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Vote counting begins in Zimbabwe


Sunday, 30 March 2008, 00:16 GMT

Vote counting has started in Zimbabwe after an election that will
decide whether President Robert Mugabe wins a sixth term in office.

His rivals are Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition MDC party and
former finance minister and independent Simba Makoni.

Many voters have complained of not being allowed to cast their

The MDC fears the poll will be rigged but Mr Mugabe dismissed such
concerns as he cast his vote in Harare, saying "We don't rig elections".

On Saturday, Zimbabweans voted in local, senate, assembly and
presidential polls.

The process was unusually complicated, and it is likely to be a day or
two at least before all the results are declared, says the BBC's Southern
Africa correspondent Peter Biles.

He says Mr Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party will be relying on
support from voters in the countryside, while the MDC (Movement for
Democratic Change) is strongest in the cities.

But in recent days it has become increasingly difficult to predict the
outcome of the poll, our correspondent adds.

'Ghost voters'

Polling stations in Zimbabwe opened at 0500 GMT and were scheduled to
close at 1700 GMT, but people still queuing were allowed to vote later than

Across the country, there were reports of voters not being allowed to
cast ballots - either because their names were not on the voters' roll or
because they were trying to vote in the wrong ward.

One UK resident said his sister was "disappointed and distressed" to
be turned away "even though when she checked a couple of weeks ago she was
on the [register]".

Others found the system fair and efficient. Sandra, 23, told the BBC
by phone from Bulawayo: "There is a long queue behind me but it is moving.
People around me are quiet and are waiting patiently to cast their vote."

Correspondents say opposition members are concerned that many voters
feared intimidation and stayed at home.

A presidential decree ahead of the elections had permitted police to
go into polling stations, ostensibly to help illiterate voters.

The MDC said some of its party agents were prevented from entering
polling stations.

Pan-African Parliament observers have now reportedly written to the
electoral commission, saying that more than 8,450 voters had been registered
on a patch of deserted land in Harare.

But an African Union observer, Yvonne Khamati, told Kenyan TV:
"Everything seems regular and people are coming out to vote. There is no
sign of the military or police."

Voting passed off largely peacefully although a petrol bomb injured a
Zanu-PF party's councillor in the city of Bulawayo.

'We will succeed'

Voting in Harare, Mr Makoni said he was confident of victory: "I feel
good, I voted for the best candidate, I voted for Simba Makoni."

President Mugabe, in power since 1980, also predicted that he would
win: "This time around, like the last time, very good... we will succeed and
we will conquer."

He added: "I cannot sleep with my conscience if I have rigged."

Mr Tsvangirai also said he expected to win.

"Victory is assured in spite of the regime's attempt to subvert the
will of the people," he said.

Police warning

On the eve of the polls, President Mugabe accused the MDC of being "a
puppet" of the former colonial power Britain.

The MDC says it is fighting to save Zimbabwe's economy.

The country has the world's highest inflation rate, at more than
100,000%, and just one adult in five is believed to have a regular job.

The chiefs of Zimbabwe's police, army prison service and intelligence
services warned on Friday that violence after the polls would not be

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Zimbabwe's opposition claims win on early results


Sun 30 Mar 2008, 3:26 GMT

(Recasts with opposition victory claim based on early results)

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE, March 30 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition claimed victory on Sunday
based on early results from an election in which it is trying to unseat
President Robert Mugabe after 28 years of power and end an economic

"It's a historic moment for all of us. We have won this election, we have
won this election," Tendai Biti, secretary general of the main opposition
Movemement for Democratic Change (MDC), told reporters, diplomats and
observers at a briefing.

The opposition, headed by former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai, has
accused 84-year-old Mugabe of employing election-rigging tactics in an
attempt to stay in power and African observers say they detected fraud in
Saturday's ballot.

Once-prosperous Zimbabwe is suffering from the world's highest inflation
rate of more than 100,000 percent, chronic shortages of food and fuel and a
rampant HIV/AIDS epidemic that has contributed to a steep decline in life

"People are dying in hospitals and funeral expenses are very high. How do
you expect us to survive? Shop shelves are empty," said mother-of-three
Gertrude Muzanenhamo, 36, echoing the views of many voters interviewed by

Mugabe, who accuses the West of sabotaging Zimbabwe's economy, expressed
confidence on Saturday he would be returned to office. "We will succeed. We
will conquer," he said.

The former guerrilla leader, in power since independence from Britain in
1980, rejected the vote-rigging allegations.

Biti said the MDC's election agents had reported that early results posted
at polling stations showed Tsvangirai was projected to win 66 percent of the
vote in the capital Harare, an opposition stronghold.


