registered voter with travel documents] in South Africa  but is unable to go
to Zimbabwe because of various constraints, but is willing to go and vote.
[We want] to make sure that he (or she) goes to Zimbabwe and is able to cast
their ballot on March 29th regardless of his or her political affiliation."

He says the free transport program hasn't been without its fare share of

"The challenges that we are facing," he says, " is that most of these people
do not have travel documents. Either [they have] asylum applications [or no]
documents at all, so it becomes difficult for us to transport such people."

The PDP's 10 voter education stations are manned by 25 volunteers, and will
remain open until the 29th. PDP logistics officer Gilbert Moyo says they
expect all those with the necessary documents will be assisted. He says they
have a system in place to check people's credentials..

He says, "We have told our volunteers that they have to take all the details
of all the people who [ask]. They have to write their phone numbers, their
ID numbers and the constituencies where they come from. From there were take
that data to the office we verify, we check from the voter's role that they
are registered.  If they are registered then we will arrange for the buses take them home... to vote."

Sithembiso Mdlongwa is one of the project's volunteers stationed at Joubert
Park in central Johannesburg.

He says travel arrangements will only be revealed to those who have
registered for security reasons.

She adds individuals will be transported to and then dropped off in major
cities or towns close to their constituencies, and then picked up at the
same spot for the return journey.

Many Zimbabweans in SA, who're still upset with the Harare government for
denying them a diaspora vote, have applauded the free transport initiative.

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Mugabe calls for Africanisation of church

Monsters and Critics

Mar 25, 2008, 8:04 GMT

Harare/Johannesburg - Stung by recent criticism from churches in Zimbabwe
ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections this weekend, President
Robert Mugabe says the church must be 'Africanised.'

Churches must be run by Africans, he told members of the Apostolic sect in
Bulawayo this weekend.

'Our people must be able to head even the old churches and perhaps the new
ones also,' Mugabe said in comments carried by Tuesday's official Herald

'We want to see the Africanisation of the church, which does not mean
bringing in an African God because there is only one universal God. But the
running of the church,' he said.

The Apostolic church in Zimbabwe commands a large following and its
white-robed members are a constant feature at Mugabe's rallies. Other
churches though have dared to speak out against perceived excesses and
abuses by Mugabe and his government.

Last week the recently-appointed Anglican bishop of Harare, Sebastian
Bakare, suggested 'fundamental change' was needed in Saturday's polls.
Change is a slogan used by opposition candidates.

Despite the flight of many whites during the last eight years of economic
turmoil, there are still a number of white pastors, clerics and missionaries
operating in Zimbabwe, including those at churches like Harare's wealthy
Celebration Centre.

Mugabe has loyal and often-paraded clerical allies in the shapes of Bakare's
predecessor, ousted Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga who describes Mugabe as
a prophet of God and the Reverend Obadiah Msindo, who has appeared on state
TV exhorting Zimbabweans to vote for Mugabe. Msindo has a rape case pending
against him.

At the church rally, the president promised the Apostolic church a nearby
farm and a tarred road.

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All Stocked Up for the Polls

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

25 March 2008
Posted to the web 25 March 2008


Murambiwa Manyika's house, in the upper-class suburb of Belvedere in the
Zimbabwean capital, Harare, could easily be mistaken for a well-stocked

His garage and two spare bedrooms in the house are stacked from the floor to
the ceiling with just about every essential commodity, in sharp contrast to
the bare shop shelves in supermarkets across the city.

Manyika is a successful professional hoarder. He gave up his job as a
poorly-paid civil servant four years ago to invest in the parallel market.
"I started by selling commodities like sugar, rice and maize-meal at very
competitive rates because they were no longer available in the shops, and in
addition to other transactions which I was doing, I managed to buy this

Pockets of the scarce staple, maize meal, are squeezed in with packs of
sugar, salt, rice, cartons of milk, soft drinks, cooking oil, beer and dry
rations such as beans and soya chunks in the two bedrooms. Non-food items
such as soaps, detergents, toothpaste, candles and safety matches have been
stored in the garage. Manyika's lounge has two solar powered freezers
stocked with fish and goat meat.

Manyika hopes to cash in on any possible instability after the 29 March
elections. The polls are crucial to Zimbabweans, as the dysfunctional
economy has left them with an inflation rate of around 100,000 percent and
widespread food shortages.

President Robert Mugabe, the veteran nationalist leader, is looking for
another re-election after 28 years of rule. The opposition, movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) has condemned the electoral process as flawed.

Risk and rewards

Hoarding is illegal in Zimbabwe and if caught Manyika could find himself
behind bars. Last week three men were arrested in another upmarket suburb in
Harare for having stockpiled sugar.

Undeterred many other Zimbabweans plan to turn adversity to their advantage.
Britta Nleya, a public relations officer with a local company told IRIN that
she and her friends intended to go on a shopping expedition to a
neighbouring country ahead of the elections.

"Initially, we wanted to go to South Africa, but some of my friends are
failing to get visas so we might end up driving to Botswana or Zambia so
that we can buy enough supplies for at least one month," she said. "We are
not going to buy anything fancy, but basics such as soap, cooking oil,
candles, sugar, tea leaves, salt, matches, powdered milk, potatoes, eggs,
juices, potatoes and coal for cooking."

Vendors who sell firewood and containers used to store water have also
reported brisk business. Daily power and water cuts have forced residents to
store water in all kinds of containers; firewood is a necessity for the
majority of homes that cannot afford generators.

If I keep some money at home, then I know I will be able to buy supplies in
the event of instability.

Some Zimbabweans told IRIN they plan to withdraw their savings from the
banks and keep the cash at home. A customer at one international bank
explained, "If I keep some money at home, then I know I will be able to buy
supplies in the event of instability."

Across the border for a "short holiday"

While others are planning to stock up, Tapiwa Chimombe, a sales executive
with an electrical appliances company, told IRIN that he and his two
brothers and a sister intended to take their families across the border for
"a short holiday".

