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

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The Times
Rallying cry belies Mugabe's fear of voter revolt

The Opposition is exuberant as the polls open today but with 30 seats in President Mugabe's hands, its optimism may prove misplaced
WITH a vigour that belied his 81 years, a fist-pumping President Mugabe ended his party’s election campaign yesterday with a vow that it will win today’s general election with a “huge, mountainous victory”.

At a rally on the outskirts of Harare, the veteran Zimbabwean leader shook hands with old women, closed his eyes as he sang along with the choir and smiled as a midget danced for the crowd. He insisted that the election would be free and fair. And for one last time, in this campaign at least, he denounced his personal “axis of evil”: Tony Blair, George Bush and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader. “We have never been losers, because we have always been a party of the people,” he told the crowd of 8,000 on a dusty football pitch.

After the wave of “people-power” uprisings in Eastern Europe, many were looking to Zimbabwe to continue the trend by ousting Mr Mugabe’s regime through the ballot box.

But they are likely to be disappointed. The President’s decision to tone down the violence against opposition supporters to give the election a veneer of legitimacy, and to permit opposition rallies, has unleashed a tide of exuberance and optimism throughout the country. Even though the ruling Zanu (PF) party may be less popular than the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), it is expected to win.

In its favour is a near-total blackout of independent media coverage, a blatantly partial electoral authority, a highly dubious electoral roll containing hundreds of thousands of “ghost voters”, and a skewed judiciary.

Archbishop Pius Ncube, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in western Zimbabwe, accused Mr Mugabe yesterday of the “systematic and evil” use of food as a weapon to reward supporters and punish opponents in a country where millions are close to starvation.

Yet the race is far closer than many imagined a few weeks ago. And with the MDC drawing huge crowds to its rallies, the President has shown signs of panic.

Two nights ago, MDC activists discovered a printing works in central Harare churning out what party officials said were “millions” of leaflets under the MDC’s emblem stating that it was withdrawing from the race. The five men arrested told MDC lawyers that they had been hired by a senior official in the Zanu (PF) youth league.

State radio repeatedly broadcasts a speech by Mr Mugabe in which he said that people who voted for the Opposition were “traitors”.

And in a clear attempt to buy votes, the Government yesterday announced that the minimum wage for domestic servants would increase tenfold.

The reasons for the President’s fears were evident at yesterday’s rally. Many in the crowd were bussed in. They cheered and shouted “Long live Mugabe”, but the chants seemed less than spontaneous. Police stood in front of the crowd, and Mr Mugabe’s notorious youth service searched all those attending before they entered the football stadium.

The mood is very different at opposition rallies. On Sunday, just up the road, Mr Tsvangirai attracted 25,000 people. There, people danced freely, laughed, sang and chanted slogans as if they meant it.

The MDC’s strength worries the previously cocksure Zanu (PF) supporters. Coleman Naka, 44, who owns a transport company, said yesterday: “A short time ago we thought it was obvious we would win. But we relaxed and now the MDC is challenging us.”

Mr Tsvangirai is exultant, and he and his party’s candidates are now talking of victory in an election the MDC very nearly refused to contest because it was so rigged. But independent observers are far more cautious.

“The change is incredible, but I think the outcome should be seen more in terms of the MDC stopping Zanu (PF) from getting a two-thirds majority (which would allow it to change the Constitution),” said Brian Kagoro, chairman of Zimbabwe in Crisis Coalition, an umbrella group of prodemocracy organisations.

For the MDC to achieve a majority in the 150-seat parliament, it will have to win 76 of the 120 contested constituencies. Five years ago it won 57. The ruling party starts with a massive advantage, as Mr Mugabe can personally appoint 30 unelected MPs.

Whatever the outcome today, it could signal the end of Mr Mugabe’s 25-year rule.

Brian Raftopoulos, Associate Professor of Development Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, said it would be very difficult for him to keep a lid on dissent. With voters having their first real sniff of freedom in years, Mr Mugabe may have inadvertently sown the seeds of his own demise.

“A small opening-up in the system unleashes a huge groundswell of hope and possibility,” Mr Raftopoulos said. “There has been a real revival of support. It will be very difficult to keep control of the consequences.”

Whether Zimbabwe’s cowed, oppressed and impoverished people will actually take to the streets if the election is perceived to have been rigged is another question.

Archbishop Ncube of Bulawayo has called for a peaceful uprising, similar to the one which swept Viktor Yushchenko into power in Ukraine.

But to date Zimbabweans have proved reluctant to take to the streets. Perhaps one reason is the threat of the police and military. After the last two election campaigns, a number of opposition supporters were beaten, raped and killed. A few weeks of freedom have not erased those memories.


Zanu (PF) Robert Mugabe’s party helped to oust the white-minority Government of Rhodesia that led to independence in 1980

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was formed in 1999 and is led by Morgan Tsvangirai, 53

  • There are 150 seats in the parliament; Mr Mugabe can allocate 30 of them

  • Zanu (PF) won 62 seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections and has 68 after by-elections. The MDC won 57 seats in 2000 and has 51 after by-elections

  • There are 500 international monitors. European and US observers are banned

  • There are 5.7 million registered voters, but 3.4 million Zimbabweans living abroad have been denied the vote. Opposition groups claim the electoral roll includes up to one million dead and more than 300,000 duplicates


  • Life expectancy is 38 years, down from 52 in 1990

  • Infant mortality is between 62 to 76 per 1,000 births

  • Of every 1,000 children, 126 die before they reach the age of five.

  • 24.6 per cent of adults aged 15 to 49 have HIV/ Aids, the world’s highest rate of infection.

  • Unemployment is about 80 per cent

  • Inflation is 127 per cent, down from 622 per cent in January 2004

  • The Zimbabwe dollar is about 6,200 to the US dollar from a fixed rate of 37 in 2000

  • GDP has shrunk by nearly 30 per cent since 1999

  • The number of whites living in Zimbabwe has fallen from 200,000 at independence in 1980 to about 30,000 last year
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    The Telegraph

    Democracy dying in a land that lost hope
    By Peta Thornycroft
    (Filed: 31/03/2005)

    The lanky young man on the outer circle of the rally kept clutching at his
    trousers which were too big around the waist and too short in the leg,
    exposing limbs as thin as reeds.

    His skin was stretched so tight across his cheekbones it was scuffed grey in
    patches. He grinned, sang, and danced, taller than those around him, waving
    long arms in the engaging open-palm sign of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement
    for Democratic Change.

    He seemed happy, at least from a distance. He also had no shoes and his MDC
    T-shirt looked worn enough to be a leftover from the country's last phoney
    election in 2002, when President Robert Mugabe won six more years in power.

    Standing a few yards away from people sitting under trees in dappled
    afternoon sunlight were election observers from South Africa's African
    National Congress, veterans of two democratic elections.

    They were observing Zimbabwe's ninth national parliamentary or presidential
    poll since independence in 1980. Then it was one of Africa's biggest food
    producers; now it is impoverished, its people hungry, its land unproductive.

    The election will almost certainly be rigged. The only question is whether
    or not Mr Mugabe achieves the two-thirds majority he needs to change the
    constitution and choose his successor.

    The South Africans were obviously foreigners. Their skin glowed, their
    fingers were smooth, their shoes and sunglasses and mobile phones set them
    apart from the shabby crowd of about 700 who came to hear a message of hope
    from their candidate at a village five hours' drive south-west of the
    capital Harare. Mandla Dlamini, one of the observers from the ANC's election
    unit in Johannesburg, said he was relieved that the pre-election period was

    I told him I was looking for a ruling Zanu PF rally in the area. He said the
    police would help. I could only laugh at the suggestion that anyone would
    willingly go to a police station.

    "This is not 2002," he said. That's true, it isn't the 2002 elections, when
    MDC supporters were hunted down like animals. The tactics are more subtle
    this time.

    But, Mr Dlamini, it is too soon to go into a police station. Since working
    here for nearly four years as a reporter, I have met too many people who
    only went because they had been arrested, including me.

    Some were paying traffic fines or delivering food to imprisoned friends and
    found themselves locked up for the weekend in cells designed by the British
    for six inmates.