He said Tsvangirai had made significant inroads in Mugabe's rural
strongholds by leading in the southern province of Masvingo and Mashonaland
Central Province, north of Harare, where the MDC has not won a parliamentary
seat since 2000.

Tsvangirai's winning trend had also extended to Mugabe's home province of
Mashonaland West, where the MDC had taken a rural parliamentary seat, said

He said that in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo, another opposition power
base, Tsvangirai had a slight edge over former Finance Minister and ruling
ZANU-PF official Simba Makoni -- also standing against Mugabe.

But Makoni, whose decision to run was seen by many analysts as a sign of
increasing unease in ZANU-PF ranks, was leading in Zimbabwe's southwestern
Matabeleland South Province.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it would start to announce official
results later on Sunday. Final results are not expected for several days
from the presidential, parliamentary and local polls.

Observers from the Pan-African parliament said in a letter to the commission
they had found more than 8,000 non-existent voters registered on empty land
in a Harare constituency.

Most international observers were banned and a team from the regional
grouping, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), did not comment
on Saturday. Critics say the SADC, which has tried to mediate over Zimbabwe,
is too soft on Mugabe.

The powerful heads of the security forces have backed Mugabe, and voters
said they had seen patrolling police and army units with armoured vehicles
and water cannon.

Some security chiefs say they will not accept a Tsvangirai victory but the
opposition leader told reporters: "I am not seeking the security chiefs
mandate but the people's mandate."

If no candidate wins more than 51 percent of the vote, the election will go
into a second round.

(Additional reporting by Cris Chinaka, Stella Mapenzauswa, Nelson Banya and
Muchena Zigomo) (Editing by Ralph Gowling)

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Tsvangirai candidates sweep Bulawayo

New Zimbabwe

By Lindie Whiz
Last updated: 03/30/2008 13:05:37
A FACTION of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led
by Arthur Mutambara appeared on the verge of ceding control of the second
largest city of Bulawayo to a rival faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai,
according to a New projection from early election returns

Only David Coltart (former Bulawayo South MP) appeared set to be returned to
parliament as a senator for Khumalo, with most heavyweights such as
Professor Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda down. Counting in the 12
Bulawayo parliamentary constituencies and six senate seats was expected to
be concluded by breakfast Sunday.

The MDC-Mutambara’s losses, however, appeared to be mitigated by projected
wins in rural Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South – notably Tsholotsho
North, Bulima, Gwanda North, Gwanda Central and Binga.

But Ncube and Sibanda’s loss will devastate the camp in a shock turn-around
from what was generally predicted before voting began Saturday.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Tsvangirai faction of the MDC declared
victory in the early hours of Sunday in a national ballot which saw
Zimbabweans queue to cast their ballots in local government, senatorial,
parliamentary and presidential elections.

Officials results are expected through-out the day Sunday.

A senior official in the Mutambara faction, conceding defeat, said: “We have
been wiped out. We are all speechless, stunned.”

The MDC split into two factions in October 2005, with Ncube and Sibanda
leading a break-away which took half the MDC’s parliamentary party. Efforts
to unite the two factions have failed.

Ncube, in particular, staked his political career on this election by moving
from his previous constituency, Bulawayo North, to challenge Khupe in
Makokoba. Khupe is Tsvangirai's deputy.

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Our on-the-spot exclusive election day report!

Zimbabwe Today

Zanu-PF were widely expected to rig this election - and my sources tell me
they are performing well up to expectations

From across the country this afternoon, Saturday, came reports indicating
that the intimidation, the cheating, and the blatant chicanery which our
people have come to expect from Mugabe's regime is in full swing.

To observers there seem to be three or four different ways that Zanu-PF and
its paramilitary police and agents are operating (not including ballot box
stuffing and other illegal moves that will undoubtedly come later.)

In rural areas they are "assisting" voters to vote - that is, they are
guiding the hands of confused and frightened voters, making sure they vote
the Zanu-PF/Mugabe ticket.

In town, where the strong points of the opposition can be found, the police
are in the voting stations, slowing the flow of voters and turning away
genuine registered voters, by claiming they are either 'aliens' or have
names that do not appear on our notorious electoral roll.

In various areas buses have been laid on to take willing Zanu-PF volunteers
from one polling station to another to take part in multiple voting - an
operation known in the Central Intelligence Organisation as "Boys On Leave".

And then of course there is the normal intimidation, with many examples of
opposition officials being frightened away from polling stations by CIO
bullyboys. Here are some of the detailed reports.