"There is a lot at stake in these elections," he explained. "Mugabe is
facing an open rebellion from within his party ZANU-PF and if he wins, then
there could be massive retribution which could spill over to ordinary
people. On the other hand, the opposition MDC is taking advantage of
unusually high figures of inflation, unemployment, poverty and hunger.

"This means there will be a lot of emotion around the outcome of the poll,"
said Chimombe.

There are others who want a passport in hand, just in case. Long queues of
people desperate to get travel documents can be found outside the
Registrar-General's office. Last week, among those in the winding queue was
Vimbai Sithole, a qualified nurse.

"For me, if the government is retained, it might mean another five years of
economic decline and I don't want to experience that," she said. "If the
opposition wins, I think it will be a while before the situation normalises
and I want to avoid that. If there is instability after the elections, then
I will use my passport to go to any destination where my skills will be

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

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Zimbabwe's collapse starves trade artery

Financial Times

By William MacNamara in Beira

Published: March 25 2008 18:46 | Last updated: March 25 2008 18:46

One of the starkest symbols of Zimbabwe's economic ­collapse is a small
train-load of granite that travels once a day to the port of Beira in

Representing the last gasp of a once-famous export economy known for its
tobacco, sugar, minerals, and other commodities, the granite shipment is the
only bulk export now moving by rail down the Beira Corridor, the trade
artery that has for more than a century linked landlocked Zimbabwe to the

Trade along this vital route has slowed to a trickle, reflecting Zimbabwe's
wrecked economy perhaps more vividly than the country's 100,000 per cent
inflation and empty shop shelves.
The corridor's shipping and freight companies are trying to look beyond
Zimbabwe to a future where regional trade does not depend on the country.
But for the moment Zimbabwe's implosion, the dominant issue ahead of
Saturday's presidential and parliamentary elections, continues to drain
regional trade like an economic black hole.

The situation has deteriorated sharply even in the past few months, says JS
Marwaha, chief executive of Compania dos Caminhos de Ferro da Beira (CCFB),
the company that has run the Mozambican side of the railway since 2004.

CCFB's freight volumes were 60 per cent lower year on year in the first
quarter of 2008, Mr Marwaha says, mainly because of Zimbabwe's recent
decision to stop importing maize in an effort to grow its own supply.

"The situation is awful," he says. "In better times we would only ship by
volume, but we're telling clients now that if they have even one container,
we'll ship it."

Outside are the rail yards of Beira, whose weedy disuse is emphasised by a
grand terminal built during the postwar heyday of Portuguese rule.

"The moment things improve in Zimbabwe, business will get better," Mr
Marwaha said. If even one good crop of maize was imported, he says, it would
lift trading revenues significantly along the corridor. "But there are no
exports, and no good harvests."

David Lenigas, chairman of Lonrho, which has invested in businesses along
the Beira corridor in the expectation of its eventual recovery, estimates
that Zimbabwean agricultural exports have fallen 85 per cent since 1998.

In the past 10 years, Zimbabwe's diminishing trade has concentrated on the
land corridor to South Africa, where goods and payments can be exchanged
immediately. The Beira corridor, as a conduit for bulk international
shipments has dried up as the formal export economy has withered. The only
goods entering Zimbabwe by rail from Beira, says Mr Marwaha, were small
shipments of fertilisers, minerals and car parts.

Gustav Scheepers, managing director for Mozambique of Transcom Sharaf, a
freight operator along the corridor, said the company would not send any
more trucks into Zimbabwe. World Food Programme grain, he says, was the only
bulk shipment of any kind into Zimbabwe at the moment.

"We haven't written off the market entirely," says Mr Scheepers, "but it's
not cost-effective to be there, and there is always the risk your products
will be confiscated by the government."

The collapse of Zimbabwe's economy is not killing the corridor but is
forcing its businesses to adapt. Surging growth in regional economies such
as Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique stand to surpass the corridor's
traditional value as a conduit for Zimbabwean trade.

Mr Marwaha at CCFB is the first to concede the collapse of trade between
Harare and Beira is alarming and can be expected to get worse but says that
the future is promising. CCFB is building a line to Moatize, the enormous
coal deposit in Mozambique's Tete province, and also a line to Malawi.

Some traders believe the development of Moatize could by itself compensate
for the loss of Zimbabwean trade revenues. If all of the Moatize's 2.4bn
tonnes of coal are processed through Beira, trade volumes at the port would
multiply 10 times beyond current levels, says Graeme White, president of the
Associacao Comercial e Industrial de Sofala (ACIS), the commercial body
representing corridor businesses.

Echoing the view of many traders, Mr White of ACIS sees Beira's silted
harbour as a problem at least as bad as the collapse of the economy at the
other end of the eponymous corridor.

Shipments of crops and minerals from Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic
Republic of Congo - all economies that have surged in the decade since
Zimbabwe started its descent from breadbasket to basket case - are putting
pressures on the port that it cannot handle.

"African trade is increasing, especially as China and India buy everything
they can, and there is a congestion problem in this port as well as many
others," says Mr White. "The number of ships docking at Beira is not nearly
what we could have if the harbour was dredged."

Asked how his company survived the double-edged challenges of a collapsing
economy and a crippled harbour, Mr Marwaha of CCFB smiled. "We are caught
between the devil and the sea," he says.

Additional reporting by Emily Witt in Beira

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Zimbabwe, South Africa: Political Undercurrents

African Path

March 25, 2008 11:30 AM
By Rev Mufaro Stig Hove

The tragedy of Zimbabwean Politics today is the lack of a proper diagnosis
of the real issues facing that part of the world.

Just like with any doctor-patient relationship, and just like

with any lawyer-client relationship, a complete revelation of the real
problems and issues is very vital and can make or break any progress towards
any resolution of whatever situation may be facing the said patient/client.

If a client hides vital information, a very committed lawyer will be shocked
when his client admits in Court to certain dangerous information that he
will have withheld from the said lawyer. It would have been wiser if the
client had revealed ALL the information so that his lawyer would then be in
a better position to see how best to assist his prospective client. The same
with a patient. How does it help to hide that one is discharging, say blood
or pus from one's private parts? Its much better to ?embarrass? oneself
before a medical professional than to pretend that all that one suffers from
is a simple head-ache yet one's genitals are already rotten and the
situation is actually worse than is seen from a lay-man's point of view.