    Now policemen shove in 30 at a time; the prisoners sleep standing in the
    cell or in broken lavatories where water is flushed at the whim of a
    policeman outside.

    It will take longer than a few largely peaceful weeks for me or millions of
    Zimbabweans to begin to trust Mr Mugabe's policemen again.

    As a foreigner, Mr Dlamini wouldn't know when he drove later that day to the
    second city Bulawayo that the grass in fields alongside the road should have
    been shorter this time of year.

    He wouldn't realise that it is tall - even after poor summer rain - because
    there are no cattle left to eat it; that the occasional 100 sq yard patch of
    maize along a 75-mile stretch of road is not enough to feed those who
    attended the rally he had just "observed".

    More than the crumbling pavements and the potholes in what were some of
    Africa's best roads, more than the uncollected rubbish stinking in the
    streets and the decay consuming schools and hospitals, it is the desolation
    and consequences of empty fields along familiar roads which hurts the most.

    When Prince Charles lowered the Union flag 25 years ago Zimbabwe was edgy
    and tense after a long and bitter guerrilla war led by Mr Mugabe. He calmed
    white Rhodesians by offering to forget that they had locked him up for 10
    years because he wanted to vote.

    It was white farmers and their workers, encouraged by Mr Mugabe to remain,
    who provided the engine to generate economic stability that allowed Zimbabwe
    to be a new hope in Africa.

    But before long Mr Mugabe had already begun killing his first enemies: the
    people of Matabeleland. After crushing them, he turned on white farmers, a
    convenient scapegoat in Africa, especially as they did own a
    disproportionate amount of land.

    They would be blamed for helping to create the MDC, as if millions of black
    Zimbabweans couldn't decide for themselves that they wanted a world beyond
    Robert Mugabe. So he began killing them too, and chasing them off their

    My mobile phone has rung too often for too long with people who have nowhere
    else to turn to and I can't do anything to help.

    My phone rang a few minutes ago. A young South African woman from an
    unofficial observer group has been attacked on a bus 45 miles from Harare.

    She was sobbing in the background as a contact told me her story; that Zanu
    PF men beat her up and tried to rape her.

    I will try to find Mr Dlamini and tell him. There is no point going to the
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    New Vision, Kampala

          No leader or party owns the people
          The people of Zimbabwe go to the polls today in a parliamentary
    election that should tell us something about the power balance in this
    country that was once a bright star but now a metaphor for broken dreams and
    continuing nightmare both for its people and other Africans. The 'something'
    may not be a lot because I do not think that this election will give us an
    adequate reading of the real state of things. The government sees only
    victory and the opposition envisages an unfair defeat. The stand-off between
    the main opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and President
    Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)
    and the consequent pariah status of the country has paralysed the country
    for almost a decade now. It is impossible to think of a final peaceful
    settlement or a way out of the impasse with Mugabe still at the helm of
    affairs. As I argued on a CNN interview yesterday the septuagenarian
    ex-Comrade is no longer part of the solution but central to the problem.
    However, we all have to banish all thoughts of hoping that the old man would
    do the decent thing and step aside for the sake of his party, country and
    people. His rhetoric on the campaign trails and belligerent tones do not
    indicate that Uncle Bob is for turning. He has developed a siege psychosis,
    grandiose paranoia and neo-fascist mentality which make him see all
    opponents whether within his party, the government or in the country, as
    traitors. He believes he is Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is his. Having been in
    power for 25 years, Mugabe and his cohorts cannot imagine themselves ever
    losing power. therefore, ZANU (PF), at least the president's main faction of
    it, will do whatever is possible (both thinkable and unthinkable) to 'win'
    this election. Intimidation, brazen bribery, manipulation, and whatever
    tricks in the books of electoral brigandage have been deployed to ensure
    only one outcome - ZANU (PF) victory. But this victory will be at an even
    greater cost this time given the level of dissent in recent months at the
    very heart of the ZANU (PF) elite itself and the country even more. Mugabe
    is not just fighting 'the MDC kids' but also many of his formerly loyal
    'good boys' and veteran geriatrics including former ministers and top
    commanders. While the party may lose a few seats to its latest ex-ZANU
    opposition, this may not be enough to unsettle the regime because they may
    not translate into more seats for the main opposition, MDC. The MDC is
    likely going to hold on to its support base despite all the stratagems of
    Mugabe's storm troopers and routine violence and intimidation from both the
    state and its freelance militias.
          The European Union has already declared the election a sham. The US
    government has also been blowing hot on Zimbabwe. Quite ominously both SADC
    and the AU have not been too vocal beyond expressing pious hopes that there
    will be free and fair elections and making appeal to both sides to give
    peace a chance. African leaders are really on a tight rope over Zimbabwe
    because of the racialist overtone of the issues. None of them want to be
    seen as agents of the West and White interests. Many of them (like other
    Africans) who may not necessarily agree with Mugabe are however convinced
    that the land issue needed to be addressed. So whatever they do, they are
    damned. But all these have no impact on Zimbabwe. Indeed the more Europeans
    and Americans make noise about Mugabe, the better for him to be casting
    himself as a Pan-Africanist David against Imperialist Goliath, continue to
    cast his domestic opponents, both MDC and non- MDC, as puppets of the West.
    For Africans, both on the continent and in the diaspora the one-sided
    spectacles help make us either more understanding or ambiguous or outrightly
    apologetic (as many have become) towards the old man. On the other hand, MDC's
    links with largely white farmers and its popularity with anti-Mugabe
    Westerners make it suspect to many Africans. There is a very strong hangover
    of cold war era ideology watered by contemporary Western inconsistency and
    brazen hypocrisy that makes many Africans instinctively suspect any African
    leader liked by the West while adulating the one that is hated by them. Even
    those who look at the mass base, especially organised largely black working
    class, urban poor and progressive middle class support for the MDC are also
    wary of its ambiguity on a number of key issues about the economy and
    reconstruction of Zimbabwe after Mugabe. There are fears that an MDC- led by
    Morgan Tsvangirai will just be an imitation of the tragedy of yet another
    populist trade unionist, the little man with an even smaller brain, one
    Frank Chiluba, in neighbouring Zambia. However, there is a principle that
    should guide all of us about Zimbabwe or any other country for that matter -
    the supremacy of the will of the people, freely expressed, without let or
    hinderance. If they choose puppets or dimwits, it is their right to do so
    and they will have another opportunity at the next election to change their
    minds. It is a right that cannot and should not be ceded to or usurped by a
    self-serving elite for its perpetuation in office. No leader or party owns
    the people. Voting wisely is as important as voting unwisely if they so

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    Zim Online

    Soldiers deployed in MDC stronghold
    Thur 31 March 2005

          GWANDA - The government has deployed armed soldiers in opposition-held
    Gwanda constituency in a move community leaders there said could be
    intimidating to voters ahead of polling today.

          At least four army trucks carrying an estimated 200 soldiers armed
    with AK 47 rifles drove into Gwanda town early yesterday morning, visibly
    frightened residents told ZimOnline yesterday.

          The soldiers spent about two hours patrolling the small town's suburbs
    of Phakama, Senondo and Jahunda before regrouping and driving off to
    villages south-west of the town that are also part of Gwanda constituency.

          "There were four trucks in all. The soldiers were all heavily armed,
    mostly with AK 47 automatic assault rifles. They spent some time moving
    around the suburbs but they did not say anything.

          "They also visited the shops where they bought drinks before going to
    the town centre where they made a brief stopover before heading out south,"
    said a man who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation.

          Gwanda Executive Mayor Thandeko Mnkandla said the soldiers appeared
    like they were passing through town.

          "I saw four trucks just before they left town and headed southwards. I
    am not sure what their mission was and they seemed like passersby," said
    Mnkandla, who is a member of the main opposition Movement for Democratic
    Change (MDC) party.

          Villagers told ZimOnline that the soldiers had by yesterday set up
    bases at Garanyemba, Selonga, Nhwali, Manama, Guyu, Ntepe and Ntalale rural
    business centres south of Gwanda town.

