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

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Out of sight, Mugabe thugs revert to their old election tactics
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
(Filed: 29/03/2005)

Alan McCormick knew from the start he had no chance of winning but his
election campaign ended early and violently over Easter. By yesterday
morning he had not slept for 36 hours and had driven hundreds of miles
across tracks and bushveld after he and his campaign workers were attacked
by veterans of Zimbabwe's war for independence and other supporters of
President Robert Mugabe.

So far the election has been much less violent than others. Critics have
said Thursday's poll will be rigged in Mr Mugabe's favour not by
intimidation but by his party's control of polling stations and ballot
papers. But over the weekend in a remote part of northern Zimbabwe, away
from the attention of the media and election monitors, Mr McCormick, 55, and
his supporters experienced the sort of coercion that had long been expected
by those familiar with Mr Mugabe's tactics during his 25 years in power.

Mr McCormick, a former farmer evicted from his home four years ago, is
standing for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in a ruling
Zanu-PF stronghold, Guruve North,

The two farthest points of his vast constituency are about 230 miles apart
with little in between but bush. There is no electricity nor telephones, no
way of calling for help even if the police were prepared to respond.

Mr McCormick's campaign is conducted by youths on ancient bicycles and older
men in a couple of trucks, village to village, hut to hut. "It started in
earnest when the election period began on Feb 25," he said. "Over Easter it
got too bad and we have pulled out. I hope I have got most guys out although
a couple are still in police cells." He drove into Harare shortly before
dawn yesterday.

As the campaign began three weeks ago one MDC activist, Noah Chirembwe, was
hanged from a tree by his wrists locked together in police handcuffs, with
burning logs under his dangling feet.

"When the branch eventually broke, he fell, rolled over into a ditch and
stayed there in blistering heat," Mr McCormick said. "Then he crawled away
at night. Eventually we found him and brought him to hospital in Harare, and
he's OK now." Mr McCormick said the latest round of attacks began on

"One of our guys, Elphas Mhamiti, was abducted from outside the Grain
Marketing Board at Mushumbi Pools (in the Zambezi Valley) and taken away. He
was left for dead. We went in at midnight and sent him to Harare as he was
coughing blood. He is recovering.

"I have reported to the police and given them the names of the four war
veterans, two Zanu-PF councillors and the newly appointed local chief,
Chisungo, who were in the forefront of the Easter attacks."

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said reports of the violence in Guruve
North had not yet reached Harare.
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Stealing democracy

Tuesday March 29, 2005
The Guardian

Few people are holding their breath about the outcome of Zimbabwe's
parliamentary election later this week as evidence mounts that Robert Mugabe
has done everything in his power to ensure that the opposition cannot
successfully challenge his corrupt and repressive rule.
Intimidation, gerrymandering and the use of famine relief as a weapon are
just some of the many abuses that have been documented so far. There have
been fewer killings than in the run-up to the elections in 2000 and 2002,
but manipulation, especially of an electoral register inflated with the
names of dead people or emigres, is more intense. Some 300 observers, most
from African countries sympathetic to Mr Mugabe, will be allowed to monitor
over 8,000 polling stations. Ballot boxes will be transparent, allowing army
officers and Zanu-PF party officials in charge to see what votes have been
cast. But that is the only transparency there will be about what looks like
being an utterly flawed election.

Article continues



The background to Thursday's vote is an economy that has shrunk by 30% in
the last five years, rampant inflation, hunger, shortages, a spiralling Aids
epidemic that kills a child every 15 minutes and chronic misrule by Zanu-PF.
The party is riven by disputes aggravated by the way the 81-year-old
president has appointed members of his own clan to key positions.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change - its symbol an open hand,
which contrasts with the clenched fist of the president and his henchmen -
has the wind in its sails. But even if it were to win two-thirds of the 120
seats being contested, Mr Mugabe still has the constitutional right to
appoint another 30 MPs. Voter apathy is strong and the MDC weak in the face
of security forces that remain loyal to the government and ready to enforce
draconian laws restricting political gatherings. Regrettably, the
commendable call by Pius Ncube, Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, for passive
resistance, may be the triumph of hope over experience.

Zimbabwe is grim proof that political change is desperately hard to achieve
without both internal and external pressure. The EU's "smart" sanctions have
restricted the movement of senior regime figures - but Grace Mugabe's
inability to shop freely in Paris has not weakened her husband's
undemocratic reflexes, still couched in the militant language of the
anti-colonial struggle he once led. The lack of media freedom is another key
weapon in the president's armoury, allowing him to continue defying
international opinion. So is the apparent inability or unwillingness of
other African countries to see the issue as other than the black versus
white struggle over land that Harare mendaciously portrays.

Foreigners recognise that too much intervention will play into the hands of
the regime, fuelling Mr Mugabe's arrogant dismissal of the MDC as a "tool of
western imperialists", and his obsession with Tony Blair. Perhaps, the time
has come for the former colonial power and its European partners to adopt
the more robust approach of President George Bush, who recently added
Zimbabwe to his list of "outposts of tyranny" - and stop pretending that
South Africa's "quiet diplomacy" is working. Still, regime change can only
come from within.

Biblical language underlines the pain of a country whose agony shows no sign
of ending soon. "You are being asked to choose between thieves, thugs and
murderers, and people who want to take Zimbabwe's children to the promised
land," declared the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai. Archbishop Ncube's call for a
non-violent uprising - rewarded by the government's comment that he was a
"half-wit"- came after he told his congregation that "somewhere there shall
come a resurrection for Zimbabwe". It is unlikely to be hastened by the
ballot box as long as Mr Mugabe remains in power.

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Distrust precedes Zimbabwe election
While state-sponsored violence against Mugabe opponents has abated, some
groups say political intimidation and violence remain


March 29, 2005

CHITUNGUIZA, Zimbabwe -- Election fever is running high on the streets of
this poor township outside the capital, Harare. Campaign posters compete for
space on roadside stalls and, unlike in the past, opposition supporters clad
in party regalia walk the streets without fear.

After almost five years of state-sponsored violence against those who oppose
him, President Robert Mugabe is trying to reform his image and show the
world his country is not the "outpost of tyranny" to which U.S. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice recently referred.

"I think Robert Mugabe is tired," Tariro Shumba, chairman of the local
chapter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said as he made
his way to a rally, his head wrapped in a white bandana bearing the campaign
slogan: A New Beginning. "I think he is trying to negotiate his exit
package." Mugabe is 81 and has ruled for a quarter of a century.

Most observers say the run-up to Thursday's parliamentary elections has been
much less violent than in the previous two elections. Organizations such as
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have warned that political
intimidation and violence remain -- and election monitoring groups fear vote
rigging -- but in places like Chitunguiza the mood has changed.

"Last time was terrible," said Brian Dzimbo, an MDC party member here. "But
now there is no more fear." Still, ordinary people in this opposition
stronghold remain distrustful. Few would talk openly about politics or
discuss which party would receive their vote. And at the rally, held for a
local MDC candidate, men and women dressed in ruling party T-shirts hovered,
intimidating, on the fringes.

At stake in Thursday's election are the 120 elected seats in Zimbabwe's
parliament. During the country's last parliamentary elections, in 2000, the
MDC won 57 seats, more than any opposition group since independence from
Britain in 1980.

This election is unlikely to bring an immediate end to Zimbabwe's political
and economic crisis. Since the government-sponsored seizure of white-owned
farms began in 2000, the country's economy has been in free-fall. Inflation
has skyrocketed and there have been widespread shortages of gasoline and
staple foods, such as corn meal, caused by a failed land reform program and
exacerbated by a regional drought.

Still, even the most optimistic opposition supporters admit it will be
difficult for the MDC to gain a majority of seats in parliament. Under the
constitution, Mugabe appoints 30 seats in the 150-member parliament. Many
observers say the vote this time is about rehabilitating the image of Mugabe
and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front at home and
abroad. The president, a former guerrilla fighter who has led Zimbabwe since
independence, has promised to step down when his current term ends in 2008.

Mugabe's re-election in 2002 was condemned by many international observers,
and some analysts believe the president wants this election to be called
free and fair in order to bring legitimacy to his rule.

"He wants to exit as father of the nation," said Brian Kogoro, who heads a
network of civil society organizations called Crisis in Zimbabwe. Mugabe is
gambling that the past five years of political oppression have broken the
opposition enough that ZANU-PF can still win this more-open election, one
Western diplomat said. But the ruling party, he said, has a limited campaign

In 2002, Mugabe campaigned largely on the issue of land, promising to
reclaim for black Zimbabweans property he said was stolen by whites. But the
land reform campaign is over, and conditions have deteriorated for many
ordinary people.

In Chitunguiza, one vendor was selling a single egg earlier this week for
$1,700 Zimbabwean (about 30 cents American); she remembered the days when an
egg cost 50 cents Zimbabwean. ZANU-PF has tried to blame economic problems
on white imperialists and the MDC, which the ruling party says is trying to
recolonize the country. ZANU-PF's election theme is the "Anti-Blair

"This election is about protecting our sovereignty and our revolutionary
gains," said Ephrim Masavi, a spokesman for ZANU-PF and an appointed member
of parliament. "We have done everything here. We are the people who have
brought education to the people, who have brought land to the people. ...
What I see in the MDC is a bunch of hooligans."