The Zimbabwean story is rife with truths, half-truths and out-right lies and
the tragedy is that the common voter will go into the Polling booth clouded
with a mixture of the said truths, half-truths and outright lies.

The persons that excel in the Analysis of Zimbabwean Politics are usually
satisfied with the shallow material they exhale although many of them know
the greater truths that are at play in the Zimbabwean Chess Game.

What are the under-currents?

The surface may appear calm to a simple observer, but just below the surface
may be dangerous vociferous currents.

The South African situation is a typical example.

Mr. Jacob Zuma was Deputy President when Mr. Thabo Mbeki took over from Mr.
Nelson Mandela. Mandela is a Xhosa and Mbeki is also Xhosa. Zuma is a Zulu.
For some stupid reason, Mbeki wanted a third-term as President of the ANC.
Naturally Zuma was going to be the next President if there was no major

But Zuma was charged with corruption and the rape of a female family friend.
He had to be relieved of his duties as Deputy President of the country and
we understand the intervention of Mandela prevented his firing from the
Deputy Presidency of the ANC. In December, 2007 Zuma was elected President
of the ANC in spite of the corruption charges that hang over his head.

Now the burning issue is: How involved is Mbeki in the same ?Arms Deals??
What this implies is that the issue of corruption against Zuma must fall
away since it was really affecting a wider spectrum and the further
implication being that Zuma is just being tarnished to prevent him from
ultimately getting to the State Presidency of South Africa.

Whatever develops from these issues, Mr. Mbeki was completely insensitive to
the diversity of the South African population to even attempt to seek the
Third Term. It was the height of stupidity to expect that the South Africans
would allow him to get the Third Term especially with the Zimbabwean
Experience not even over as yet.

How stupid one can be!

Perhaps the ANC voted for Zuma in order to learn how to change. Just to
resist Mbeki's myopia.

The Zimbabwean situation is more tragic because of the misguided zeal of the
players involved. Robert Mugabe wants the Electorate and the world to
believe that he is a saint who is being persecuted by the former colonial
masters. Whether this as a full truth or a half-truth is no longer the issue
with the informed voter. Getting Mugabe back to power will only worsen the
Economic situation. We are dealing with a people subjected to a frightening
degree of suffering.

Mugabe and his revolutionary ideals can go to Hell! Hypocrites who write
from Australia like Reason Wafawarova should not exhibit such trash and such
insensitivity. Zimbabwe needs to get out of the hole. Revolution or No

When Mugabe and ZANU-PF lost the Referendum in 2000, the people were against
other things and not the ?Land Reform? (for it had nor started when they
voted "NO" to Mugabe's Constitutional Proposals.)

When Mr Morgan Tsvangirai said, "What we want to tell Mugabe today; GO
things. What were they?

Rampant corruption, assassination of colleagues and rivals, arrogance which
made it impossible for any Zimbabwean to even advise the President. Mugabe
turned to the Land Grab to confuse the original issues.

Whoever believes Mugabe and Mbeki should come to us for Education.

What about "sell-outs"?

Was Tsvangirai a ?Sell-out? in 1999 when he told Mugabe to ?go peacefully ?
or risk being removed violently? If not, when did he become a ?sell-out??
Did he become a sell-out when he advised Zimbabweans that the route of the
Land Grab would lead to acute suffering?

Who says Tsvangirai ia sell-out? Please give us a break!

If Mugabe really believed Tsvangirai and the MDC were sell-outs, why were
they allowed to contest the 2000, 2002 and 2005 Elections? Who can answer
this question? Were the people of Zimbabwe being tested to see if indeed
they would put "Sell-outs" in power?


Since Mugabe persecuted all who challenged him; Dr Joshua Nkomo, Ms Margaret
Dongo, Cde Edgar Tekere, Chief Justice Enoch Dumbutshena etc how can we
believe him today when he says Tsvangirai cannot be President of Zimbabwe
because he is a ?sell-out??

Mugabe himself has no credibility. Mugabe has too much to answer for.

President Thabo Mbeki needs to know that the credibility of Mr. Robert
Mugabe is the one seriously at stake.

President Mbeki and SADC needs to know that even if Mugabe was to some
extent correct, his credibility is so dubious that it is far much safer to
give Mr Tsvangirai and others the benefit of the doubt.

Someone said to me; "Mr. Hove...the urgent issue facing Zimbabwe is that you
should be able to change. Change from Robert Mugabe to some one else. If it
a worse Devil: tough luck but whatever happens... JUST CHANGE SO YOU LEARN

I could never agree with him more!

Tsvangirai is not an angel...neither is Makoni...neither is Mugabe...neither
is this writer nor you my dear beloved reader.

So to Hell with the truths, the half-truths and the outright lies!

Mugabe has abused us so much; we just need some fresh air!

Morgan Tsvangirai (sarcastically called "Tea Boy" because many say that's
all he was at some Mine) can get the top job. Why? As a ?tea boy?, he knows
how to make rich, strong tea.

We are not desperate for Professors and Doctors! We just need fresh air and
see where to go from there!

Once we get the feel of the culture of changing, then we will be able to
remove Tsvangirai if he deviates from the route we expect from him!

The same with South Africa. Mbeki created the monster called Zuma just like
Mugabe created the monster called Tsvangirai. Mbeki thought he could get the
Third Term riding on Zuma's faults! desperate Xhosa brother! No Mr
Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki! How misguided we can be sometimes! In a country of 44 think you can be ?Life President?? What stupid myopia!

Then you Robert Mugabe or Matibili or whoever you really are!

We need a ?sell-out? to get the economy going! After the Economy has
stabilized we can retire him if we so wish!

As for were hypocritically lamenting in South Africa around 1997
that it was ?boring? to run the country without an effective opposition! You
could have started the farm invasions then....what was the impediment? You
vile crook!