          But army spokesman, Colonel Ben Ncube, said the soldiers were only
    passing through the area en route to Zimbabwe's borders with South Africa
    and Botswana to take up border patrol duties there.

          He urged villagers not to fear the soldiers who he said were only
    lightly armed with the army's standard issue AK 47 rifle.

          "It is normal in peace time for soldiers to patrol the borders and the
    AK47 assault rifle is the standard issue in the force. It is not a heavy
    weapon. People should not panic but should instead feel more secure when the
    army is around," Ncube said.

          The presence of armed troops around election time is intimidating to
    residents of Gwanda which is one of the areas worst affected by an army
    crackdown in the early eighties that left an estimated 20 000 innocent
    civilians dead.

          Most villagers here still have fresh memories of loved ones shot in
    cold blood by the army's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade which was
    deployed in the area to quell an armed insurrection by dissidents aligned to
    the late vice-president of Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo.

          Unable to crush the small group of dissidents, the army ended up
    targeting the minority Ndebele people, who inhabit the area and most of whom
    supported Nkomo's opposition ZAPU party before it merged with President
    Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party.

          Mugabe's statement earlier this week that people who vote for the MDC
    will be considered traitors coupled with threats by some ZANUN PF candidates
    that the army will be redeployed in Matabeleland, under which Gwanda falls,
    if the government lost today have only helped heighten fear and suspicion
    among villagers here over the presence of armed soldiers in the are.

          Mnkandala said: "It (army deployment) reinforces the reality of a
    security force-led operation against perceived supporters of the opposition
    MDC. President Mugabe has already called all those who will vote for the MDC

          "Putting soldiers on the ground at a time when they should be keeping
    away from public areas sends a clear message to the voters that they are
    being monitored and action can be taken."

          The deployment for soldiers in Gwanda comes as hundreds of the
    controversial government youth militia have also been deployed in the MDC
    stronghold of Bulawayo city where they are said to be threatening residents
    with punishment if ZANU PF lost in the city. - ZimOnline
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    Zim Online

    Election commission faces logistical nightmare
    Thur 31 March 2005
          HARARE - Several thousands of ballot papers have been sent to wrong
    constituencies in a development that could plunge polling today into chaos
    and confusion in some constituencies.

          In some cases polling officers, trained during the last few weeks, had
    by late last night still not turned up in constituencies where they were
    assigned to conduct polling.

          Citing examples of confusion threatening to engulf today's election in
    some constituencies, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party
    secretary general, Welshman Ncube, revealed how for example 1 000 ballot
    papers meant for Bulawayo East constituency were inexplicably in Harare
    North constituency.

          Another 1 000 ballot papers for Guruve South constituency were found
    in ballot boxes for Bulawayo East several hundreds of kilometres away. Ncube
    said: "The election will be absolute chaos and will be the worst ever in
    terms of logistics.
          Everything else will be the most chaotic."

          The spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that is
    running the election, Utoile Silaigwana, could not be immediately reached to
    explain how the commission planned to resolve the logistical hiccups that
    could derail the election in some areas.

          According to Ncube, polling officers trained by the government during
    the past few weeks had failed to turn up in Bulilimamangwe constituency and
    the local administrator there was by yesterday frantically recruiting
    untrained locals to help conduct polling.

          In Bubi-Umguza constituency, MDC polling agents were chased away by
    the constituency presiding officer who insisted that they produce individual
    letters on their party's official letter-head saying they were its agents.

          Under the law, political parties and candidates must advertise their
    agents in newspapers but need not write individual letters of appointment
    for the agents.

          "It is absolute nonsense for them to demand individual letters when
    the agents presented newspaper adverts which show their appointment. The
    presiding officer is simply trying to cheat in the absence of the polling
    agents," Ncube alleged.

          Today's ballot is the country's first one-day parliamentary election.

          Several polling experts, citing the ZEC's lack of logistical
    experience and capacity, have warned that there could be chaos in some
    constituencies with possibility that thousands of eligible voters might fail
    to vote.

          Hundreds of thousands of mostly opposition supporters failed to vote
    in the controversial 2002 presidential election after the government set up
    fewer polling stations in urban areas where there is a higher concentration
    of people most of whom support the MDC. - ZimOnline
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    Zim Online

    COSATU protests at border post on election eve
    Thur 31 March 2005
      MUSINA - Hundreds of Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu)
    members were late last night singing and chanting near the Musina border
    with Zimbabwe in Limpompo province as part of their solidarity protest to
    highlight human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

          They were due to stage an overnight vigil at the border in solidarity
    with suffering workers in Zimbabwe. Although about 10 000 COSATU protestors
    had been billed to attend the protest, they were still less than 500 people
    in attendance last night.

          At one stage the protestors tried to approach the real border boundary
    and possibly disrupt the movement of traffic. Heavily armed South African
    police reinforcements were immediately called in and they restrained the
    protestors after speaking to them. They then retreated to the approved
    boundaries for the protest.

          A Pretoria High Court judge allowed COSATU to protest on condition
    that it does not close the border or disrupt movement of traffic. COSATU'S
    Limpopo secretary Jan Seyane earlier told the gathering that COSATU's
    solidarity demonstrations would continue until the Mugabe government
    respected human rights and improved the plight of workers in Zimbabwe.

          "Our message to the Zimbabwean government is that we will not sit by
    idle while our fellow workers continue to be treated in this manner, having
    their activities clamped down by the government," Seyane told the gathering.

          "We will continue to protest and hold demonstrations to raise
    awareness of the conditions of workers in Zimbabwe."

          The border protest is a culmination of a series of demonstrations by
    COSATU which have included pickets at the Zimbabwean
          High Commission. Protesters carried placards reading: "Land and food
    for Zimbabwean workers" and "Stop abuse of (Zimbabwean labour federation)
    ZCTU. Shame on you, Bob". Others read "An insult to ZCTU is an insult to
    COSATU", among others.

          The protest was nearly aborted when Limpompo police made a last minute
    court application to cancel the protest. But the Pretoria court upheld
    COSATU's right to demonstrate but on condition that its members keep at
    least 200 meters from the border and don't disrupt traffic on the N1 highway
    nor interfere with Customs officials.

          Jay Jay Sibanda, President of the Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad, joined
    the protestors with a small contingent of Zimbabweans. He said plans to bus
    more Zimbabweans based in Johannesburg to support the protest failed due to
    lack of funds. He nonetheless expressed gratitude at the efforts "of our
    South African brothers in remembering us during this hour of
          need." - ZimOnline
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    Zim Online

    Rights group repeats stance on poll
    Thur 31 March 2005
      JOHANNESBURG - Amnesty International yesterday reiterated its stance that
    today's parliamentary election in Zimbabwe cannot be free and fair.

          In a statement on the eve of the election, Amnesty also asked election
    observers to stay well after the election to witness what it called likely
    reprisals against those communities that will not vote for ZANU PF.

          Amnesty's Africa Programme Director Kolawole Olaniyan said:
    "Persistent, long-term and systematic violations of human rights and the
    government's repeated and deliberate failure to bring to justice those
    suspected of responsibility means that Zimbabweans are unable to take part
    in the election process freely and without fear.

          "The climate of intimidation and harassment in which the elections are
    planned is a matter for serious international concern.

          "The use of implicit threats and non-violent tactics to intimidate
    opposition supporters is widespread. Given past acts of reprisal
          Against opposition voters including eviction, assault, and denial of
    food, such tactics create a pervasive climate of fear and threat."

          In a report published earlier this month, 'Zimbabwe: An assessment of
    human rights violations in the run up to the March
          2005 parliamentary elections', Amnesty International documented a
    series of human rights violations committed by the government and its
    supporters including:

          * Arbitrary arrests to hinder opposition campaigning activities,
    Including the detention of at least eight candidates of the Movement for
    Democratic Change (MDC) and the MDC's Director of Elections this year as
    well as several opposition campaign workers. No ZANU PF candidates have been
    arrested during the election campaign.

          * Acts of political violence, including the beating of MDC supporters
    and the burning of their homes in Chipinge South, Manicaland in January.