For African observer groups -- the only ones invited by the government
during this election -- the vote also represents a test of the continent's
commitment to democracy and good governance. African leaders, including
Thabo Mbeki, president of neighboring South Africa, have been largely
hesitant to criticize Mugabe and his government. In 2002, South Africa
declared the elections legitimate, though not free and fair.

Judging the results of this election will not be an easy task. There has
been less violence, but the odds are stacked heavily against the opposition.
ZANU-PF has been using state resources, including the army, police and state
broadcasting, in its campaign. And there are problems with voter rolls and
accusations that local chiefs in rural areas will be used to ensure that
voters cast their ballots for the ruling party.

Even hard-won election changes fought for by the MDC and civil society
groups may backfire. In attempt to prevent vote-rigging, ballots will be
dropped into translucent boxes and counted at individual polling stations
rather than at regional centers, but human rights groups say voters in rural
areas are being told this will allow ZANU officials to know for whom they
are voting.

It is also unclear what would constitute a fair result. Most observers
believe a fair poll would leave the MDC with at least some seats, but it's
difficult to tally the opposition since its supporters are not going public.
"My vote is my secret" is a commonly heard refrain here.
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Business Day

'Uprising' call puts Zimbabwe on edge
Jonathan Katzenellenbogenand Linda Ensor


THE spectre of a popular uprising loomed in Zimbabwe yesterday, as a leading
cleric and an opposition leader called on the country's population not to
take lying down a victory by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party in
this week's elections.

As the country entered the final stretch before Thursday's crucial poll,
electioneering reached fever pitch, with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), hinting at a mass
revolt by his supporters if the poll was rigged.

At the same time, one of the country's most senior Roman Catholic clerics
called for a peaceful uprising to overthrow Mugabe if Zanu (PF) wins.

Pius Ncube, the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, called for "something like
Mahatma Gandhi did, educating his people to be aware of their dignity and to
stand for their rights even if it meant suffering disadvantage".

"No way will elections kick him out. Mugabe has made all his plans. He has
cheated in 2000 and 2002," Ncube said.

"I am simply backing a non-violent popular uprising, like that in the
Philippines in 1986 and such as in Ukraine," he said, referring to Ukraine's
2004 "Orange" revolution.

The Zimbabwean government responded by calling Ncube a "half-wit" and an
"inveterate liar" for his call, as well as a claim that the government was
using food as a political weapon in the MDC stronghold of Matabeleland.

Amid Ncube's assessment of the impossibility of free and fair elections,
another South African cabinet minister has given an upbeat assessment of
conditions ahead of the poll.

Minerals and Energy Affairs Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is the
leader of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer
delegation, said at the weekend that the pre-election situation in Zimbabwe
was by no means perfect, but the conditions existed for a "robust" contest.

Her hedged remarks are in contrast to those made earlier this month by
Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana - Pretoria's chief observer in
Zimbabwe - who angered the MDC by saying that conditions in the country were
conducive to a free and fair poll.

Mlambo-Ngcuka challenged opinion-makers who had already prejudged the
election outcome as unfree and unfair "to come and see the situation

"On the basis of evidence on the ground and our visits to villages around
the country, this assessment is not credible," she said.

The 32-member SADC delegation arrived in Zimbabwe on March 15 and will leave
on April 2 after monitoring the March 31 election and the vote-counting.

Last week, the US-based Human Rights Watch urged election observer missions
to remain in the country well past the election date to act as a deterrent
against possible widespread retribution by Harare against opposition voters.

The MDC said yesterday it was critical for all observer missions to
investigate all allegations of electoral malpractice, of which there were a
substantial number. A party spokesman said the manipulation of the voters
roll was likely to be "the key vehicle for rigging the elections".

The voters roll was in a "shambles" and a hard copy, produced in October
last year, listed dead people, people who had been registered twice and
cases of many people not living at their recorded addresses.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission claims there are 5,7-million registered
voters, but the MDC says this appears to contradict census results
suggesting a figure more in the range of 3,2-million, based on deaths and
the likely number of people who have left the country.

"You are looking at a gap of a million people, giving huge opportunities for
ballot stuffing," the official said. The official said there had been
coercion of traditional leaders, threats to expel people from villages if
they voted for the MDC and numerous cases of Zanu (PF) officials denying MDC
supporters food aid or threatening to withdraw food aid after Thursday's

Mlambo-Ngcuka said there had not been many reported incidents.

But Roy Jankielsohn, an MP from the Democratic Alliance and a member of SA's
parliamentary observer mission, said yesterday that after an MDC rally,
"people literally queued up to tell us their stories of how they had been
attacked or intimidated by ruling party members".
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The Scotsman

Zimbabwe's Embattled Opposition Finds Its Voice


For the first time in years, members of Zimbabwe's embattled opposition are
shouting their allegiance on the streets and wearing their party regalia

As Thursday's parliamentary polls draw near, President Robert Mugabe has
ratcheted down the violence and intimidation that have cowed dissent, hoping
he can win a stamp of legitimacy for his nearly 25-year regime and pave the
way for a successor of his choice.

The question, analysts say, is whether the gamble will pay off for his
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

Mugabe, an 81-year-old former guerrilla fighter, has led Zimbabwe since
independence from Britain in 1980.

"ZANU is of the impression that they have built an insurance system that is
foolproof," said Brian Kogoro, chairman of Crisis in Zimbabwe, a coalition
of non-governmental organisations. "But I think ZANU has overestimated not
only its popularity, but also its capacity to steal votes."

At a rally yesterday in Chivhu, about 90 miles south of the capital, Harare,
Mugabe dismissed the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change as "a
tool of Western imperialism."

The event in the ruling party's rural heartland drew just a few thousand
people - many of whom said they were bussed in from elsewhere. Up to 20,000
people have attended opposition rallies in recent weeks.

At stake are the 120 elected seats in Zimbabwe's 150-seat parliament. But
since the president appoints the remaining 30 seats, the MDC would need to
win 76 seats for a majority.

The opposition won 57 seats in the last parliamentary election in 2000,
despite what Western observers called widespread violence, intimidation and
vote rigging. But it has lost six seats in subsequent by-elections.

Opposition leaders and human rights groups say Mugabe has not abandoned
political violence and may be working behind the scenes to rig the vote. If
his party does lose, the ever-defiant Mugabe could well void the elections.

But the apparent reduction of overt abuses is read by many as an attempt to
polish his image. In addition, he has carefully picked election observers,
barring those who have criticised the state of Zimbabwean democracy and
allowing only those seen as friendly.

If ZANU-PF wins an election deemed free and fair, analysts say Mugabe can
safely hand over power to a successor - once he chooses one - when his
current term expires in 2008.

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Sokwanele Blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Viva Pius!

It is hard to have hope when you are surrounded by suffering. Viva Pius! Thank you for giving the people a voice. Thank you.

Tear gassed at White City Stadium - Saturday

I was part of the large and peaceful crowd that attended the MDC Rally at White City Stadium, Bulawayo, on Saturday. While seated on the grass waiting quietly to hear Morgan Tsvangirai speak I noticed a group of people running in my direction, obviously in some distress. It turned out that they had been tear gassed. Their eyes were streaming and they were in great discomfort. Fortunately I had brought with me some water and I and others nearby used that to relieve some of the worst symptoms of the tear gas.

At this point I noticed there were some members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission watching the commotion from just a few meters away. I picked them out by the insignia they were wearing. It struck me that they should be doing something about this unwarranted attack upon innocent members of the public who gathered lawfully and peacefully to hear the opposition leaders.

I walked up to the nearest member of the ZEC, and said to him: "Why are we being tear-gassed? What have we done that is wrong?"

The man did not say one word in reply. Instead he glared at me, giving me one of the most cold, evil and menacing looks I have ever seen.

So much for the neutrality and independence of Zimbabwe's electoral commission!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Archbishop Pius Ncube for Nobel Peace Prize!

Congratulations to this hero for his outstanding courage in leading from the front, rather than following his flock. Spiritual leaders need to ensure the rights, lives and futures of their congregations. If they don’t stand up for good, who will?

Not very 'PC'!

Selina has just come back from her rural home and tells me that the computers given to her child’s school by our president, were then taken back for delivery to another school. So much for election gimmicks!

We are being heard...

Flattering comparison of Zvakwana to freedom fighters in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia. We hope we live up to it and we know Zimbabweans want freedom as much as they do!

The whole world is noticing Zimbabwe’s struggle. Zvakwana was featured on page one of the weekly Mail and Guardian SA with five posters pictured and ‘f*ck quiet diplomacy!’ Sokwanele's blog has been noticed by the Guardian newspaper (UK) in their online blog section.

Newsweek on its cover says "Mugabe is on the ropes".

Zim is beautiful, but there's something wrong here...