You wanted a scape-goat! You desperately needed a punching-bag! You got it
in 1999.

How exactly did Learnmore Jongwe die in prison? How could a prisoner have 40
malaria tablets in his cell?

Such issues are more pertinent than the issue of whether Tsvangirai is a
"sell-out" or Makoni is a prostitute etc!

Stanley Goreraza would vow that Grace Marufu is a prostitute because she is
alleged to be sleeping with every body-guard around State House! Grace
Marufu-Goreraza-Mugabe is the perfect prostitute! Not Dr Simba Makoni!

So to Hell with your outdated desperate Propaganda!

We are ready to welcome either Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni to lead us!

Rev Mufaro Stig Hove

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The beginning of the end for Mugabe?


    March 25 2008 at 10:39AM

By Fanuel Jongwe

Harare - Zimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday with long-ruling
President Robert Mugabe battling for survival in the tightest contest since
independence from Britain in 1980.

The 84-year-old, Africa's oldest head of state, is trying to see off
ex-finance minister Simba Makoni and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
against a backdrop of an economic meltdown and isolation from the West.

The only man to have led the former colony of Rhodesia since
independence has shown during the campaign his appetite for power remains
unsatiated after previously indicating his current term would be his last.

"Let the people's voice thunder across the whole country ... rejecting
and damning once and for all the boot-licking British stooges, the traitors
and sellouts, the political witches and political prostitutes, political
charlatans and the two-headed political creatures," he told a recent rally.

But despite his bravado, analysts say a straight win is not guaranteed
for a man presiding over the world's highest inflation rate and a ruling
party, the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF),
whose splits have been highlighted by Makoni's decision to break ranks.

"For the first time Mugabe will not get an outright win," Harare-based
political commentator Bill Saidi said.

"There is discontent everywhere and divisions in Zanu-PF as some begin
to see sense in Makoni's defection. Mugabe will obviously lose a lot of
votes to Makoni and this time around, even his traditional rural strongholds
will not be a walkover for him.

"It might be the dawn of the end for Mugabe."

The campaign for the joint parliamentary and presidential polls has
been free of the bloodshed which claimed dozens of lives in the build-up to
ballots in 2000 and 2002.

But his opponents complain the president has not allowed a level
playing field, with security chiefs vowing to never allow anyone other than
Mugabe to rule.

Once a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe's economic malaise since the
last elections has led to widespread shortages of even basic foodstuffs such
as cooking oil and bread. Unemployment stands at over 80 percent.

Up to four million Zimbabweans have left for greener pastures, mostly
to South Africa whose government has refused to criticise its northern

Symptoms of the crisis are more pronounced in cities where residents
can go for weeks without running water, electricity supplies are erratic and
refuse piles up in the streets.

Drivers lucky enough to obtain petrol often have to dodge potholes
described by Makoni as "large enough to swallow an entire freight truck."

Makoni, once one of Mugabe's top lieutenants until he quit the
government in 2002, says the state of the nation is a result of failure of

"Shops are full of dust because there is nothing on the shelves.
Factories are working less than eight hours a day and workers have been
reduced to vendors," he said.

"We are living in darkness yet we had enough power for the whole
country. Where did it all go?"

Mugabe has acknowledged Zimbabweans face hardships, but blames the

The European Union and the United States imposed sanctions against
Mugabe and his inner circle after determining he rigged his 2002
re-election. The sanctions, which include a freeze on bank accounts, are
designed to avoid hitting the population as a whole.

The Movement for Democratic Change party of Tsvangirai - runner-up in
2002 - says Mugabe is again trying to steal votes, citing an electoral roll
it argues is stuffed with phantom voters.

It also says new rules allowing the police into polling stations are
likely to intimidate voters.

Tsvangirai, a former union leader, had previously vowed to boycott
elections but eventually decided to enter as head of a party which has also
been hit by splits.

"The economy has been destroyed to such an extent that we need to
start afresh. Zimbabwe is one of the world's great humanitarian crises," he

Both Makoni and Tsvangirai have said they would revisit the land
reform programme which saw the government seize at least 4,000 properties
from white farmers, ostensibly for redistribution to landless blacks.

The land reforms were a major factor in the collapse of relations
between the West and Mugabe, who has instead tried to forge ties with Asian

Western nations have been barred from sending observers, although
teams from China and Iran are invited.

Some 5,9 million voters are eligible to cast ballots at 9 000 polling
stations, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

If no candidate gets 50 percent of votes on Saturday, a run-off will
take place within three weeks. - Sapa-AFP

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Slim pickings for cross-border traders

Financial Times

By William MacNamara in Beira

Published: March 25 2008 19:28 | Last updated: March 25 2008 19:28

The customs chief at Machipanda, the border town between Mozambique and
Zimbabwe, along the Beira corridor, is quick to point out how little happens
at his post.

"There is nothing coming out of Zimbabwe any more," says Alberto Limeme,
Machipanda, chef do posto, gesturing at the highway that runs from Harare
past his post and onward to the port of Beira. "There is not even salt at
the shops in Mutare, 10 km away."

Every day, however, Zimbabwean traders carry - often on their shoulders and
heads - small amounts of goods across the border, which they sell in the
Mozambican market town of Manica.
Arrayed on Manica's wooden market stands are pint-sized reminders of
Zimbabwe's once powerful commercial-agricultural economy. Jugs of Masoe
orange crush are the brightest and most plentiful of the goods, followed by
milk, eggs, sugar, cigarettes, jam, ketchup, peanut butter, tea and

The traders sell their goods in Manica, often undercutting local produce, to
gain foreign currency. Even a currency as humble as the Mozambican metical
is solid next to the hyperinflating Zimbabwean dollar.

Amos Mavinzidze, a Zimbabwean trader in Manica, returns to his home country
several times a month with the proceeds from the orange crush, milk and
candles he sells in Manica. A trained accountant, he details in fluent
English the economic rationale for setting up a market stall in Mozambique.

"I could get a job in Zimbabwe as an accountant, but I would only earn
peanuts," he says.