          * Continued manipulation of food distribution by the
    government-controlled Grain Marketing Board, denying opposition supporters
    access to maize, the staple food for most Zimbabweans. (March is known in
    Zimbabwe as the height of the "hungry season", when the previous harvest has
    run out and before the new harvest is due.)

          * Widespread intimidation and harassment of opposition supporters,
    with many afraid of post-election reprisals aimed at areas in which people
    are known to vote for the opposition.

          The world human rights watchdog said because President Robert Mugabe
    and his government's systematic harassment of all opposition and violations
    of basic human rights in the run up to today's elections had made free
    participation in the elections impossible. - ZimOnline
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    Zim Online

    Media restrictions peeve SA editors
    Thur 31 March 2005
          JOHANNESBURG - The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) said
    it was alarmed to note that on the eve of Zimbabwe's elections, President
    Robert Mugabe's government had failed to lift all restrictions on
    journalists and media, especially foreign media.

          While it appeared that South African journalists had now all gained
    accreditation to cover the elections from inside the country, it was clear
    that the Zimbabwean government, by barring many foreign news organisations,
    had not demonstrated a full commitment to the free flow of information
    concerning the elections," said SANEF in a statement.

          "These actions do not bode well for free and fair parliamentary
    elections tomorrow (today). It suggests that the "Burma syndrome" - the
    attempt to prevent news from reaching the outside world - still infects

          Sanef said it also noted with concern that the Zimbabwean independent
    media and correspondents based in the country continued to face harassment
    which had impacted on their ability to cover the election without hindrance.

          In addition, the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwean Broadcasting
    Corporation, had not effectively opened up the airwaves to opposition
    parties as the Zimbabwean government pledged to do in the Southern Africa
    Development Community (SADC) guidelines for free and fair elections.

          Monitoring agencies reported that the ruling ZANU PF still enjoyed a
    disproportionate amount of airtime across public television and radio. All
    of this has meant that the media playing field remained skewed for the
    election campaign and suggests there is a lot of post-election work to do to
    ensure a free and fair media in Zimbabwe, SANEF said. - ZimOnline
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    Zim Online

    Commission says 900 Mudzi officers were drunk
    Thur 31 March 2005
          HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) says the 900 polling
    officers who were sent back from Mudzi were drunk, charges which have been
    rejected by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

          In a statement yesterday, the ZEC, in charge of running elections in
    Zimbabwe, said the polling officers were drunk when they arrived in Mudzi
    leading to their ejection from the centre.

          Mudzi, which lies 200 km north-east of Harare, is a bastion of the
    ruling ZANU PF party which was also a no-go area for the MDC.

          "When the officers arrived at Mudzi Centre, the Commission received
    reports from its officers on the ground that the polling officers were drunk
    and acting in a disorderly manner.

          "Further reports also alleged that some of the officers were chanting
    slogans associated with a particular political party and that their
    behaviour could cause friction on the part of supporters belonging to other
    parties in the area," says the ZEC.

          The electoral commission said they ordered the immediate withdrawal of
    the officers to preserve peace.

          But the MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi yesterday dismissed the ZEC
    statement as mischievous, saying it was impossible that all the 900 polling
    officers would be drunk in the early hours of Sunday.

          The MDC poses the greatest threat to ZANU PF's 25-year grip on power
    in today's election.

          Meanwhile, two opposition polling agents deployed at Leconfield
    polling station in Hurungwe East on Tuesday night fled the polling centre
    after a veteran of Zimbabwe's liberation war seized ballot boxes.

          It was not clear why the war veteran seized the ballot boxes.

          The two, Shame Potera and Paul Briam reported the case to the
    returning officer, Wellington Chisepo who promised to investigate the

          The feared war veterans spearheaded a violent and brutal campaign for
    ZANU PF against opposition supporters in the last election. - ZimOnline

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    Zim Online

    Broadcasting boss demoted over Tsvangirai footage
    Thur 31 March 2005
          HARARE - The state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) has
    demoted the editor-in-chief of its Newsnet division, Tazzen Mandizvidza, for
    showing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on television accusing President
    Robert Mugabe of running down the country.

          Mandizvidza is now an executive producer after his editor's post was
    given over to Chris Chivinge, a former editor-in-chief of Newsnet, who had
    left the corporation to join a joint broadcasting venture between Namibia
    and Zimbabwe that has collapsed due to lack of funds.

          A ZBH official confirmed Mandizvidza's demotion but said it was normal
    movement of staff within the company, the sole television and radio
    broadcaster in the country.

          "The issue you are referring to is not peculiar. It is part of staff
    movement and we can't talk about our staff movements to the press," the
    official said.

          Newsnet has in the last two weeks ran several reports on opposition
    rallies with Tsvangirai telling supporters of his Movement for Democratic
    Change (MDC) party that Zimbabwe's unprecedented economic and food crisis
    had nothing to do with sabotage by Britain as alleged by Mugabe but was all
    because of the President's mismanagement and wrong policies.

          The state broadcasting firm had until a few weeks ago blacked out
    Tsvangirai and his MDC party only lifting the ban on the opposition because
    of Southern African Development Community election guidelines requiring
    equal access to public media by all political parties.

          It was not possible to get a comment from Mandizvidza yesterday. -
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          Zimbabwean ruling party says rebel members not accepted

 2005-03-31 03:46:05

              HARARE, March 30 (Xinhuanet) -- The ruling party of Zimbabwe said
    Wednesday there will be no room in the party for those who defied party
    policy by standing as independent candidates in Thursday's parliamentary
    election, regardless of the outcome.

              First Secretary of the Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic
    Front (ZANU-PF) Robert Mugabe, who is also president of Zimbabwe, said
    Wednesday that those that defied authority were notcadres that the party
    could rely on and they would not be acceptedback even if they manage to win
    in their constituencies.

              He made the remarks while addressing party supporters at the
    party's last campaign rally in the Glen Norah constituency.

              "The party will not accommodate those that defied our authorityas
    a party to stand as independent candidates after they were found guilty of
    misconduct. We suspended some of them and some accepted that they were wrong
    and looked ahead while some thought otherwise and are competing in the
    election," Mugabe said. "No onewill come back after defeat. We will say no."

              He said that some government ministers that had been censured by
    the party had accepted the party's disciplinary measures.

              "Those are true cadres of the party. They are big members of the
    party. That is what we want because we are a party that is guided by
    principles that bind everyone," Mugabe said.

              He urged Zimbabweans to vote against those wanting to mortgage the
    country to western powers.

              "The people were misled in 2000 by the Movement for Democratic
    Change (MDC) and I urge you not to be misled this time again because the MDC
    will not get you anywhere," he said.

              He said that more youths were rejoining ZANU-PF after
    realizingthat the MDC had nothing to offer them.

              "It is good to notice this development because the future of the
    party lies in these youths who have now seen the light." Mugabe said, adding
    that the MDC should accept the result of the election.

              He said that the opposition party knew it would lose and had
    started smear campaigns suggesting that the election would not be free and

              The president said his party brought liberation to the people and
    had presided over successes in education, health, infrastructural
    development and land reform.

              The party, he said, had fulfilled its revolutionary pledge to
    restore land to its rightful owners, thus creating a firm platformfor the
    institution and consolidation of programs to economically empower the black

              "ZANU-PF's desire is to unite the nation permanently, preserve
    peace, order and guarantee political stability, social and economic
    development," he said.

              "Thursday must be victory day. The MDC eclipsed us in the last
    election and we have been fighting over the last five years to winthe seat

              A total of 5,658,637 people are eligible to vote in all the
    country's 10 administrative provinces namely Bulawayo, which has seven
    constituencies, Harare province 18, Manicaland province 15, Mashonaland
    Central 10, Mashonaland East 13, Mashonaland West 13, Masvingo 14,
    Matebeleland North seven, Matebeleland South seven, and Midlands 16.

              The voters are going to elect 120 lawmakers of a 150-member
    parliament on Thursday, with an opinion survey showing that the ZANU-PF is
    likely to win a favorable majority.

              Though five political parties are contesting the country's sixth
    parliamentary elections, it is largely seen as a two-horse race between the
    ZANU-PF and the MDC.