I have been visiting Zimbabwe for years as a tourist. If you like to be off the beaten path, COME NOW! I practically had Vic Falls to myself, and the road from Vic Falls to Bulawayo is empty. Stop at one of the little picnic rest stops, which have unfortunately fallen apart, and you will be alone in silence.

As for violence, how do you see it? As a visitor, you can’t really see what’s happening. Thanks to sites like Sokwanele for telling what’s really happening.

The truth is that something’s wrong. I saw a dead hyena on the road near Hwange, and then heard that there is a giant elephant slaughter there. Every single person wants to talk politics. Everybody asks for food – something that did NOT used to happen here – and all the guys are looking very trim – too trim, with small waists. You can tell they’re not getting enough to eat, even in Vic Falls where there are still some jobs.

Thorn in the side

Sokwanele is obviously a thorn in the side of the zanupf technological thug crew. They realize that civil society in Zimbabwe has finally found the courage to stand up and say 'Enough is Enough' to the regime’s crude and violent oppression. They are trying to close us down. Last week Sokwanele received two separate emails, one on Friday and another on Sunday (they are working overtime!), directly from Both contained viruses. They are desperate because their days are numbered, people have said ‘Enough is Enough!’

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I can feel the winds of change blowing…

Yesterday’s rally was amaaaazing. We were conspicuous by our pale faces and what a fabulous welcome we received from a happy bunch of Bulawayo MDC supporters. I wish the other whities in this country would stop being so afraid, kill their victim complexes and get out with our fellow countrymen to end evil.

I was pleasantly surprised by the cops there, a few stood stony faced and long suffering, some helped usher vehicles into the car park and you could see many itched to fling their open hands up, joining the crowd in welcoming democracy. At last they realize they are working for their children, not the government that treats them like dirt. I can feel the winds of change blowing …

A bit of humour. On the way to yesterday’s rally, I was chuffed to find myself driving behind David Coltart envoy. One of their enthusiastic numbers was so busy waving to pedestrians, he was taken unawares when the truck he was in moved off from a traffic light. He fell out the back, unhurt, picked himself up and ran after the vehicle. He was too slow but luckily, Mrs Coltart was coming up behind him and scooped him up.

The comedy not over, he jumped out of her vehicle at the next traffic light to jump back into the back of the truck, but he was too slow! Once again he was saved by the MP’s good wife.

Where are the observers?

Heard that villagers out past Bulawayo airport have been visited by CIO and they've been told who will go and vote and how they should vote, and that if there is any other result at that particular polling station other than the expected result, all their houses will be burned down. This is the down side of counting votes at each polling station. Where are the observers? Seems to me that they are in Holiday Inns and only attending permitted rallies.

Observers: watching, but not asking questions... why?

I heard from a friend who was part of the Good Friday walk in Bulawayo, that a few walkers approached some observers outside the Selbourne Hotel. They were completely uninterested in what the ‘walkers’ were doing or what they wanted to say to them. I wonder why they are here if they are uninterested to speaking to us.

Tsholotsho rallies

I have just heard that Professor Jonathan Moyo held a rally last week in his constituency, Tsholotsho. His generous supply of free food and drink brought in a crowd of 10 000 as reported by the State run newspapers. President Mugabe held a rally in Tsholotsho’s main business center a few days after. His offer of free, forced transport brought in a crowd of 4000. The MDC also held rallies in Tsholotsho in two separate, isolated, hard to reach growth points. They offered no food, no drink and no transport. The combined attendance at the MDC rallies was over 9000. Who knows, the MDC may retain Tsholotsho after all.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

'Fueled' or 'Fooled' ?

One of the speakers at the rally that I attended the other night was talking about the level of corruption that has developed in our society and how unashamed people have become. Today, I met with friends and the topic came up again. My friend (I'll call him Mr.T) shared his experience...

Recently, Mr.T went on holiday to Mozambique. Because he was unsure of whether he would get fuel along the way he took a jerry can of petrol with him. Before he crossed the border he filled up the fuel tank in his vehicle, but had about 10 litres left over in the can. At the border, the Zimbabwean officials told him he was not allowed to take fuel out of the country.

Obviously, Mr.T was annoyed and was NOT going to allow the officials to have his 10 litres of fuel. On principle, he started pouring the petrol out onto the road.

The officials, accompanied by an armed policeman, came dashing over and asked him to instead sell the petrol to the people nearby. Eventually my friend gave in, and sold his fuel for Z$30 000.00.

A short while later, at the customs office, the same officials asked how much cash he had on him. (There is a limit to the amount of Zim dollars you are allowed to take out of the county). Because of his fuel ‘sale’ he now exceeded the cash limit.

Surprise, surprise! Mr. T's extra cash was ‘confiscated’.

You cannot win! Fortunately, our sense of humour can’t be taken away.

Nzara, Nzara

My domestic worker has just returned from a ZanuPF rally where the President himself was addressing the crowd in Norton, just outside Harare. Five years ago this area was considered one of the finest farming districts in the country. Today it is a dusty patch of weeds. My worker attended the rally purely out of curiosity and was amused to report that the many elderly participants enraged the President as they set up a low chant in Shona “Nzara, Nzara” in English, “Hungry, hungry”. Five years ago everyone had a roof over their head, a full stomach, a clinic to be treated at and a decent school to send their children to.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Blocked ears

I feel compelled to share the lighter side of the farcical election campaign being held in the Nkayi district. We all know that Obert Mpofu, a nefarious and self important character and the governor of Matabeleland, is the parliamentary candidate for this constituency.

Mpofu has had his thugs plaster his face to any wall, rock or tree space in this rural area. Local residents (majority of whom are MDC supporters) have responded to his mugshots with hilarious revenge tactics.

His posters now boast poked out eyes and ears, filled with stalks of grass! This has really gotten up the noses of the ZanuPF supporters who are now busy pulling down their own posters.

A good chuckle always makes the day's crises easier to deal with.

'War vets' as election supervisors

Government Election Supervisors are following the campaigners around and some of them have been recognized as local war vets. My belief is that these war vets have been given uniforms to intimidate people at rallies. This has happened in several different places. I've also been told that a notorious war vet who works at the Chiredzi General hospital as a nurse is now an Election Supervisor in this area...! We also have War vets as Polling station Presiding Officers in this area. How can anyone possibly say that this Election is free and fair under these circumstances?

Courage at corner of 23rd Ave/Plumtree Rd

Three brave guysYesterday afternoon, at the busy intersection of 23rd Ave and Plumtree Road, a group of MDC youths stood proudly on the traffic island wielding an oversized MDC flag. The contrast between these joyful youths and the shocked and depressed looks of passersby was most conspicuous, living proof of the personal empowerment action brings. This is not a time for caution, but it is the time to stand proud, be courageous and do what is necessary. Freedom is a big prize and it deserves extraordinary action if it is to be won.


I was quite relieved to see our pastor in church this Good Friday morning. He and some other members of our congregation had strolled through the city centre earlier today, from one church to another, carrying crosses to commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice for us. When we were asked to join him, I immediately thought: yes I do want to participate, as Christ died for me too, and I would not be afraid to publicly acknowledge that. But then I did become afraid after all. What if no police permission had been sought? What if I would be picked up by the CIO and taken to the Police Station like happened to me several years ago? What if I would have to give all my particulars again (name, address, ID-number etc) including my church affiliation? What if the CIO would read my name in the paper in the list of polling agents, which has to be published by law? What if – and I can go on like this for some time. So I did not carry my cross, and I felt terrible for not doing so. I had let down my pastor, my fellow congregants, but most of all I had let down Jesus Christ because I was afraid of mere men. This is what election time in Zimbabwe can do to people.

Like Kuwait

There are fuel queues at almost every service station again. With elections less than a week away, rumours are rife about the fuel shortage. Some people are saying that the government is holding back fuel so that people will not have transport to go and vote. Others are saying we have run out of foreign currency to purchase fuel.

We have become so accustomed to lining up our cars outside a petrol station. I don’t remember the last time I got petrol on the spur of the moment. There is a joke circulating: "Zimbabwe is a lot like Kuwait, because all we do is ‘queue’ and ‘wait’!"

Yesterday, as I drove through the city centre I noticed that there were policemen on every corner of each block along the main street – robert mugabe Way. We see this from time to time. It usually means that mugabe is in town and is due to drive down that particular road, usually with a whole entourage of security. At the end of the motorcade there is also normally an ambulance, just in case. The road will be cleared ahead of arrival by policemen on motorbikes. The procession does not impress people, but angers them! More flagrant abuse of taxpayers money. The fruits of our hard earned labour!

A while later, I pass a small van. The driver is hooting continuously as they drive along. There are supporters in the back cheering and shouting, trying to attract attention. I could not make out who they represented as we passed each other to quickly. Election fever is building up.