Manica, an old Portuguese trading town, is half-Zimbabwean during the day,
one trader estimates. Those Zimbabwean traders who are not selling are busy
packing small trucks full of South African consumer goods bound for
Zimbabwe. Biscuits, soap and matches are popular items stacked three boxes

Even though the border is close, there will be several middlemen
transporting these goods across the Zimbabwean border and ensuring that
payment is made in a foreign currency, several traders say. The toxic
Zimbabwean dollar must be avoided at all costs. Traders shout on mobile
phones to their counterparts in Zimbabwe, adding to the activity of a town
that reflects, even as it exploits, the dwindling of the Zimbabwean economy.

Less than 20 years ago, many Mozambicans observe, the situation was the
complete opposite. Mutare, on the Zimbabwean side, was the destination for
cheap and plentiful products, and Mozambicans on the Manica side would try
to cross the border and stock up. Now Zimbabweans, sometimes by the
bus-load, come on day trips to the Shoprite supermarket at Chimoio, capital
of Manica province.

This turning of the tables has psychological as well as economic
implications, says Andre Catueira, a Mozambican journalist in Chimoio.
Despite their dire poverty, he says, many Zimbabweans still perceive
Mozambique as a backwater and as the poorest country in the world, a title
it held for many years.

This is the reason why Zimbabwean traders still return to their country, and
why they do not flood in to Mozambique as they do in South Africa, he says.

"Prejudices still linger. Zimbabwe is a proud nation, and everyone still has
the conviction that things will get better there."

Along the highway, however, the volume of trade suggests a gravely depressed
economy. Among the few freight trucks entering Zimbabwe, many carry fuel,
reflecting the fuel supply crisis plaguing the country.

The trucks, however, are not bound for petrol stations, says the customs
chief as Machipanda. Most are heading to the remaining white farms, whose
owners pool money to purchase fuel in Beira. The drivers, one trader says,
are armed to prevent confiscation.

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Christian Alliance election message

Christians united in love, working together for peace and justice


As Zimbabweans go out to vote on 29 March 2008, the Christian Alliance
wishes to reinforce the Easter message of the Risen Christ to his fear
stricken disciples, and indeed to us all, that 'Peace be with you'.
Throughout this journey to March 29 we have called upon all citizens of
Zimbabwe to work for peace. We make the same call in the period after
elections that all citizens and leaders act responsibly to make for that
We are aware that the electoral road has been fraught with many potholes,
but are encouraged by the resolve Zimbabweans have shown to participate in
this plebiscite regardless of these potholes. Under the circumstances, there
is no other way we, as Zimbabweans from all walks of life, would have
expressed our desire for peace. We say to all responsible and peace loving
Zimbabweans, go out and vote.
Voting on its own will not give us peace. Providing an environment conducive
for people to vote, and accepting the will of the people as expressed in the
vote, is what makes for peace. The responsibility for this lies with the
Sadly, some who hold positions of responsibility in the State have already
acted irresponsibly by stating that they would not concede to the people's
will if the people's vote is at variance with their preferred outcomes. Some
politicians have also stated the same, giving the impression that only they
and no one else can ever lead this country. The state controlled newspapers,
particularly The Herald and The Chronicle have of late developed hard line
partisan stances reinforcing this same message.
We wish to remind those in authority that the reason Zimbabweans resorted to
violence against the settler regime was because those in authority at that
time lacked the requisite qualities for the acceptance of a peaceful
transition. These are the same sentiments now being expressed by President
Robert Mugabe, service chiefs and some who occupy key positions in
We, therefore urge those in authority to give peace a chance and allow
citizens to freely choose their leaders through the ballot box and respect
their choice. We also urge the international election observers, especially
those from the AU, SADC and PAP to play their role as protectors and
defenders of the right of Zimbabweans to self determination.
May the peace of the risen Christ be with Zimbabwe!

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Zimbabwe Campaigns Use New Technologies to Reach Voters


By Loirdham Moyo
Mutare, Zimbabwe
25 March 2008

Zimbabwean political parties are using innovative methods of attracting
prospective voters for the March 29 presidential elections. For example,
they provide the undecided with text messages about their platforms, or use
slogans and jingles to assault their opponents. From Mutare, reporter
Loirdham Moyo says some of texts amuse and infuriate members of the public,
but sometimes fail to convince them.

The three main candidates are using technology to their advantage, by text
messaging the most important aspects of their campaign to supporters.

At the same time, ordinary Zimbabweans are forwarding humor about the
presidential hopefuls to one another.

One of the most popular messages, at the moment, among Mutare residents is
one that reads "President Robert Mugabe should be sent to farm, while Morgan
Tsvangirai of the opposition movement For Democratic Change should be sent
to school... And [former ruling party finance minister] Simba Makoni must be
allowed to rule."

The message is believed to the brain child of Makoni's backers.

Their play on words reminds members of the public of president Mugabe's
controversial land reform program, while making fun of Tsvangirai's
educational background. Of course, being Makoni supporters, it's clear they
believe the former finance minister's charisma speaks for itself.

While sending text messages is a relatively cheap - and direct -- campaign
tool, the three major cell phone providers have acknowledged many messages
have not been delivered because system crashes. A Telecel official, who
requested anonymity, says many customers who complain they're not able to
make calls can however send messages.

Another of makoni's campaign messages doing the rounds tackles the failing
power supplies (also called "simba" in the vernacular).

The "sms", or text message, reads "There is no power is Zimbabwe: water has
no power. The currency has no power. Everything in Zimbabwe has no power, so
vote for someone with power... Vote Simba (Makoni)."

Considering the mounting challenges faced by Zimbabweans, some say at least
the text messages bring a smile to their face.

Some of the MDC's songs have been turned into ring tones by the party
faithful. Some songs available on compact disks ask "have you not suffered
enough, why continue voting for [the ruling party] ZANU PF ?"

ZANU PF's ring tones and screen savers (for cell phones) are more
conventional. Many feature efforts to mechanize farming, including images of
tractors and harvesters. Ring tones have the following messages "give land
to the people", "Vote President Mugabe", "President Mugabe the revolutionary
and visionary leader" and "Zimbabwe will never be a colony again".