The MDC's secretary general, Tendai Biti, is leading protests about the
practice of "assisting" voters in rural areas. He gave the example of
Cheunye Primary School in Mt. Darwin, where police "assisted" more than 200
people during the morning

The practice is intended, of course, to help illiterate voters. But Biti
pointed out that according to UNESCO Zimbabwe has the highest overall
literacy rate in Southern Africa - 90 per cent, as compared to South Africa
at 86 per cent. It's clear, he believes, that these assisted voters don't
need assistance.

Some would-be voters thoughtfully took their voting registration
certificates with them when they went to vote, but were nonetheless turned
away at dozens of polling stations by Mugabe's men. The most affected
suburbs in Harare, said Biti, included Kuwadzana, Kambuzuma, Mufakose,
Mabvuku and Budiriro - areas where opposition support is of the strongest.

Examples of intimidation of both voters and opposition officials came in
from Runyararo polling station in Masvingo urban, and from several polling
stations in the Gutu rural district.

As for the Boys On Leave, three buses were spotted in Nyamapanda by the
eastern border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They were dutifully ferrying
voter from one polling station to another.

One final report - at Munyaradzi polling station in Gutu Central, the
Zanu-PF candidate Lovemore Matuke tried to buy votes at the station door by
offering free maize meal to voters.

Even on a probably grim day for Zimbabwe let me bring a smile to some of
you, with the following:

Robert Mugabe cast his vote in Highfield this morning. He was asked by
reporters about allegations of election rigging. He said: "We don't rig
elections. I could not sleep with my conscience if I have rigged."

Sleep well, Robert.

Posted on Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 16:36 | Permalin

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Exodus of skills magnifies crisis in Zimbabwe

Business Report

March 30, 2008

By Wiseman Khuzwayo

Johannesburg - Zimbabwe is experiencing an unprecedented flight of skills
from both the private and public sectors to countries such as South Africa,
Botswana, the UK, Australia and the US.

The intensifying brain drain is fuelled by a crumbling economy and
increasing demand for skilled labour in South Africa.

This is according to a report by the Johannesburg-based Centre for
Development and Enterprise, which was released this week following a
workshop held at the end of last year.

Zimbabwe is in the grips of debilitating hyperinflation, with consumer
prices rocketing at an absurd pace of more than 100 000 percent a year, the
report notes.

The crisis in South Africa's neighbour is characterised by an economy that
has been shrinking by 4 percent a year during the past four years, 80
percent of the population living below the poverty datum line, and a 70
percent unemployment rate in the formal sector.

After independence, the country's first wave of skills migration during the
early 1980s overwhelmingly comprised white Zimbabweans.

"For example, between 1980 and 1983 the country lost 19 300 skilled and
professional workers, mostly to South Africa, Australia and Britain. Most of
the vacancies were filled by returning black Zimbabweans with good
qualifications and experience," says the report.

"The second wave, during the 1990s, consisted of the departure of skilled
blacks and whites, triggered by the adverse effects of the economic
structural adjustment programme introduced by the government.

"The third wave began soon after the constitutional referendum and general
election of 2000."

According to the report, the Scientific and Industrial Research and
Development Centre, a Harare-based parastatal, concluded in 2003 that about
490 000 skilled Zimbabweans of all colours had left because the weakening
economy limited their employment prospects.

This figure has since increased to more than 800 000, although a significant
proportion of these skilled migrants are not employed as professionals in
their destination countries.

The report cites studies that reveal that many qualified Zimbabweans are
doing jobs which do not use their skills, such as waiting on tables, or for
which they are vastly overqualified.

The increasing loss of trained workers to the diaspora has eroded the
skilled human resource base the country needs for economic and social

For instance, the health care system in Zimbabwe is experiencing a human and
financial resources crisis.

"A 2003 study estimated that more than 80 percent of doctors, nurses,
pharmacists, radiologists and therapists trained since 1980 had left the
country, and that by 2003 Zimbabwe had lost more than 2 100 medical doctors
and 1 950 certified nurses, mostly to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia,
Britain and Australia.

"The problem has been compounded by the fact that, due to staff shortages,
the University of Zimbabwe medical training hospital in Harare has been
forced to reduce its annual intake of medical students from 120 to 70."

While South Africa is the main receiving country in the region, the report
says that current policies still make it difficult for skilled people to
enter the country legally, as procedures are marked by complicated and
demanding permits and quota systems.

Simultaneously, it says that migration from Zimbabwe holds potential
benefits for South Africa in the form of an additional pool of skilled
labour who can alleviate the significant skills shortages hampering its

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