Lots of cars and helicopters

A couple of nights ago (22 March) I went to collect a colleague at the airport who was arriving on the night flight from Harare. I was forced to wait some time as guess who was coming to dinner??? It was the First Lady herself. Her motorcade consisted of no less than 17 vehicles who left the airport in a blur of speed. Earlier that evening, whilst sitting in my garden, I had seen our dear president passing over on his way from a rally in Gwanda to State House in Bulawayo with his normal squadron of three helicopters. I wander, how many suffering children could have been saved with the state funds used to prop up our corrupt regime just last night?

The United Nations reported last week that one child dies every 15 minutes in Zimbabwe………..

Soldiers seen moving on farms

Between 20 and 30 armed soldiers were seen moving on the farms half way between Chiredzi and Mkwasine at 9.45pm on Monday. If this isn't intimidation, then why are they hiding in the evening hours? Nevertheless, despite the army using food and death threats to intimidate people in this area - and the war vets saying that there will be war if they lose - people seem to be ready to try and vote.

Illegal: Singing on a bus

My hairdresser’s nephew was on a bus with 20 other male youths from their Apostolic Church en route to a Christian camp at Masvingo this weekend. They were stopped by Police at the Beatrice/Mbare road intersection and made to go to Mbare Police where they were charged with “Singing on a bus”.

The uniformed officious official fined them $450,000.00 (for the group of 20!).

Other police officers at the Station said “ that is not an offence” to which the more senior replied “ I will do whatever the President tells me to do”!!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Queues everywhere

Outside every bank in town, there are long, winding queues of people trying to draw their months wages. At one point, I drive through past a fuel queue on one side, and a bank queue on the other. It felt like I was driving through a tunnel. I feel lucky, as I have money in my pocket and petrol in my car.

First meeting

Last night I went to an MDC rally. Late in the afternoon, I finally managed to persuade my friend to come with me. She had never been to a meeting before, and was scared of being targeted for attending one. At 4pm she was still ‘undecided’ but at 5.45pm, finally gave in. The meeting was due to start at 6pm. As we arrived, I could sense the tension she was feeling, but as the evening progressed she relaxed and it was not long before she was throwing her hands up and cheering along with the rest of us. The atmosphere was electric and the crowd were rearing to go! Nobody was afraid to wear their MDC t-shirts, hats and headbands that are usually not shown in public at all. There is a feeling of complete togetherness.

As we approached the gate to leave, my friend froze! There was a small group of people standing in the exit. She did not know what to do – I realised that she thought there was trouble ahead, and she did not want to go through the gate. I nudged past her and she followed me. There was no trouble. The group that had instantly intimidated her just by their presence, were the young people manning the gate. As we walking back to the car she said to me ‘people are no longer afraid, the MDC will win this time around, because the people are not afraid anymore!’ When I asked her to come with me to the next rally on Saturday she said ‘no way, that’s going to be a big one with Morgan, and there will be trouble’. It is hard to break the cycle of fear that is ingrained after five years of continuous intimidation!

Rally at Bulawayo Centenary Park

Last night I was at an MDC rally at the amphitheatre in Bulawayo’s Centenary Park, was brought close to tears, goosebumps abounding and the hair standing up on the back of my neck. Seeing the commitment and appreciating the loyalty, the infrastructural organization, the dedication and the outright bravery of those who attended and put the event together was more than inspiring.

"No card, no fuel"

Today I waited in a fuel queue for over an hour, when I finally got to the front of the queue I was asked to produce a Zanu PF card. I don't have one, and don't want to have one. They turned me away without fuel or even an apology they said "No card, no fuel" I can't believe that they can get away with this. I was not the only one it happened to, there are at least three of my friends I have spoken to who have gone through the same thing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

It feels like Elections, not Easter !

At this time of the year people are usually talking about the Easter break and going home to see their families. This year there is no Easter excitement. People do not have money for the transport home. Everybody is instead talking about the elections. Not who will win and who will lose, but how they are going to be rigged. Most of the people I have spoken to, say they are going to vote. They say they ‘have to try’. Not many are optimistic.

Keeping a low profile

My small, half-dozen, circle of (white) friends, is probably more apathetic about this election than the previous two. There is no inclination to get involved or make monetary contributions. They are keeping a very low profile. To a lesser extent this is true of me too. I still strongly question the wisdom of the MDC to have gone back on its intial boycott of the election, with the political playing field so uneven.

The same apathy can be said to prevail with the half-dozen workers I employ. The frank, open exchanges of the last two elections debating policies no longer takes place. We are all too scared lest there should be a Zanu PF sympathiser amongst us. They do however concede that the township violence and harassment of 2000 and 2002 is absent this time round.

Wanting to come home

I decided to blog under the pseudonym 'Cold Feet' because I'm always cold in this part of the world - even in so-called summer, because I feel like a coward for not being in my own country when everyone else is going through such a hard time, and because I'm nervous about even contributing to this blog!

It's funny: ZANU's whole campaign seems to be against Tony Blair. Apparently Blair is on a mission to re-colonise Zimbabwe. In the meanwhile, Mugabe's disastrous policies have made a huge number of us skip the country overseas just so we and our children can survive.

Someone needs to tell our government- it's one thing to be deliberately colonised by a country, but its completely and totally insane to hand all your skills and assets over to another country on a plate, for nothing!

Maybe if ZANU re-focused on things at home, and stopped making us all so scared for our futures, the millions of us out of the country would come back. And guess what...? We'd be working hard in Zimbabwe, and our taxes would be going to Zimbabwean schools, Zimbabwean children, Zimbabwean health care etc etc etc.

Testing the hypothesis

People are so screwed up by life in Zimbabwe in so many ways. I keep thinking of the frog in boiling water story, you know the one; if you put a frog into boiling water, it will try get out, but if you put it in cold water and then heat it slowly it will just get hotter and hotter until it dies. Or so I am told. As if anyone would actually test the hypothesis. But it's a good metaphor for Zimbabweans. Many of us here at home and not free in the Diaspora just don't realise what Mugabe's done to us and how he has impoverished our lives not only materially but also spiritually. The warmth and compassion we used to have for each other is almost non-existent. Intolerance and disrespect is the norm, irrespective of political orientation.
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Crocodiles move in as the tourists move on

The deserted Kingdom Hotel at Zimbabwe's most spectacular attraction
symbolises the crisis gripping the country

Jeevan Vasagar in Victoria Falls
Tuesday March 29, 2005
The Guardian

Synthesised pop bounces off the walls of the cavernous bar but only half a
dozen tourists are there, watching endless video replays of their whitewater
rafting adventures from earlier in the day.
At the casino, the roulette tables are deserted and a handful of bored
guests poke at the one-armed bandits in a hall designed to cater for several
hundred gamblers. The dramatic decline of Zimbabwe's tourism industry is
painfully apparent at the government-owned Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls,
opened by President Robert Mugabe in 1999.

Article continues



The Kingdom should be a monument to Las Vegas-style African kitsch; giant
tribal carvings greet visitors to the casino, while the sandstone summer
pavilions by the pool are crowned with elephant tusks.
But now the decorative moat which curves around the hotel walls is infested
with crocodiles, and its empty rooms illustrate how the country's
once-vibrant tourist trade has slumped.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of an economic crisis caused by years of misrule,
and accelerated by Mr Mugabe's violent and chaotic seizure of commercial
farms. This week's elections, beset by allegations of ballot rigging, is not
expected to bring any improvement.

The town of Victoria Falls came into being to serve the visitors who flocked
to see the spectacular cataract, known in the local Kololo language as
Mosi-oa-Tunya, or "the smoke that thunders" after the vast quantities of
spray thrown up as the Zambezi river plunges over 100 metres into a canyon.

The main street is lined with shops offering whitewater rafting and bungee
jumps, but tourists - dismayed by Zimbabwe's political violence - have
deserted it. "I felt a bit guilty about coming here," said one Irish
tourist, taking snapshots of the falls through a wall of spray. "I only came
up because I was in South Africa. But this is worth seeing, isn't it?"

There are still some visitors from overseas, but many of those coming to see
Victoria Falls these days are South Africans, reviled by the locals for
driving across the border in self-contained camper vans and spending little
money in the town's shops and restaurants. Instead, the majority of foreign
visitors are flocking to the town of Livingstone in Zambia, on the other
side of the falls.

Zimbabwe's revenues from tourism have fallen from $700m (£375m) in 1999, to
just $60m last year.

In a country with unemployment rates of more than 70%, the shortage of
visitors has led to desperate times. "It is hard," said a car rental manager
in Victoria Falls. "People stay away from Zimbabwe to punish Mugabe, but we
are the ones who suffer. The politicians still have their big houses and
their big cars, but here, we earn no money."

Though the views from the Zambian side are less spectacular, and the country
is less well equipped to cater for foreign guests, the number of tourists
visiting Zambia climbed to 610,000 last year, from 160,000 four years

Zambia's tourism minister, Patrick Kalfungwa, said last month that
Zimbabwe's crisis was a key factor in his country's success. "Livingstone is
a much smaller town and does not offer so many facilities as we do," the
manager at the car hire firm said. "But it is full of tourists. We have so
many big hotels and tour companies and we are empty."