              Several independent candidates, including former information and
    publicity minister Jonathan Moyo, are also contesting. Enditem
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    The Times

                Votes and neighbours
                Zimbabwe's election is a test for all of southern Africa

                In Zimbabwe today, for the third time in five years, voters will
    cast ballots for a national election in an atmosphere of unconscionable
    corruption and intimidation. For all President Mugabe's assurances of a
    newfound respect for democracy, polling stations have been set up under the
    watchful eye of armed militia gangs from his ruling ZANU (PF) party.
    Desperately needed food has been distributed free at rallies to its
    supporters and sold to others only at inflated prices. The names of up to a
    million dead voters have appeared on the electoral roll, and those would-be
    election observers who have questioned the validity of the poll as a result
    have been barred entry to the country.
                Millions will, nonetheless, vote for the opposition Movement for
    Democratic Change (MDC). An historic electoral upset is conceivable at the
    ballot box, but virtually inconceivable as a political reality. Tulip power
    is not so easily carried from Kyrgyzstan to Africa. Mr Mugabe still commands
    a loyal political base. He also controls southern Africa's most efficient
    secret police. However today's votes are cast, therefore, the wider world
    must prepare for a defiant declaration of victory by ZANU (PF). Such a
    declaration would hardly usher in a new era for the 81-year-old Mr Mugabe.
    Rather, it would mark the start of a dangerous endgame in which his
    opponents must mitigate the damage he is doing to his country and effect a
    quiet revolution in the way Zimbabweans eventually choose his successor.

                Britain's public role in these tasks is severely limited. Thanks
    largely to 20 years of virulently anti-British propaganda from Mr Mugabe's
    regime, but also to new Labour's failure to pursue a consistent or effective
    policy in response to his "Blair-baiting", any official British criticism of
    Harare now plays directly into Mr Mugabe's hands. This does not mean
    British-Zimbabwean diplomacy is doomed. Its efforts, like those of the rest
    of Europe, must simply - and urgently - be focused on Harare's neighbours.

                The MDC's worst fear is not of electoral defeat, but of a
    fraudulent election result being swiftly endorsed by the rest of southern
    Africa. It is critically important that South Africa, in particular, be
    dissuaded from this course of culpable inaction. President Mbeki has so far
    connived at Mr Mugabe's drift towards thug rule with a moral and political
    myopia that gravely threatens his status as the pre-eminent voice of
    sub-Saharan Africa. He must now, at the very least, use South Africa's
    political and economic muscle to force Mr Mugabe to honour the principles of
    good governance to which Zimbabwe signed up at a regional summit in
    Mauritius last year. The United Nations must also take up the issue of
    Zimbabwean reform with a vigour it has so far failed to muster.

                Hunger and disease threaten Zimbabwe as never before, yet its
    crisis was preventable. If the developed world's grand plans for Africa are
    to have a chance of success, that crisis must be reversed. This will surely
    be the message of Zimbabwe's voters. It cannot go unheeded.

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    The Telegraph

    Chance to thwart Mugabe
    (Filed: 31/03/2005)

    If Zimbabwe's general election today were free and fair, Robert Mugabe's
    Zanu-PF would be thrown out.

    First, it has wrecked the economy, which has shrunk by about one third since
    1999. Production of maize, tobacco and tea has drastically fallen, largely
    thanks to the seizure of white-owned farms. Although inflation has come down
    from its peak in 2003, it remains high. The central bank's reserves have
    dwindled to almost nothing and foreign direct investment has dried up.
    According to the United Nations, nearly half the population will require
    food aid this year.

    Second, since losing a referendum on a new constitution in 2000, Mr Mugabe
    has resorted to every trick in the tyrant's trade to avoid a second defeat.
    By setting thugs on opponents and shackling the judiciary and media, he has
    all but destroyed civil society. Such a record invites only one judgment -
    expulsion from office.

    Yet, as David Blair, our Africa Correspondent, writes in today's newspaper,
    the president has honed his vote-rigging techniques through parliamentary
    elections in 2000 and a presidential poll two years later. This time, there
    is less violence but other measures, among them abolishing seats in
    opposition urban strongholds and creating them in the ruling party's rural
    heartland, have been taken to secure a two thirds majority in the House of
    Assembly. That margin would allow Mr Mugabe to amend the constitution so
    that his successor could serve out the current presidential term until 2008,
    rather than an election being held within 90 days of his stepping down. It
    would also enable the creation of a second chamber into which the president
    could move disgruntled elements within Zanu-PF.

    Given the odds against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
    it would do handsomely just to deny Mr Mugabe his two-thirds majority. The
    president would remain in power but failure to achieve his goal would damage
    his prestige. And that in turn would complicate his dealings with Zanu-PF,
    whose members are already looking to the post-Mugabe era. It may seem
    strange to class a lesser defeat as a victory. But when one considers what
    Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC are up against - intimidation, vote-rigging
    and no support from South Africa, the one outside power which could make a
    difference - it is clear that for them simply to hang on to their 51 seats,
    and thus deny Zanu-PF its coveted majority, would be a considerable
    achievement. We salute those who today will go out and vote for the
    opposition. In the face of vicious persecution, their persistence is
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    Zimbabwe vote practices 'despicable'
    From correspondents in Washington
    March 31, 2005
    From: Agence France-Presse

    THE US today denounced what it called the "despicable" practice by
    Zimbabwe's ruling party of using food supplies to win over voters in this
    week's parliamentary elections in the African country.

    The US State Department took President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African
    National Union-Patriotic Front to task after a report in the Washington Post
    newspaper said it was using food as a political weapon.
    "Our understanding is that ruling party candidates have given out
    government-owned food to draw voters to rallies," deputy department
    spokesman Adam Ereli said.

    "And that is, frankly, a despicable practice."
    Mr Ereli said the campaign ahead of tomorrow's legislative polls was already
    tilted in the government's favour through threats and intimidation of the
    opposition and a crackdown on the media.

    He also regretted that no independent election observers had been invited to
    oversee the ballot.

    "So there are practices that I think we find troublesome that cause us
    concern," Mr Ereli said.

    But he said the US took heart in what he called a "relatively nonviolent"

    "That's a positive development," he said.

    Mr Ereli called on Mr Mugabe's government to do its utmost to make sure the
    elections were peaceful, transparent and free of intimidation and fraud.

    "We will base our assessment of the election results according to not only
    what has happened in the run-up to the election, but on the way the election
    is conducted tomorrow," he said.
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    Christian Science Monitor

    Zimbabwe's opposition hopeful

    Despite losing previous elections that they say were rigged, MDC members say
    they can win Thursday's vote.

    By Abraham McLaughlin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

    HARARE, ZIMBABWE - A skinny political activist here named Cosmas Ndira was
    already celebrating his party's victory in Thursday's parliamentary
    elections - and Zimbabweans hadn't even started voting. His optimism
    Wednesday was even more surprising because his party is opposing President
    Robert Mugabe, known for his 25-year iron grip over this Southern African
    Mr. Ndira isn't the only one. Supporters of the opposition Movement for
    Democratic Change now openly flash their party's salute in many places
    across the country. And yellow MDC T-shirts abound. MDC candidates have held
    hundreds of public rallies - a first - and have even had some access to
    state-controlled media. It's all part of an election campaign that has been
    relatively calm - despite previous years marred by political oppression,
    including beatings, and even murders. Ndira himself has been been arrested
    19 times and was once beaten so badly he nearly lost his arm.

    The MDC has been here before. Three years ago they were poised to sweep Mr.
    Mugabe out of office, only to have their hopes dashed by election results
    that they say were rigged. Even now, it's clear the octogenarian president
    won't go quietly: Some traditional ruling-party tactics have appeared in
    recent days.

    But opposition members and diplomats are hopeful that, win or lose, the
    election will hasten the end of the Mugabe regime. So for now, "There's
    jubilation everywhere," Ndira says.

    Voters Thursday will choose 120 members of Zimbabwe's 150-seat parliament.
    Mugabe appoints the remaining 30 seats. The MDC won 57 seats in 2000.