Kudakwashe Maposhere of Mutare says the messages are influencing opinion.

He say, "The messages and ringtones on cellphones have an impact depending
on who is sending them.  They play a major role in trying to sway people's
behaviour in an election."

But another resident, Pedzisai Marange, disagrees.

The 35-year-old says the hype surrounding text messages won't have any
impact on voting behaviour...

"I do not know much about these messages," he says, "and in any case these
will not make any impact on us. We will not be swayed as we already know
where we are going to vote for. What is important is to ensure there is
change of government."

His view is shared by the Center for Research and Development's Farai
Maguwu. He says many are already convinced of which party they're going to
vote for. Maguwu says modern technology only helps in terms of creating
light-hearted moments at a time when there's very little for Zimbabweans to
laugh about.

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Man arrested for denigrating Mugabe

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Wednesday 26 March 2008

BULAWAYO - A Zimbabwean man who was arrested last Friday for allegedly
insulting President Robert Mugabe in the second city of Bulawayo is still
languishing in police custody five days after his arrest.

Simanzeni Ngwabi was arrested last week after he allegedly passed insulting
comments about Mugabe to ruling ZANU PF youths who were putting up campaign
posters of the Zimbabwean leader in Bulawayo.

Bulawayo police spokesman, Assistant Inspector Bhekilizwe Ndlovu confirmed
Ngwabi's arrest adding that he was still being detained at Bulawayo central
police station.

"Ngwabi was handed over to the police on Friday for passing remarks
insulting the President. He has been charged under the Criminal Codification
and Reform Act that makes it an offence to insult the President.

"You can contact Bvudzijena (national police spokesman, Wayne) for further
details," said Assistant Inspector Ndlovu yesterday.

Bvudzijena said he was still checking on the matter when contacted by
ZimOnline yesterday.

The police said Ngwabi, who faces a two-year jail term or a heavy fine for
the offence, insulted Mugabe when he told the ZANU PF party youths in the
local vernacular Ndebele language:

"Hambani khatshana lokungumdala kwenu okuguguleyo njalo okuswabileyo
lenqindi yakhe (Go away with your campaign poster of your old man who has
wrinkled skin and always raises a knuckled fist)."

The party youths, who insisted that the remarks were targeted at Mugabe,
made a citizens' arrest of Ngwabi and later took him to the police who
detained him.

Mugabe, who is blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into its worst ever economic
crisis, has been the butt of crude jokes by Zimbabweans who are battling a
severe economic crisis that has manifested itself in rampant inflation of
over 100 000 percent, massive poverty and food shortages.

The veteran Zimbabwean leader is seeking a fresh five-year term at the polls
on Saturday that could see him extend his uninterrupted rule to 33 years. -

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Command centre to announce presidential winner

Zim Online

by Patricia Mpofu Wednesday 26 March 2008

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Tuesday said ballots for
the presidential vote would be counted in constituencies but the chief
elections officer at a command centre in Harare would announce the result.

ZEC chairman George Chiweshe rejected as untrue claims by the opposition
that his commission planned to ferry presidential ballots for counting at
the command centre.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party last week
said it was worried that presidential votes might be counted centrally
rather than at polling stations - making it easier to cheat. The party said
it would not accept the result if counting was done at the command centre.

"There are sections who have misconstrued that the presidential ballots will
be transported for counting at the national command centre. This is not a
fact," said Chiweshe, who was briefing a delegation of the electoral
commissions forum of Southern African Development Community countries in

"Each polling station will tabulate its results and these results will be
taken to a collation centre. A senior polling officer at every polling
station will be responsible for announcing the results of council, senate
and house of assembly but as for the presidential, this will be done by the
chief elections officer," he said.

According to Chiweshe, the Electoral Act stipulated that a chief elections
officer should announce the result of a presidential election.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the opposition party wants all results
including that of the presidential vote to be announced at polling stations
to minimize the risk of someone tampering with and manipulation a result
they may consider unfavourbale.

"This is the most logical thing to do otherwise anything besides this will
(minimize) attempts to steal and manipulate the people's vote," said
Chamisa, who added that the MDC had forwarded its concerns to Chiweshe's

The MDC, which insists President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party
have cheated in previous elections, maintains the government is out to fix
the ballot through among other tricks stuffing ballot boxes and inflating
the number of postal ballots.

The opposition party also claims the ZEC has deliberately put fewer polling
stations in the MDC's urban strongholds in order to deny voters there a
chance to cast their ballots.

Chiweshe said only the police would vote by post and that only 8 000 postal
ballots had been or were being issued to the police.

He said there would be composite polling stations in major cities such as
Harare and Bulawayo with each station having several voting centres to allow
more people to vote.

The ZEC was also discussing with political parties whether to increase the
number of polling stations in cities, he said.

Zimbabweans go to the polls on March 29 to elect a new president,
parliamentarians and local government representatives. - ZimOnline

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Nobody could be that dumb, could they?

25th Mar 2008 22:14 GMT

By Chenjerai Chitsaru

A FEW days before 29 March, there is speculation on the result of the
elections: who will end the phenomenon that has been called "Mugabe's

Elections have been held, without fail since 1980. All have been won by
President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF, almost always with thumping majorities.

This time, the speculation of a disaster for Zanu PF has been sparked by the
virtual phalanx of opposition lined up against him and his party.

Apart from Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC ) there
is Simba Makoni's "Mavambo/Kusile movement whose chief significance is that
it is headed by a former member of Zanu PF's communist-style politburo.

Moreover, Makoni himself is something of a protege of Mugabe, serving for
years in his cabinet before an assignment as executive secretary of the old
Southern African Development Community took him to Botswana.

By last week, most indications were that if anyone could dislodge Mugabe it
could be Tsvangirai, who has stood against him in two previous presidential
elections and lost both times.

They have both been disputed, chiefly because the margin was not anything
that the MDC or Tsvangirai himself could be ashamed of.
They had both performed creditably in an electoral playing field so studded
with obstacles it always boosted their morale enough to want to fight
another day.