Victoria Falls is not the only tourist attraction in a parlous state.
Managers of national parks struggle to pay staff salaries. Poaching is
endemic at reserves such as Matusadona, a stretch of wilderness on the
shores of Lake Kariba which is renowned for its black rhino, impala and

The state-run Zimbabwe Tourism Authority hopes to make up for the missing
American and European guests by luring greater numbers of visitors from
China, part of Mugabe's "Look East" policy of strengthening ties with the
country which once armed his guerilla movement during the struggle for black
majority rule. Last November, Air Zimbabwe launched a direct flight between
Harare and Beijing, and ordinary Zimbabweans have been encouraged to learn
Mandarin ahead of the expected influx. But aside from a handful of Japanese
tourists, there is little sign in Victoria Falls of a flood of Asian

"Mugabe tells us that Zimbabwe is going to make connections with China and
Japan instead of the UK and America, but what good is that for us?" the car
rental manager said. "Only American tourists spend a lot of money here. And
what about us Zimbabweans? We want to go to the west, not the east.

"The Japanese come here and they buy small things like key rings and small
carvings. They don't buy the huge carvings that cost a lot of money. Only
the Americans do that. They buy them and then ship them home." Although
tourism revenues from hotels such as The Kingdom go into government coffers,
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change does not want visitors to stay

Eddie Cross, a member of the MDC's national executive, said: "We don't
advocate sanctions of any kind. We would love to see the tourists come back.

"We have about 35,000 jobs in the industry, but there are at least a quarter
of a million people who make their livelihoods supplying tourists with
carvings, dancing, and entertainment."

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'Democracy will have to wait'

A divided Zanu-PF is expected to cling on to power in Thursday's poll

Tuesday March 29, 2005
The Guardian

Financial Times
Editorial, March 28
"Anybody looking to Thursday's parliamentary poll for a way out of
Zimbabwe's political impasse and economic disaster is likely to be
disappointed. The vote is widely expected to consolidate the hold of Robert
Mugabe's Zanu-PF. Even if the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) makes a decent showing, the wily Mr Mugabe may turn that to his
advantage and say it was given its chance ...

Article continues



"It is not Africa's only, or even worst, case of misrule. But it is today's
most egregious example of the collapse of governance. That others may have
worse conditions or more feeble institutions does not excuse Mr Mugabe, who
in the past five years has sacrificed the welfare and livelihoods of his
people to cling to power. The longer the status quo continues, the greater
the risk of violent upheaval."
Editorial, Zimbabwe, March 28

"Thursday's general election looks set to be the best organised, as well as
the most peaceful, in Zimbabwe's quarter-century of democracy ... We have
even seen people wearing opposition T-shirts turning up at a Zanu-PF rally,
and everyone keeping their cool. All candidates should continue to exhort
their supporters to retain this good-natured calm during and after polling,
whatever the result."

Basildon Peta
Mercury, South Africa, March 28

"Mr Mugabe has turned down the violence and intimidation considerably. Some
analysts believe it is a deliberate attempt to disarm the foreign election
observers. But others believe that Zanu-PF is so riven with internal
divisions that it simply cannot muster the same sort of campaign of brutal
persecution of the opposition which worked so well in the last elections.

"Either way, the easing of pressure is helping the MDC. But the critical
question is whether Mr Mugabe would allow the MDC to win - or would he
simply put more of an effort into rigging the election, as he is widely
believed to have done the last two times?"

Dumisani Muleya
Zimbabwe Independent, March 24

"Zanu-PF has all the advantages any party can wish for: a skewed playing
field tilted in its favour; a flawed electoral system that allows it to
control the electoral bodies; a poisoned political climate in which fear
rules the roost; a solid national structure; vast experience in politics and
the theft of votes; and huge state resources at its command.

"But its problems are equally numerous. The most debilitating one is that
the party is approaching a crucial election for the first time since 1980
deeply divided. The cleavages in Zanu-PF are gaping and many. The party's
policies are seen as unworkable and in some cases irrelevant. Zanu-PF also
appears clueless when it comes to looking for solutions and running a modern

Mail & Guardian
Editorial, South Africa, March 24

"The MDC will not be the only loser in this election; much else has been
lost. Zimbabwe has moved backwards since independence in 1980. Once the
region's bread basket and a shining example of all post-independence Africa
could be, it has failed to sustain both a viable economy and a democratic
order. Zimbabweans are starving, and hunger - belatedly acknowledged to
exist by Mr Mugabe - has become the election's dominant motif. The country's
brightest have left, again negating a key post-independence gain."

Globe and Mail
Editorial, Canada, March 28

"Unfortunately, one of the few world leaders who carries some influence over
Mr Mugabe, the South African president, Thabo Mbeki ... believes the
election will be a fair one, and his country is providing the only
significant contingent of election observers to rubber-stamp it. The only
hope is that the South African observers will take their job seriously, or
that Mr Mbeki will decide to lean on his friend Mr Mugabe to allow a clean

"That seems unlikely. Zimbabwe's citizens may be left with only two choices
to gain democratic rule: seize it through a popular uprising, as in Ukraine,
or wait for Mr Mugabe's inevitable death."

Barney Mthombothi
Financial Mail, South Africa, March 25

"Zimbabwe is our albatross. It is our backyard. It is the prism through
which we're viewed or judged by the international community. Our support for
Mr Mugabe - that's what quiet diplomacy is in a nutshell - has eroded our
credibility ... The elections are a non-event. They solve nothing. Democracy
will have to await the departure of Mr Mugabe and his friends. Only then can
the job of sorting the mess begin. It's going to be a long haul."

Sunday Mirror
Editorial, Zimbabwe, March 27

"Ordinary Zimbabweans ... want food on their tables. They want clean and
safe drinking water. They want to be able to afford basic commodities and
still have some change in their pockets. They want reliable transport,
houses, constant and reliable water and electricity supplies, and so on. In
short, Zimbabweans want a Zimbabwe that works. Those who will make it after
March 31 should ensure that they do not come short of this expectation."
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Jamaica Observer

      American professor critical of Mugabe's transformation methods

      BASIL WALTERS, Observer staff reporter
      Tuesday, March 29, 2005

BLACK nationalist and author Horace Campbell has raised new questions about
liberation in the 21st century as well as the so called transformation of
Zimbabwe under the watch of president Robert Mugabe, whose methods he has

Professor Campbell, speaking at the launch of his new book Reclaiming
Zimbabwe, said it was not enough to speak of liberation only in terms of
armed struggle.

"The land went from the white farmers who exploited Africa to black farmers
who exploited Africans," said Campbell, professor of African American
Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in New York, addressing
the vexed issue of land ownership in Zimbabwe.

The book was launched at the Senate Undercroft on the Mona campus of the
University of the West Indies.
"So the question I'm raising in this book, is this leading to transformation
in Africa. And I answer the question for myself to say no."

His views, he said, are shared by others closer to Zimbabwe, geographically.

"I'm not alone, because the Congress of South Africa's Trade Unions is among
those who are raising fundamental questions about what's happening to the
working people in Zimbabwe today," said Campbell, a Jamaican and past
student of Cornwall College.

The professor argued that the patriarchal anxiety of African men -
especially among those who went to school and who were educated in the
British colonial traditions and internalised British colonial ideas - was a
significant part of the problem.

The rise of the middle class, he said, giving a synopsis of his book,
included those Africans who were struggling for independence and wanted
equal rights for civilised men.

And it was those men, he added, who came to power in Zimbabwe, but who now
see themselves as being more civilise than the other Africans.

"This conception of civilised men ... led to what is called the integration
of the colonial state apparatus in Zimbabwe," he said.

"This integration in the colonial state apparatus meant that institutions
such as the university, the civil service, the army, the police, were

Campbell argued that because the Zimbabwean elite inherited an economy that
was very strong, and an infrastructure that was developed by white settlers,
they could postpone the issue of how to transform the economy.
For 20 years, he said, the important issue was ownership of the land by
white people, and it became a matter of importance that the land be taken

"Last year the Zimbabwean government had its own commission of enquiry into
the land transformation process.
And it was found that two per cent of the land that was taken over went to
the farm workers on the land - that is, the people who farmed the land, who
worked the land and lived in conditions where they were exploited by the
white farmers," said the academic.

Campbell argues in his book that persons must have the moral courage to
oppose violence and genocide even when it is carried out in the name of

"We cannot oppose armed intervention by imperialists as we have in Iraq when
we ourselves support other kinds of violence," he said.

"It is the establishment of death tendencies all over the world that we must
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Cape Times

      Intimidation in Zimbabwe continuing, says MDC

      Incidents isolated, says SADC
      March 29, 2005

      By Moshoeshoe Monare

      Harare: With two days to go to Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections,
ruling party supporters continue to be accused of violence and intimidation,
but observer missions say the incidents have been isolated.

      The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a South
African parliamentary observer, Roy Jankielsohn, have said there are
vestiges of violence in parts of the country.

      "We continue to receive reports of chiefs, headmen, kraal heads and
police officers intimidating MDC officials, candidates and supporters," MDC
spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said.