    Ndira, an MDC polling-place agent, and others say they have to stay
    vigilant. The biggest concern, they say, is the number of polling places. It
    has doubled since the last election to roughly 8,000. Many opponents worry
    that this will lead to postelection targeting of individual neighborhoods
    that supported the opposition. And then there's the notoriously flawed voter
    roll, which the government has long kept highly secret.

    One of the ruling party's biggest weapons is "the fact that there are so
    many polling places," says a Western diplomat. And "the ammunition is the
    voter list, which has about 750,000 dead people on it."

    Other tactics include:

    . Supposed MDC posters that urge opposition supporters to boycott the polls
    on principle - but aim to depress opposition turnout.

    . Ruling-party officials reportedly showing binoculars to rural voters,
    saying they'll be peering at ballots to discover which party they choose.

    . Officials also telling rural voters that new transparent ballot boxes,
    which were brought in by outside election monitors to help fight fraud, will
    actually betray how voters chose. This has led opposition candidates to
    carry bottles on the campaign trail to show how folding a ballot three times
    before inserting it into the bottle prevents peering at ballots.

    Ndira and others are worried about the potential for intimidation in rural
    areas, where education levels are low and access to news is limited. At a
    rally Monday, Mugabe told the crowd: "All those who will vote for the MDC
    are traitors."

    No matter what happens, most African nations who've sent observers are
    expected to validate the vote. "There's an implicit deal between the
    government of Zimbabwe and countries in the region that if Mugabe runs a
    somewhat better process, he'll get a clean bill of health," says the Western

    A government spokesman didn't follow through on a request for comment.

    European and US observers were pointedly not invited. Russian, Iranian,
    Libyan, and others were.

    Still, opposition optimism pervades. One reason is that it's so clear the
    government's policies have largely failed. The national economy has shrunk
    by up to 40 percent in five years, sending inflation as high as 600 percent
    and unemployment to 70 percent.

    Mugabe rails against the West, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and white
    rule, which ended in 1980 after a brutal independence war. But those
    memories of colonialism are increasingly overshadowed by current practical
    concerns. "They're talking about Blair, but we just want jobs," says Thomas,
    a Harare resident who didn't give his last name.

    Ndira, for instance, is an unemployed welder. He says he eats meat only two
    or three times a month, and corn-based pap and green vegetables the rest of
    the time. At least he has food. By one estimate 4.8 million Zimbabweans are
    on the verge of starvation.

    It's these kinds of conditions, coupled with the optimism, that have boosted
    talk of mass protests if the election is blatantly stolen. Mugabe's chief
    critic, Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, said recently of
    the president: "I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really
    organize and kick him out by a nonviolent popular mass uprising." Says Ndira
    in response: "If the MDC doesn't win we will go forth" into the streets.

    People have been predicting the demise of autocrats like Mugabe and Cuba's
    Fidel Castro for years. But, says the diplomat, in a burst of optimism that
    could all be destroyed by events: "The beginning of the end of the Mugabe
    era starts Friday."
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    From Anti-Blair to Aunty Blair?

    Jacklynne Hobbs*

    JOHANNESBURG, Mar 31 (IPS) - Zimbabwe's last parliamentary election, held in
    2000, transfixed the attention of the international community. A substantial
    number of column inches were devoted to the campaign of farm occupations and
    human rights abuses that preceded the ballot -- and the allegations of vote
    rigging that followed.

    Now, the Southern African country is going to the polls for its next
    legislative election, on Thursday. Once again, analysts say the run-up to
    the vote has not been conducive to free and fair polling.

    Thursday's ballot will see the ruling Zimbabwe African National
    Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) square off against the Movement for
    Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe's main opposition group. Three other
    parties and several independent candidates are also in the race.

    Voters will elect 120 parliamentarians to the country's 150-seat House of
    Assembly. The remaining 30 seats are to be filled with legislators appointed
    by President Robert Mugabe, giving ZANU-PF a built-in advantage as far as
    gaining a parliamentary majority is concerned.

    In 2000, the MDC won 57 seats to the ruling party's 62. The remaining seat
    went to the ZANU-Ndonga grouping.

    About 30 people were reportedly killed in the violence that preceded the
    last legislative poll, and which was mostly directed against the opposition.
    While comparable violence has not been reported this year, rights activists
    say the level of intimidation in Zimbabwe remains high.

    In a report issued Mar. 21, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    claimed ZANU-PF was the only party that could freely campaign in the
    Mashonaland and Manicaland provinces (in northern and eastern Zimbabwe,
    respectively), where most people in the country lived. Opposition supporters
    who tried to defy this trend faced the prospect of assault, said HRW.

    Zimbabwe's government is also accused of using repressive laws and media
    restrictions to tilt the outcome of Thursday's vote in its favour -- and of
    withholding food supplies to its opponents. In certain constituencies, this
    could be a matter of life or death: the Famine Early Warning System Network,
    located in Johannesburg, said recently that 4.8 million of Zimbabwe's 12
    million citizens were in urgent need of food aid.

    In addition, concerns have been expressed about the validity of the voters'
    roll, with the Harare-based FreeZim Support Group claiming that more than
    two million of the 5.6 million names on the register may be suspect.

    The vast majority of Zimbabweans living abroad (more than three million, by
    some estimates) will not be able to vote in Thursday's poll; these
    expatriates are widely held to be opposition supporters.

    The United States and the European Union, which implemented targeted
    sanctions against Zimbabwe after a flawed 2002 presidential poll, have not
    been invited to send election observers to Zimbabwe this year. Nor have the
    Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community's (SADC)
    Parliamentary Forum, which also spoke out against the 2002 vote.

    The African Union and SADC have deployed observers in Zimbabwe, as have
    various African countries, including South Africa. However, Labour Minister
    Membathisi Mdladlana, who heads the government's observer mission, provoked
    a storm of controversy when he declared soon after arriving in Zimbabwe that
    conditions for a fair ballot were in place.

    Various local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have
    also been denied permission to observe the elections, raising fears that
    there simply won't be enough monitors to cover all polling stations (said to
    number more than 8,000).

    "There is a glaring gap in manpower to manage the polling stations. This is
    because not many NGOs have been accredited by the government," Nicholas
    Dube, an MDC spokesman in South Africa, told IPS.

    Last year, a set of electoral guidelines was drawn up by SADC in a bid to
    ensure that polls in the region conformed to international standards. These
    rules include requirements for political parties to be given equal access to
    state media, for impartial electoral institutions to be created - and a
    climate of political tolerance to be established in member states prior to

    But as IPS has reported previously, while the MDC has been given a certain
    amount of airtime on state radio and television, overall election coverage
    remains firmly pro-government.

    In addition, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) -- Harare's answer to
    calls for a neutral body to supervise polls -- has also come under
    criticism. According to HRW's report of Mar. 22, the law establishing the
    ZEC gives the government too much say over the composition of the
    commission, and creates "too many opportunities for ministerial
    intervention" in the ZEC for it to be considered impartial.

    Nonetheless, some have voiced the fear that Mugabe's gestures towards the
    SADC code will enable him to argue that he is living up to the spirit, if
    not the letter, of the electoral guidelines -- and that this could give
    cover to regional leaders who are reluctant to criticise his conduct.

    Certain analysts, believing that ZANU-PF has all but assured itself of
    victory on Thursday, have also begun speculating about the likely effects of
    a landslide victory by the party.

    There are claims that ZANU-PF might use a two-thirds majority in the new
    parliament to alter Zimbabwe's constitution -- specifically those aspects
    which deal with presidential succession.

    At present, the resignation of a head of state leads to elections for a new
    president. But with a substantial legislative majority, Mugabe could alter
    the rules to enable him to appoint a successor who would protect his
    interests after he stepped down, ensuring that he was never brought to book
    for abuses committed during his term in office.

    "His deputy, (Joyce) Mujuru, may succeed him as president," said Peter
    Kagwanja, director of the International Crisis Group's Southern African
    Project, noting that close ties had formed during Zimbabwe's liberation
    struggle between Mugabe and Mujuru's husband, Solomon.

    Kagwanja was speaking at a conference organised by the Electoral Institute
    of Southern Africa in Johannesburg earlier this month.

    The 81-year-old leader is presently expected to retire from office in 2008.