Yet there is no denying the fact that Mugabe has become something of a
political fixture in Zimbabwe, or indeed in southern Africa.
Some Zimbabweans and many people in the region see him as a bulwark against
what they believe to be attempts to recolonise this part of the continent
through the creation of puppet regimes.

Many suspect that one of his greatest converts to this doctrine was the
South African president, Thabo Mbeki, whose attempts as a mediator in the
Zimbabwean political crisis has been described by many as a victim of his
own faith in Mugabe's pivotal role in keeping the region "safe" from

This is where the politically savvy Zimbabwean reacts with indignation: how
can an assessment of Mugabe's leadership of Zimbabwe ignore the havoc his 28
years of almost one-man rule has wreaked on the economy?

How can a balanced assessment of his tenure as president be divorced from
the official corruption which himself has acknowledged more than once?

Memorably, he once publicly confided that he knew there were among his
cabinet colleagues some who were taking "ten percent" of every government
contract awarded to a company or even another government.

After what was ballyhooed as the successful implementation of the land
reform programme, Mugabe himself railed against some of his colleagues who,
instead of the one farm they were supposed to take over, had two or three

Official audits of firm ownership, done by the government itself, turned up
information on cabinet ministers owning more than one farm, in clear
defiance of the "one man, one farm" policy enunciated by Mugabe himself.

The Western "sanctions" that he has identified as being solely responsible
for the collapse of the once much-admired economy have not had the
deleterious effect on the economy that the failure of his "new farmers" to
perform as industriously  as the previous white farmers did before them has

Agricultural productivity declined markedly under the new farmers, most of
whom were clueless as to what they needed to do to maintain the country's
reputation as the breadbasket of the region.

He himself has boasted of his farming prowess, yet ordinary farmers, the
supposed beneficiaries of the land reform, complain, perennially, of
insufficient inputs - which the government has had to guarantee as most of
them are not as resource-endowed as once described by one of Mugabe's
cabinet ministers, Kumbirai Kangai.

Zimbabweans know of the corruption in high places, of how it is the "chefs"
who run the thriving parallel market, the equally booming but illegal sale
of scarce fuel and other rackets which have bled the country of foreign

At the height of the cash crunch, the governor of the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono, alleged this was the dirty work of "cash barons",
promising publicly to crack down on them.

So far, only two women, in their 20s, have appeared on charges related to
money laundering. One former Zanu PF Member of Parliament has been named in
connection with the illegal dealings in foreign currency.

But he left the country before the alleged net closed in on him. He himself
has hinted from his place of sanctuary that the information he has in his
possession on the racket is "explosive".

What many Zimbabweans find bewildering is the willingness of people such as
Mbeki to believe that Mugabe's sole "sin of commission" is his stance
against the West, that they have ganged up against him because of the land
reform, whose victims were originally citizens of Western countries.

To add insult to the injury of such Zimbabweans, the theory seemed to be
accepted by people like Mbeki and others that were it not for the West there
would be no political revolt against Mugabe and Zanu PF.

For some this insult to their intelligence is unbearable. The suggestion is
that they are acting against Mugabe only on the say-so of the West.
Tsvangirai, in his challenge to Mugabe in the presidential election in 2000,
convinced many Zimbabweans that Mugabe was solely responsible for their
economic and political misery - and they responded positively by voting for
his 57 parliamentary candidates and enabling him to perform with some credit
against Mugabe in the presidential stakes.

Today, as the so-called harmonized elections draw closer, two men previously
in the highest echelons of Mugabe's party, Makoni and the former PF-Zapu and
Zipra intelligence chief, Dumiso Dabengwa, stand against Mugabe, sharing the
view of many Zimbabweans that it is Mugabe to blame for all the country's

There may still be some who cling to the belief that if it had not been for
the land reform fiasco and the West's indignation with the murder of their
kith and kin by the war veterans, the economy would still be as robustly
buoyant as it was, certainly before the disastrous 1997 expenditure on the
war veterans gratuities and allowances.

This is pure speculation, for the truth is that Mugabe was still toying with
the idea of a Marxist-Leninist regime, anchored in the "dictatorship of the

Somewhere along the way, he was bound to introduce a "nationalization"
programme that could have endangered the economy as surely as the land
reform did. Other actions to which ordinary people still react with anger
include Murambatsvina and the price blitz.

To most of them these measures were in utter disregard for their
consequences on the livelihoods of ordinary people. There are voters
determined to punish the government and the president for considering these
measures so important that they were willing to ruin the lives of hundreds
of thousands, if not millions, to implement it.

Now, not one such person has bought into the fiction that what motivated the
government to implement these programmes had anything to do with Western

On Saturday, Zimbabweans will be determined to show the world they are not
dumb, after all. They will throng the polling stations in their thousands
and there may have to be an extension of the voting period.

This happened in the 2002 presidential elections. There were threats of
disorder at some constituencies if the period was not extended.
On Saturday, the danger may be that any action which suggests the government
is contemptuous of the wishes of ordinary people could spark trouble.

There is so much pent-up anger among people, particularly in the urban
areas, any misconduct on the part of the police or electoral officials might
ignite the kind of upheaval that we are all frightened of - the aftermath of
the elections in Kenya last December.

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Zimbabwe Opposition Voices Dissatisfaction With Regional Observers


By Blessing Zulu
25 March 2008

An election observer mission sent to Zimbabwe by the Southern African
Development Community drew criticism from the opposition on Tuesday by
condoning a decision by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to refuse to
provide an electronic copy of the national voters role on the grounds that
it might be tampered with.

Denford Magora, a spokesman for independent presidential candidate Simba
Makoni, said Makoni's campaign was given an outdated voters roll, which he
charged was an attempt to handicap the campaign of the former senior ruling
party official.

Elections Director Dennis Murira of the Movement for Democratic Change
formation of presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai expressed disbelief at
the suggestion that the opposition party might tamper with the voters roll.
He said the government knows it contains many irregularities and an
electronic copy would reveal these in full.