      He cited six incidents in the past seven days in which chiefs
allegedly threatened to evict and withhold agricultural support from MDC
voters. Traditional leaders continued to be used "by the Zanu-PF in its
desire to steal the election".

      "Vice-President (Joyce) Mujuru has publicly announced at Zanu-PF
rallies that chiefs and kraal heads should shepherd their subjects to
polling stations," said Nyathi.

      He claimed police continued to intimidate the MDC by demanding its
candidates seek letters of permission before they could address rallies.

      Zanu-PF's secretary for publicity, Nathan Shamuyarira, and government
spokesman George Charamba were not available for comment.

      Jankielsohn, a DA member of the South African parliamentary observer
team, said violent political repression in Zimbabwe had gone underground.

      "During my 10 days in Zimbabwe I have heard the experiences of many
ordinary people about violence inflicted on them by Zanu-PF supporters," he

      "But it is no longer as blatant as it was, although there is evidence
that it is continuing.

      "Intimidation and lack of free media were "factors that cannot not be
ignored by observers".

      Luphumzo Kebeni, spokes-person for the parliamentary mission,
dismissed Jankielsohn's claims as "mischievous".

      "There are no major incidents of violence reported, the situation as
very calm," Kebeni said.

      The Southern African Development Community's observer mission said it
had received reports of intimidation, but as there was no concrete evidence,
"we view them as isolated incidents".

      Ngoako Ramathlodi, deputy leader of the South African government
observer mission, said: "We don't want to comment on specifics. Overall, the
situation is calm and peaceful."- Foreign Service

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      Testing times

      In the latest in our series on people's daily lives, Tendai (not his
real name), an unemployed farm worker in Zimbabwe, talks about how he's
making ends meet and why he's remains a government supporter.
      I lost my job during the government's land redistribution programme
and I have lost the house I had built on the farm where I worked.

      It has been a very difficult few years for me and my family, but in
the coming elections I will still be voting for the ruling Zanu-PF party.

      I have moved to the capital, Harare, with my sons and my wife stays in
out in a rural area, with my other relatives.
      I do not agree with the way the government took the land from the
commercial farmers.

      It is now in the hands of people who do not have the knowledge to farm
properly and their crops are failing.

      But I do not think it was intended to happen this way.

Money earner

With the severance pay I received when I left the farm I have bought a mini
bus to run as a commuter omnibus.
I had to completely overhaul it to get its road worthiness certificate - it
took more than 10 times to pass the test.

But I am hoping it will be worth the money and help me earn a living. It
seats between 10 to 14 passengers, who pay $2,000 Zimbabwean dollars (30 US
cents) for a journey.


But I will always be a farmer, it is in my blood.
After the elections, I am hoping the government will re-evaluate the

Maybe I will be able to apply for some land then, as I have been farming for
years and I understand the land.

Feeding the family

I still grow some maize on a small plot of land at my rural home.
It is enough to feed my family around the year.

We mill the maize to make sadza, a maize porridge, which we eat every day.

When we are in town, it is my sons who do the cooking.

Bending rules

I sell any surplus maize on the black market, where there is a better return
than selling it to the state-run Grain Marketing Board in return for seeds
and fertiliser.
When driving the maize to Harare, I have to be careful to avoid police road
blocks because if they catch you with more than three bags of maize, it will
be confiscated.

It is sometimes necessary to bend the rules to make money.


I am proud of what we have achieved so far.
Despite the hardships, my sons and I have finished building our house in

And with a solar panel and battery we are able to run our television and

'Don't leave'

But thousands of young people are leaving Zimbabwe because they can not find
One of my children has gone to work in South Africa, but I do not want any
of the others to go away.

I tell them they must believe in Zimbabwe's future.

Although none of my sons have jobs, together we run the bus and sell the
maize, so I am passing my knowledge on to them.

African respect

I encourage them to read their lessons from the Bible, for that will give
them the strength to continue.
And I tell them stories about how I fought in the liberation struggle. I
feel the young have forgotten how Zanu-PF brought us our freedom.

I teach them that in African culture, we respect our elders.

For this reason, I explain, I could never support the opposition for I
remember what our president has won for us, even if I don't agree with
everything he's done since.
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Pretoria News

      A vital week for our neighbour
      March 29, 2005

      By Philani Mgwaba

      The election in Zimbabwe this week goes far beyond questions of that
country's democracy: it goes to the well-being of the sub-continent and,
most pertinently, to the future of our own South Africa.

      How have things been allowed to reach the stage where a neighbour once
admired as a bread-basket has become instead a basket-case?

      One school of thought suggests it has to do with the fact that Robert
Mugabe is the last remaining regional leader to have received control of his
country from the colonial power, and that - as such - he is too greatly
revered by fellow African leaders for them ever to think of blemishing his

      In other words, with or without policies that involve not mere
idiosyncrasy but also human rights abuses and national economic disaster, he
is uniquely untouchable by his nephews (we cannot say "brothers" because
Mandela, Kaunda, Machel and even Nujoma have moved on).

      Perhaps - indeed, almost certainly - Mugabe will be returned to power
again this week. We, as outsiders, will not presume to tell the people of
our neighbouring country how they should vote.

      But we know that a great many of them will be voting for Mugabe's
party out of fear and/or hunger, if they are allowed to vote at all.

      We have noted the plea by Zimbabwe's Catholic Archbishop (isn't it
amazing how turbulent priests tend to emerge from time to time?) for a
peaceful popular uprising with echoes of both Gandhi and the Ukraine.

      Whatever happens, we do hope that violence does not supervene. Above
all, we wish the people of Zimbabwe well - for our sake as well as theirs.
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Financial Times

Mugabe's poll campaign really is the pits for the British PM
By John Reed in Chivhu, Zimbabwe
Published: March 29 2005 03:00 | Last updated: March 29 2005 03:00

"The only Blair I know is a toilet," an upbeat song played on Zimbabwe's
state TV and radio declares.

Blair Toilets are pit latrines pioneered for use in Zimbabwean rural areas
two decades ago, and later deployed around Africa.

They have now found a new use, as a central campaign plank of President
Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, which is seeking re-election in Thursday's
parliamentary ballot - largely by running against Tony Blair, the prime

Zanu-PF's anti-Blair campaign seeks to portray Mr Mugabe's opponent, Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, asapuppet of

The 81-year-old Zimbabwean leader, who took power 25 years ago, is also
apparently looking to rekindle fading memories of his country's struggle
against white rule.

At aZanu-PF campaign rally yesterday in Chivhu, about 150km south of Harare,
Mr Mugabe took the stage in a shirt emblazoned with his own image, to chants
of "Down with Blair", "Down with Bush, down with Tsvangirai". One Zanu-PF
supporter hoisted a sign reading: "Wake up Tony: Zimbabwe is our

After greeting supporters with a clenched fist, Mr Mugabe said Zimbabwe was
willing to work with other countries but "on equal terms" and not if "you
must first kneel down and say 'Our Father, Mr Blair'."

The MDC, which has been running a spirited and well-organised campaign on
promises to fix Zimbabwe's depressed economy and end its international
isolation, accuses Zanu-PF of changing the subject.

"When Mugabe talks about Bush, we have to ask him, 'Where are the jobs for
our children?' " Mr Tsvangirai told a crowd at a rally in Bulawayo at the
weekend. "When Mugabe talks about Blair, we must ask him, 'What are we going
to eat?'"

Zanu-PF has countered with appeals to patriotic sentiment. "We don't worry
about other people's internal affairs," Mr Mugabe said yesterday, in
reference to foreign expressions of concern that the March 31 vote will not
be free or fair.

"We don't worry about their governments, the irregularities in their
elections. We will resist any interference from any quarter."

It is unclear how well Zanu-PF's strategy is working. The party drew a crowd
of fewer than 5,000 people in Chivhu yesterday, a city in Zimbabwe's rural
heartland, where the party gets most of its support.

The MDC, running under the slogan "A New Zimbabwe, a New Beginning," has
drawn crowds of about 20,000 at its rallies in recent days.

What Zanu-PF lacks in numbers, it may make up in fervour. One Zanu-PF
supporter offered an impassioned defence of the anti-Blair campaign,
claiming that Britain and America "want our minerals, our land".

"I've been to Britain: people there live in little flats; here they can have
houses with big yards," said Herbert Chankie, a 47-year old businessman and
farmer. "They want to come here, they want the land back and to destabilise
the country as well."
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The Star

      Opposition accuses Zanu-PF of ploy to disenfranchise teachers
      March 29, 2005

      By Moshoeshoe Monare

      The Movement for Democratic Change claims that more than 50 000
teachers will not be able to vote because they will be working as electoral
officers away from their voting stations.

      The MDC said yesterday this was a ploy by the ruling Zanu-PF to
disenfranchise teachers.

      "This vindicates our position that the regime had not made adequate
preparations to ensure a free and fair election - a position which the
regime has always denied," said the MDC.

      "The teachers should have been deployed within the constituencies in
which they are registered to vote, or they should also have been accorded
the opportunity to cast their vote using postal ballots, as has been done
with members of the uniformed forces ."