    While many activists in Zimbabwe welcome the attention that is being paid to
    human rights abuses in their country, others find the experience a somewhat
    bitter lesson in the politics of race.

    They point to the ruthless suppression of a rebellion in the 1980s by
    supporters of Joshua Nkomo, head of the Zimbabwe African People's Union, and
    ask why this was followed by an honorary knighthood for Mugabe in 1994 -- 
    while the occupation of white-owned farms six years later elicited a
    different reaction from the international community.

    The farm invasions were initially portrayed by government as a spontaneous
    attempt by veterans of the 1970s liberation war to correct imbalances in
    land ownership that dated back to the colonial era. However, government
    critics say the occupations were orchestrated by Harare in a bid to short up
    public support ahead of the 2000 parliamentary poll.

    "When one is talking about politics of the West you cannot discount the
    issue of race as far as Africa is concerned. Clearly there has been a real
    problem amongst Western governments in dealing with the violence in Zimbabwe
    from the '80s and the post-2000 period," says Zimbabwean political analyst
    Brian Raftopoulos.

    But he notes that land seizures were also "seen as a challenge to property
    rights as recognised by the international financial institutions." This has
    negatively affected investor confidence in Zimbabwe.

    Raftopoulos says Mugabe has used the attention of critics in wealthy
    countries and Zimbabwe's former coloniser, Britain, to his advantage at home
    and regionally; the president routinely accuses foreign powers of plotting
    the collapse of Zimbabwe - and Britain of wishing to recolonise the country.

    "It has a resonance to those who were subjected to colonialism and racism,"
    says Raftopoulos.

    The MDC is also portrayed by Mugabe as a puppet of the British government,
    while Thursday's poll has been dubbed the "anti-Blair election" in reference
    to Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

    But with economic mismanagement having resulted in triple-digit inflation,
    widespread unemployment and deteriorating social services - all this as AIDS
    ravages the country - Raftopoulos believes many Zimbabweans realise their
    problems go beyond a former colony being punished for asserting its

    Even the anti-Blair rhetoric may be missing its mark: a joke currently doing
    the rounds in Zimbabwe talks of an elderly rural man asking "Who is Aunty
    Blair?" after attending a campaign rally addressed by Mugabe.

    * With additional reporting by Sekai Ngara in Harare, and Moyiga Nduru in
    Johannesburg (END/2005)
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          Zimbabwe Expatriates Apathetic About Mock Vote
          By  Challiss McDonough
          30 March 2005

    By some estimates, there are more than two million Zimbabweans living in
    South Africa.  Some left home seeking work, while others were seeking
    refugee status, claiming they were victims of political oppression.  Most of
    them will not be voting in Thursday's parliamentary election.  A Zimbabwean
    human rights group organized a "mock election" Tuesday to allow them to cast
    protest ballots in Pretoria.  But some Zimbabweans living in South Africa
    seem to have given up on the idea of changing their government, and say
    elections are a waste of time.

    There is really no way of knowing exactly how many Zimbabweans are living in
    South Africa.  Some refugee groups say it could be more than 2.5 million.
    Even half that number would be significant, give that there are only about
    5.6 million registered voters in Zimbabwe.

    A coalition of Zimbabwean activist groups organized what they call a "mock
    election" this week.  About a thousand Zimbabweans living in South Africa
    gathered in front of the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria to cast fake
    ballots.  Organizer Elinor Sisulu called it a symbolic gesture of protest.

    "The mock vote came about as a request from some very young people,
    Zimbabwean refugees who are torture victims. mostly refugees and asylum
    seekers, who would like to make their voice heard [about] what is going on
    in Zimbabwe and at least register their voice," she noted.  "They would like
    ideally to be at home to vote, but it's not possible."

    The coalition organized similar "mock elections" in London and Munich.  They
    plan to release the "results" of their fake poll on Friday.  Ms. Sisulu
    thinks the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is likely to come
    out on top.

    "I think it's quite obvious that the Zimbabweans who have left, especially
    the ones in South Africa, are people who left partly because they could see
    no future in Zimbabwe, and they could see no possibility of change," she
    noted.  "So they are the ones most likely to vote for the opposition.  The
    very fact that they left Zimbabwe, I suppose, indicates a vote with their
    feet, that they're not happy with what's going on."

    Only soldiers and diplomats have the right to cast ballots outside the
    country in a Zimbabwean poll.  Most Zimbabweans who have come to South
    Africa to escape political persecution say it is not safe to go back to
    Zimbabwe to vote.  Those who have come as so-called "economic migrants" say
    they either cannot afford to, or they just do not want to.

    In the Johannesburg neighborhood of Melville, most of the 20 or 30 street
    hawkers who line the sidewalks every day are Zimbabweans.  Groups of young
    men spread their handicrafts out on blankets or stroll around to trendy
    restaurants, offering their wares to lunchtime diners.  They sell working
    radios made from coathanger wire, beaded lizard-shaped keychains, and frogs
    made from scrap metal.

    Standing behind his array of wire figurines, Jimmy Nyaruwa scoffs at the
    idea of making the hour-long journey to Pretoria to vote in a mock election.

    "They can just go and vote there, but me I can't go.  It's a waste of time
    to go and vote, you see," he said.

    Mr. Nyaruwa's main priority is making enough money to support his family.
    The 28-year-old has a wife and a baby girl to feed here in Johannesburg.  He
    also sends money and groceries home every month to his unemployed parents in
    Harare, and he pays school fees for his younger sister and two brothers.

    He says his family is suffering.  They cannot afford to buy food.  But he
    never even considered going back to Zimbabwe to vote, because he says it
    would not change anything.

    "I won't go back and vote because it's obvious that Mugabe will win," he
    added. "Because of his style.  No, there's no point to go and vote you see.
    Otherwise, it's a waste of my time to go and vote."

    Most of the other Zimbabwean street hawkers in Melville say pretty much the
    same thing.  They wish things back home were different, but they have little
    faith that change will come through the ballot box.

    The head of a Johannesburg-based democracy-building group sees that kind of
    apathy as a major danger for Zimbabwe.  Denis Kadima, head of the Electoral
    Institute of Southern Africa, says civic groups and international observers
    have questioned the integrity of Zimbabwe's last two elections.  There are
    already complaints surfacing about this poll.

    "The fear now is that elections will lose their meaning," said Mr. Kadima.
    "I think what is important now is to see institutions like the African Union
    and SADC... to really take this matter seriously because it has been going
    on and on.  Once people lose faith in democracy... At the end of the day,
    people will end up not believing in elections as an effective way to effect
    change.  And when people don't feel that they have that option, you end up
    with undemocratic means of accessing power."

    The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) exists to promote credible
    elections and democratic governance.  Over the last seven years, EISA has
    observed elections in every country in the Southern African Development
    Community (SADC) including two in Zimbabwe.

    But EISA was not invited to observe this poll.  Neither was the SADC
    Parliamentary Forum, a group of regional lawmakers who issued critical
    reports about the last two elections.  And neither will the Commonwealth
    group of nations, which suspended Zimbabwe from its ranks after the 2002
    presidential election failed to meet its standards.  Zimbabwe later quit the
    Commonwealth altogether.

    There are observers from the African Union and SADC governments.  But most
    of the 500 accredited observers come from individual African countries and
    political parties. Mr. Kadima says that creates a credibility problem.

    "It appears that anyone who could provide an independent assessment of the
    election has been sidelined," added Mr. Kadima.  "Because, you see, most of
    the observer teams, they are coming from governments.  And as you know
    governments tend to be restricted by diplomacy and such principles.  Those
    political parties invited are mainly those from the liberation movements,
    which can only display some solidarity with the government in Zimbabwe, or
    let's say the ruling party in Zimbabwe."

    Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, on
    Wednesday blasted the head of the Southern African Development Community
    (SADC) observer mission, a South African cabinet minister, for making
    positive comments about Zimbabwe's electoral process and the overall
    atmosphere ahead of the poll.  The party's secretary general accused SADC of
    wanting to "rubber-stamp" a "fraudulent ZANU-PF victory."