The political atmosphere in Zimbabwe was tense following statements by
President Robert Mugabe and senior police and army officials to the effect
that they would not allow the opposition to assume the reins of government.
Police issued a statement saying they would crush any premature opposition
election celebrations.

Britain issued a statement saying the elections will test the strength of
political engagements by the Southern African Development Community.

SADC Secretariat Media Officer Charles Mubita told reporter Blessing Zulu of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the observer mission is satisfied with the

But legal secretary David Coltart of the MDC formation led by Arthur
Mutambara said the electoral commissions claims and SADC's defense of them
were absurd.

Elsewhere, police in Harare briefly detained an opposition candidate for
parliament, his election agent and a helicopter pilot delivering campaign
material at Charles Prince Airport outside the capital. Police said they
were searching the craft for weapons.

Jameson Timba, who is seeking the parliamentary seat for Mount Pleasant,
Harare Province, for the MDC formation of Morgan Tsvangirai, said he and his
election agent were released but that the fate of the pilot was uncertain.

An executive of the South African company that leased the helicopter to the
Tsvangirai campaign said he did not know why the pilot was detained.

Wessel Van den Bergh, owner of Aviation Towards Success of Midrand, South
Africa, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that British pilot Brett Smythe was
preparing to fly Tsvangirai to rallies when police arrested him and
impounded the helicopter.

Sources said Smythe was being held at Harare Central Police Station late
Tuesday, but police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena refused to comment.

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Zimbabwean children who sell their bodies ten times a day just to buy bread

The Times
March 26, 2008

Catherine Philp in Harare
Lina thought that the streets of Harare were paved with gold, so it was
there that she begged the bus driver to take her when her parents died
leaving her an orphan in Zimbabwe's destitute rural west.

Princess came to the city after she was thrown out by the new wife her
stepfather took after her own mother died from tuberculosis.

Precious came looking for an aunt she had heard was living here, peddling
vegetables on the streets for a meagre living.

Lina, then 14, had no money for her fare, so the driver took her virginity
as payment. Princess, then 13, sold hers for a loaf of bread after the
police stole the peanuts she was selling and chased her off the streets.
Precious had already had hers taken from her by a cousin who ambushed her on
her way to school and raped her. So she was no longer a virgin when, at 14,
she followed the others into prostitution, selling herself to strangers on
the streets of Harare merely to survive.

"They are the chaff that has blown in here," said the church worker who took
The Times to meet the girls in the slums of Harare. "Nobody cares about them
at all."
The story of the children peddling their bodies for pennies is the story of
Zimbabwe's rural poor. Ground down into a state of dependent impoverishment,
the collapse of the country's rural economy has left them more desperate
than ever. The Aids crisis, and the creaking health system it has
overwhelmed, has left hundreds of thousands of children orphans, struggling
to fend for themselves. As once-prime farmland fell back into bush,
thousands picked up their few belongings and headed for the cities in search
of a better life.

Lina came to the slums from far-flung Matabeleland, where President Mugabe
sent his troops in the early Eighties to put down opponents, wiping out
entire villages. It has been punished for its opposition ever since.

"I came to Harare because I thought people were rich here," she said. But at
the bus station people told her to go to the slums of Mbare, where "people
like me" slept on the streets. She saw people hawking drinks, vegetables and
nuts and thought she would do that too. But she had no money to start with
and there was none to be earned begging. "That's when one of the other girls
taught me to stand on the streets."

Princess fared better, finding a vendor willing to employ her selling her
vegetables in the street. But then came Mr Mugabe's social project,
Operation Murambatsvina, or "Clean Up Trash", a brutal push to clear the
streets of peddlers and squatters and deny his opposition urban support.
More than 600,000 people were made homeless in the purge.

The clear-up deprived Princess of her legitimate if meagre livelihood,
forcing her to more desperate measures. "The police chased us and beat us if
they found us selling," she said. "And then they would steal what we had to
sell." In debt to her supplier, she had only one option. "The last thing I
had to sell was myself."

That was two years ago and the money she got for her first client could buy
her a loaf of bread. Now it can barely do that. Sex with one of Mbare's
street girls costs Z$10 million (25p) - when the customers actually pay.
"I'll have about four or five a day," Princess said. "Out of that, maybe two
will pay." The police do not chase her any more, but they still steal,
demanding sex in return for leaving her alone.

Amine, one of the girls who works the streets with Princess, showed a fresh
scar on her hand where a customer had stabbed her, forcing her to drop the
notes that he had just paid her.

Precious, a tiny 16-year-old, stunning beneath the grime, sees as many as
ten men a day, and mostly they pay. But often when she wakes up in the
morning, beneath the plastic sheeting she uses for shelter, she finds her
money has vanished, stolen by a client or a jealous friend.

"My money is disappearing," she said. "I am doing this for nothing at all.
Sometimes I wake in the morning and I have nothing, not even a piece of soap
to wash, and my belly is sore from no food." Along with the hunger, fear
stalks the girls. Zimbabwe's HIV rate runs at 15 per cent and few of the men
that buy their services wear condoms. "Sometimes they threaten you and say
'If you try to make me wear a condom I'll beat you'," said Treatmon, who
came to Harare to work on the streets a year ago when she was orphaned at

"To begin with I was happy to do it because I had money and I could eat. But
now I see girls dying of Aids and so I expect to die with Aids too."

Elections this weekend herald a momentous moment in Zimbabwe's history,
holding out the possibility of an end to the three decades of Mr Mugabe's
rule that have driven these children to the streets - and the country to the
brink. It remains to be seen if having stolen the girls' past Mr Mugabe will
also rob them of their future.

His machinery is in place to steal the vote as before, but this time even
that may not be enough to mask the groundswell of discontent. The chance of
change has gilded the elections with mythic status, a panacea for ills that
even a new president cannot hope to change.

It is two years since Precious went back to Lower Gwelo: the cousin who
raped her is out of jail and swearing vengeance, and she is too afraid to
return. "I miss my granny," she said. "Maybe after elections things will be
more stable and I can go home."

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