      The MDC has also accused Zanu-PF of covert violence and intimidation
against its supporters and candidates, while observer missions described the
incidents as isolated.

      "We continue to receive reports that chiefs, headmen and police
officers are continuing to intimidate MDC officials, candidates and
supporters," said MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi.

      He cited six incidents in the past week, that he described as
intimidation, where chiefs allegedly threatened to evict and withhold
agricultural support from MDC voters.

      Nyathi said chiefs, kraal heads and other traditional leaders continue
to be used by Zanu-PF "in its desire to steal the election".

      Zanu-PF's secretary for publicity Nathan Shamuyarira, government
spokesperson George Charamba and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission could not
be reached for comment.

      Roy Jankielsohn, a Democratic Alliance member who is on the South
African observer team, also said violent political repression in Zimbabwe
had gone underground.

      "During my 10 days in Zimbabwe I have heard the experiences of many
ordinary people about violence inflicted on them by supporters of President

      "Yet the violence is no longer as blatant as it once was, although
there is evidence that it is still continuing.

      "Clearly, Mugabe is making an effort to make it easier for his small
band of international friends to claim that the parliamentary elections have
at least a measure of freedom and fairness," Jankielsohn added.

      He said intimidation and lack of free media were "factors that cannot
be ignored by observers in Zimbabwe when they come to judge these

      Luphumzo Kebeni, spokesperson for the parliamentary observer mission,
dismissed Jankielsohn's claims as "mischievous" and said observers were
representatives of parliament and not their respective parties.

      "The only person who can issue a statement is Mbulelo Goniwe, (the
mission leader). There are no major incidents of violence reported," said
Kebeni. - Independent Foreign Service.

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National Business Review, New Zealand

Zimbabwe election: Options running out for peaceful resolution
Pavel Molchanov

Southern Africa is a region that New Zealand knows well, with Wellington
historically having taken a more vocal stance towards democracy and freedom
there than almost any country of a comparable size.

New Zealand governments were active in the anti-apartheid movement and took
a particularly prominent role in pushing for Namibia's independence from
South Africa. In 1979-80, then-Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon joined his
Australian counterpart, Malcolm Fraser, to insist on negotiations for ending
Zimbabwe's civil war.

In recent years, southern Africa has gradually left its formerly prominent
role on the world stage, a tribute in large part to the stability that
characterizes virtually all countries there. All, in fact, except one.

The situation in Zimbabwe is such that the country went from Africa's
breadbasket and a model of post-colonial development to the world's most
rapidly shrinking economy and an Orwellian pariah state, in a span of less
than a decade. Between the late 1990s and today, Zimbabwe's economic and
political order has vastly deteriorated, possibly to the point of no return.
The parliamentary elections set for March 31 are unlikely to provide a
resolution; if anything, they will punctuate just how dire things are.

That the policies of President Robert Mugabe's increasingly repressive
regime are the principal cause behind the present crisis is hard to dispute.
Within the international community, including countries that strongly
supported his government after independence in 1980, Mr Mugabe has very few
friends left. The United States and European Union have imposed travel
sanctions on him and his associates. The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe's
membership in 2002 - guided, ironically, by the Harare declaration on
democratic principles - and soon thereafter Mr Mugabe decided to quit the
group. During the Commonwealth discussions on the issue, Prime Minister
Helen Clark was among those most vigorously arguing for suspension.

Resolutions of protest and condemnation are all well and good, but Mr Mugabe
can live without excursions to Paris and Milan. He is also unlikely to worry
about not getting an invitation from Don McKinnon at Marlborough House. In
short, none of the world's major powers are in a position to apply
substantive pressure on Mr Mugabe's regime. But South Africa is.

As the undisputed leader in the region, South Africa has the ability to
catalyze real change in Zimbabwe. Pretoria's political gravitas and respect
on the world stage give it the wherewithal to forcefully deal with Harare.
Furthermore, South Africa's role as the regional economic heavyweight - and
a key supplier of fuel and other aid to Zimbabwe's collapsing economy -
provides an extra source of leverage.

Unfortunately, South Africa's current policy on Zimbabwe is precisely the
opposite of what might have been expected from the regional powerbroker. In
fact, it can be best described by only one word: Silence.

The position of the South African government is that "constructive
engagement" represents the optimal model for dealing with Mr Mugabe.
Initially, this was a sensible strategy, since the first resort should
always be to diplomacy. Five years ago, few would have disagreed with
President Thabo Mbeki on this point.

Today, however, it is increasingly obvious that Mr Mbeki's "quiet
 diplomacy," however well-intentioned, is as ineffectual as the United
Nations resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa throughout the
1970s and 1980s. In fact, in those days it was Mr Mbeki's own African
National Congress that - quite appropriately - insisted that Western
governments back their words with actions, including trade and financial
sanctions on South Africa. For example, on May 21, 1981, in Paris, the late
ANC President Oliver Tambo called sanctions "an important complement" to the
domestic struggle for freedom and said that such measures were essential for
"denying the regime the means through which it can sustain and perpetuate
itself." Rather than rejecting foreign involvement, like the ANC does today
in relation to Zimbabwe, he welcomed it.

Both the ANC and Mr Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF, played key roles in
establishing democracy in their respective countries, so it is
understandable that the ANC leadership is not inclined to publicly heap
opprobrium on their former ally. However, even within Mr Mbeki's ruling
coalition, there are already voices of dissent. In January, a South African
trade union delegation, with the ANC's backing, attempted a fact-finding
mission to Zimbabwe. The group was turned away at the Harare airport.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also been vocal in criticizing Mr Mugabe.

Furthermore, within southern Africa, Mr Mugabe hardly enjoys universal
support. Zambia's former President Kenneth Kaunda and Botswana's current
President Festus Mogae have both spoken out against Zimbabwe's oppressive
and undemocratic policies.

When it comes to Zimbabwe, South Africa is in a difficult position. Mr Mbeki
may feel that if he breaks with Mr Mugabe, he will lose whatever influence
he currently has in Harare. There is some truth to that, but it is at least
equally true that only an unequivocal statement from Pretoria would make a
real difference at this point. This does not mean that Mr Mbeki needs to
back sanctions. He could start by insisting that Zimbabwe follow
international norms in its upcoming elections, including the admission of
independent observers - and not just those who are to Mr Mugabe's liking.

The options for a peaceful resolution of Zimbabwe's crisis are narrowing
quickly. If Mr Mbeki wishes to play the role of honest broker, the time to
act is now.

Pavel Molchanov is a financial analyst in Texas. Email:
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Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe

Mauritius Watch
Issue 22: 28 March 2005

On 17 August 2004, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders meeting in Mauritius adopted the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. Zimbabwe, as a member of SADC, also signed the Declaration and committed itself to implementing the standards. The Mugabe regime claims that it is compliant with these standards and thereby invites a comparison between its own electoral and security legislation and its actions on the one hand, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines on the other.

For 22 weeks now “Mauritius Watch” has tracked the performance of the Mugabe regime, providing an objective and non-partisan assessment of its compliance with these principles and guidelines. Week by week in the run-up to the 2005 Parliamentary Elections, we have chronicled the regime’s more blatant breaches of the SADC standards. Over this period a very clear picture has emerged, on which we have commented from time to time.

What do the various electoral observers and analysts have to say about the process which is due to be completed with the national poll, just days away now? We will be bringing you a summary of the findings of the different monitoring groups, human rights, labour, civic and church groups in a Special Edition of Mauritius Watch which we intend to publish on the eve of the elections.

For our part we are persuaded by the overwhelming weight of evidence, carefully assessed over a period in excess of six months, that the elections are deeply flawed, in no way satisfy the SADC principles and guidelines, and cannot possibly be considered “free and fair”.

Our views are best summarised by the words of Elinor Sisulu in a recent article she contributed to the Sunday Times (the full text of which is given below). Ms Sisulu said:

“If awards were given out for successfully rigged elections Zimbabwe would rank among the leading nations in the world. The Zimbabwe government has become a past master of cynically manipulating elections to ensure victory for the ruling party, ZANU-PF”

Villagers in the rural constituency of Insiza have denounced the government and the ruling ZANU-PF party for denying them food in order to force them to vote for the ruling party in next week’s parliamentary election. Reports of the most blatant votes-for-food electioneering by ZANU-PF come in the wake of Robert Mugabe’s assurances that no Zimbabweans would starve. The regime which all along claimed it had registered a bumper harvest last year, now admits there is a serious food shortage.

According to villagers who were interviewed last week, ZANU-PF district structures operating under the party’s candidate for the area, Andrew Langa, have given them two choices for their survival. They must either vote for ZANU-PF and get food relief or support the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and go without food … Most of the villagers interviewed said they would rather die of hunger than back ZANU-PF, a party they have never supported in their lives.

(Comments from the villagers are reported in the article which appeared on the Daily News Online Edition: 24.03.05)

· Note: The Solidarity Peace Trust report of November 2004 estimates that a minimum of 300 000 Zimbabweans – 1 in 40 – have been beaten, tortured or denied food since 2000. Foodnet, an international organisation, estimates that over 5 million people, almost half the population, are verging on starvation.