    A similar controversy erupted last week over comments by the head of the
    South African government observer mission.  But he said he was misquoted,
    and the MDC backed down after meeting with him.  The South Africans
    emphasized their commitment to neutrality throughout the electoral process.

    But many Zimbabweans remain skeptical.  On the sidewalks of Melville, a
    street hawker who gives his name only as Michael volunteers an opinion that
    shows deep mistrust of both Zimbabwe's ruling party and of South Africa's.

    "I was thinking if there was someone who can monitor the elections, not the
    South Africans, but some other outside countries to do the fair elections,
    [opposition leader Morgan] Tsvangirai was going to win," said Michael.  "But
    right now I don't think Tsvangirai is going to win, because ZANU already won
    the election, you see."

    Mistrust of the electoral process has reached the Roman Catholic Archbishop
    of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube.  Over the last week, he has repeatedly said the
    election has already been rigged, and has called for peaceful
    "Ukraine-style" mass protests to remove Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe.
    Zimbabwe's ruling party spokesman called the archbishop "a mad liar."

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    Mugabe brands opposition voters 'traitors'


    SUPPORTERS of Zimbabwe's political opposition have been branded traitors by
    President Robert Mugabe, raising fears of new violence marring today's
    parliamentary elections.

    "All those who will vote for the (Movement for Democratic Change) are
    traitors," state radio quoted Mugabe as saying to a ruling Zanu PF party
    rally at Mutoko, 140km northeast of Harare.
    Similar comments by the President in the past have encouraged ruling party
    and youth militia to take violent action against opposition supporters and

    Amid widespread concern about vote-rigging and intimidation of voters by
    political control of food distribution, Zimbabwe's former information
    minister Jonathan Moyo has filed a court application challenging electoral
    rules that allow for just one polling agent per candidate per polling

    Mr Moyo, who is standing as an independent candidate after a falling-out
    with Mr Mugabe, is arguing for the right to have three electoral agents
    monitoring the polls at every voting centre.

    Mr Moyo is concerned the electoral rules will prevent proper monitoring of
    the polling booths.

    Mr Mugabe's treason comments come in the wake of a call by Roman Catholic
    archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo for a "non-violent mass popular uprising"
    if the ruling party wins the election by fraud.

    Archbishop Ncube said Mugabe's "traitor" accusation revived ominous memories
    of moves against suspected opposition voters after previous elections.

    In 1985, tens of thousands of black families were evicted from their homes
    into midwinter cold until they could produce ruling-party cards.

    That year, Mugabe told victorious supporters: "Now take your sticks and beat
    out the snakes among you."

    Parliamentary elections in 2000 and presidential elections in 2002 were
    marred by widespread state-sanctioned political violence and intimidation.

    The director of Zimbabwe's independent Electoral Support Network, Reginald
    Matshaba-Hove, said he was concerned about Mr Mugabe's comment and had asked
    foreign observer teams to stay in the country for at least a week after the

    At previous rallies, Mr Mugabe has described adherents of opposition leader
    Morgan Tsvangirai as puppets of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and
    alleged they plan to return the country to its pre-1980 status as the
    breakaway colony of Rhodesia.

    AP, AFP
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    Independent (UK)

    Mugabe's vote-rigging and bribery set to secure easy victory
    By Meera Selva, Africa Correspondent
    31 March 2005

    Zimbabweans vote today in an election expected to produce a "mountainous
    victory" for the party of President Robert Mugabe, who is suspected of
    rigging the polls to obtain the results he needs to stay in power.

    As he predicted victory at a final campaign rally, the President said: "We
    have never been losers, because we have always been a party of the people."

    As a last-minute perk to ensure electoral success, he announced that the
    minimum wage for domestic servants would increase tenfold.

    The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, said the
    sudden announcement would punish middle-class urban voters who employ most
    of Zimbabwe's 250,000 domestic servants, while trade unions warned that it
    could raise unemployment.

    Tendai Biti, secretary of finance for the MDC, said: "They want to drive a
    wedge between urban employers and employees who are presumed to be MDC." He
    said Mr Mugabe had not made similar provisions for the 500,000 farm workers
    who had lost their jobs when land was seized from white farmers as part of
    his land reform policy. Wages in Zimbabwe have risen erratically over the
    past few years, sometimes in line with inflation and sometimes not.

    A gardener earns Z$83,000 (£4.41) a month, and under the new minimum wage he
    will earn Z$800,000, in a country where the price of a loaf of bread has
    risen from Z$300, to Z$3,000.

    The move is one of the more legitimate moves Mr Mugabe has made in this
    election campaign. He has been accused of withholding food from opposition
    supporters, intimidating MDC party workers and censoring the press.

    More than three million Zimbabweans living outside the country have been
    barred from voting, but thousands of fictional names have been added to
    electoral rolls.

    The allocation of seats is already skewed against the opposition; under
    Zimbabwe's constitution, voters will elect 120 members of Zimbabwe's
    150-seat parliament, and Mr Mugabe will select the remaining 30 himself. To
    win an outright majority the MDC needs at least 76 seats, while Zanu-PF need
    only win 46. Any party that wins a two-thirds majority can then alter the

    Earlier this year, the government passed a law that allows the military and
    security services to act as election officials, manning polling station and
    supervising the vote count.

    "Can you imagine how a voter is going to feel, walking into a polling
    station and seeing the army and police standing at the door," asked Shari
    Eppel, a human rights worker for Zimbabwe-based Solidarity Peace Trust. "It
    does nothing to convince people this election will be free and fair."

    In the last general election, in 2000, the MDC won 57 seats, despite its
    supporters being routinely arrested, beaten up and tortured by Mr Mugabe's
    youth militias. The MDC still enjoys wide support, but Mr Mugabe's critics
    believe he has managed to rig the election more effectively this time. Most
    people believe the opposition will return up to 40 candidates. Andrew Moyse,
    the head of a media monitoring service in Harare, said the only real
    question was just how many seats Zanu-PF would decide they wanted. "Are they
    going to rig it to the point where they give themselves a two-thirds
    majority? Will they allow the MDC to keep most of the seats that they win?"

    And in the unlikely event of a hung parliament or an MDC majority, Mr Mugabe
    has retained the right to override parliament and rule by decree.

    Even the monitoring of the poll has been skewed, as the select group of
    international election observers sympathetic to the regime has been
    hand-picked by Mr Mugabe. Three of the main ones are controlled by South
    Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, and a fourth comes
    from the Southern African Development Community. The African Union has also
    sent observers.

    Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's President, has already said he expects the
    elections in Zimbabwe will be free and fair. The EU and US have been banned
    from sending monitors. Mr Mugabe has said Western powers are hostile to his
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    The Telegraph

    Displaced farmer still dreams of a return
    By David Blair
    (Filed: 31/03/2005)

    In a slow, deliberate voice, the Zimbabwean official spelt out the words
    that deprived Gordon Stephen of his home and livelihood.

    "The sooner you get off this farm, the better," said Willard Chiwewe,
    permanent secretary of Zimbabwe's foreign ministry, when he confronted the
    farmer outside his homestead in November 2003. From that moment, Mr Stephen,
    39, knew that Ayrshire farm, his home of 25 years, and everything he owned
    would join more than 5,000 other farms as the spoils of President Robert
    Mugabe's land grab.

    "I keep asking 'is there more I could have done'?" said Mr Stephen. "Should
    I have refused to leave and let them shoot at me? I feel as if I've let the
    whole family down."

    Five months after losing their home, Mr Stephen and his wife, Emma, 29,
    their daughters, Sinead, nine, and Michaela, two, and their son Campbell,
    three, fled to Britain. They moved to Belper, Derbyshire, where he works at
    a factory making gas boilers. "I can't say how demoralising it is to be in
    this place," he said. "In Africa, I was running a farm and looking after
    everybody, and now I'm nothing, just nothing."

    On his 4,200-acre farm, 75 miles west of Harare, Mr Stephen had employed 80
    workers to keep 400 head of livestock and tend 1,200 acres of crops. Today,
    Mr Chiwewe lives in the family's former homestead and little grows on the

    Mr Stephen received no compensation and keeps the title deeds to his former
    home. "All I want to do is go back and get the farm going again," he said.
    "That's still my dream."
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