SADC standards breached

The March 31 election has been plunged into fresh controversy that threatens to undermine its credibility totally, with the revelation that the uniformed forces, seen as sympathetic to ZANU-PF, have already cast their ballots. Although the Electoral Act allows members of the armed forces to vote ahead of time, opposition groups are deeply suspicious about the covert way in which the exercise was undertaken, and the lack of any independent monitoring.

The announcement by Justice George Chiweshe, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), that the ballots were sealed on March 18, 13 days before voting day, was met with surprise and outrage by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Chiweshe refused to disclose the number of votes cast or the constituencies in which they were cast – information which is considered essential to prevent major fraud by this means.

MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi protested about the lack of consultation with his party and expressed concern about the neutrality of the senior army officers involved in the process. Analysts also expressed concern about the fact that the ballots had been sealed ahead of the training of presiding officers and polling officers.

(Reported in News 24 (SA): 24.03.05)

· Note: Senior officials of the uniformed forces, who have been given commercial farms, luxury vehicles and other benefits by the Mugabe regime, have openly stated in the past that they would never recognize an MDC-led government.

SADC standards breached

Junior police officers in the opposition-supporting Matabeleland region, who voted last week by postal ballot, were ordered to sing the national anthem first before voting and to place their ballot papers in envelopes bearing their names. They were also harangued by senior officers into voting for ZANU-PF.

Hundreds of police officers interviewed told of how they were called out to station parade squares and addressed by senior commanders who reminded them they should vote to defend Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and not sell the gains of independence back to British Prime Minister, Tony Blair – standard ZANU-PF campaigning rhetoric.

Opposition MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi said that his party would definitely be challenging this kind of postal ballot “because not all political parties were represented there to see to it that the system is fair.”

(Reported in Zim Online: 26.03.05)


With parliamentary elections only days away, Zimbabwe’s electoral authorities have come under fire for practices which the opposition and an observer group have pointed out could be used to rig the ballot. They cited as reasons for concern unmonitored voting by soldiers (referred to above), the influence of traditional chiefs on voting and the fact that voters were still being registered, although voter registration officially ended on February 4 (story below).

In the first indication of criticism by official observers, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of an observer delegation from SADC, said she was “not satisfied with the explanation of the authorities about constant complaints that ZANU-PF had ensured that traditional chiefs would control voting queues at polling stations to ensure people voted for ZANU-PF.”

The Zimbabwe Support Election Network (ZSEN) a private voluntary organisation, last week published a list of 25 polling stations which it said were situated at the homes of chiefs and in military bases.

(See the full report in News 24 (SA): 24.03.05)
(Also reported in Zim Online: 24.03.05)

· Note: Traditional chiefs are allocated 10 of the 30 parliamentary seats appointed directly by Mugabe. Last year, the government increased the monthly allowances of chiefs countrywide from $500 000 to a non-taxable $1 million. More than 50 percent of the chiefs have so far benefited under a heavily subsidized vehicle scheme similar to that accorded to parliamentarians.

· The subsidies are fuelled by money from peasants fined for numerous offences over which chiefs now enjoy jurisdiction. Most of the chiefs have also had their homesteads electrified and boreholes sunk to make them as amenable to ZANU- PF’s whims as possible. (See full reports in the Herald of 1.2.05 and in the Zimbabwe Independent of 7.9.05)

SADC standards breached


The Registrar-General’s office is still registering voters more than a month after the closure of the current registration exercise and only days before the elections. It is reported that the registration process is in full swing in some areas, especially in Norton, where people are being bussed in from informal settlements such as Tongagara on the outskirts of Harare.

Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede admitted that voters were still being registered, though he claimed that those registered after the February 4 deadline would not be permitted to vote in this parliamentary election. He did not say how their right to vote would be distinguished from the rights of others registered before February 4. Harare Central independent candidate Margaret Dongo, claims that those being registered after the deadline will have their names included in the supplementary voters’ roll which is yet to be made public. She alleges that Mudede deliberately delayed issuing the supplementary roll to accommodate these new voters.

The Zimbabwe Independent also cites evidence that only confirmed ZANU-PF supporters are being allowed to register late.

(See the full report in The Zimbabwe Independent: 24.03.05)

· Note: On February 24, suspected ruling ZANU-PF party militants waylaid and severely beat up an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party campaign team at Norton. The town falls under the Manyame constituency in which Robert Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwawo, is standing against the MDC’s Hilda Mafudze in the March poll.
SADC standards breached


In a move that has raised further serious doubts about the neutrality of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), set up recently by the Mugabe regime to oversee the forthcoming parliamentary election, the commission has appealed to the Supreme Court against a decision of the Electoral Court to allow jailed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Roy Bennett to contest the poll.

The electoral court, whose verdict is intended to be final and not subject to appeal, last week overturned a decision by Nomination Court officials to bar Bennett from contesting because he is in prison. Bennett, one of the MDC’s most popular MPs, was jailed by parliament last year after the ruling ZANU-PF party used its majority to vote for him to be sent to prison for 12 months for pushing Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa to the floor when the latter had taunted him severely in the House.

Electoral Court judge Tendai Uchena however over-ruled the Nomination Court officials. He nullified the ban on Bennett and postponed polling in his Chimanimani constituency from March 31 to April 30 to allow the opposition candidate time to campaign. The judge’s ruling angered Robert Mugabe who attacked it in public, saying it was unacceptable.

The latest move of the ZEC to appeal Justice Uchena’s judgment to the Supreme Court is by inference an endorsement of Mugabe’s view. MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi questioned the ZEC’s wisdom and said it put the commission’s neutrality in question.

(Report in Zim Online: 24.03.05)

· Note: The members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Electoral Supervisory Commission, the Delimitation Commission and the Registrar General of Voters have all been handpicked by Mugabe.

SADC standards breached


As ZANU-PF becomes increasingly embarrassed by the poor turnout of voters at its rallies, the party has resorted to filling the large gaps with docile school children who are in no position to protest their exploitation.

In what has now become a feature of Robert Mugabe’s own campaign rallies, again and again innocent children are made to sit in the baking sun for hours on end, awaiting the arrival of the “royal” motorcade. In one instance children at Tafara High School were huddled together like sheep in the open ground and made to wait in excess of five hours, to ensure there was a respectable number gathered when the aging leader appeared. The youth militia or “Green Bombers” were used to marshal the school children and keep them from complaining.

One parent, Aaron Mpofu, whose son attends the primary school in Tafara, complained bitterly over the use of children in political campaigns.

“Our children went to school at 8.00 am,” he said, “and were not allowed to leave the school grounds by the militia manning the gates. They spent the whole day hungry but the president only came after 3.00 pm. This is not fair at all.”

More than 300 kilometres east of the capital, in Chimanimani, hundreds of schoolchildren were forced to walk a gruelling five- kilometre journey to Gaza Stadium, the venue of another of Mugabe’s rallies last week.

University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku, said the practice amounted to abuse of children.

(Reported in Zim Online: 24.03.05)

SADC standards breached

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

If awards were given out for successfully rigged elections, Zimbabwe would rank among the leading nations in the world. The Zimbabwean government has become a past master at cynically manipulating elections to ensure victory for the ruling party, ZANU-PF.

Since the parliamentary elections in 2000, Zimbabweans have endured nine by-elections and the presidential elections in 2002. All these polls have been characterised by intimidation of voters through a ruthless propaganda campaign that legitimises violence against members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)…

If anything, the electoral environment has, in many ways, deteriorated since 2002 with the enactment of legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act. These pieces of legislation combine to deny the Zimbabwean electorate the basic freedoms of assembly, speech and association.

Furthermore, the independence of the judiciary has been severely compromised as a result of state harassment. The voters’ roll is fundamentally flawed, constituencies have been demarcated to favour the ruling party, there is absolutely no voter education and, while levels of violence may be lower than they were in the run-up to previous elections, members of the opposition party continue to suffer harassment and physical abuse.

One of the main components of the Mugabe regime’s elaborate election manipulation process has been the massive disenfranchisement of citizens…. In the past five years millions of Zimbabweans have been compelled by circumstances - political repression, fear of violence or the collapsing economy - to migrate to other countries… and are denied the right to vote*..

Sadly, and this has been the case since 2002, the governments of the region have provided the Mugabe regime with their unqualified support in the run-up to the March 2005 election.

President Thabo Mbeki and various senior members of the South African government have recently proclaimed that there is no reason to believe that the Zimbabwean elections will not be free and fair.

All indications are that the South African observer missions will once again go to Zimbabwe and make a judgment based on a deep sense of solidarity with the Zimbabwean government rather than on anything they may witness on the ground. The outlook is indeed bleak.

(Reported in the Sunday Times 20.03.05)

SOKWANELE has produced a detailed analysis of the Zimbabwean statutes that are in breach of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the policy breaches by the ZANU-PF government.

Entitled "ZIMBABWE ELECTORAL LEGISLATION : SADC CHECK LIST", the document can be seen on our website at

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