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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Independent (UK)

Zimbabwean Elections: 'We watch, we listen, keep our mouths shut and wait'
Cathy Buckle, who was forced off her farm by President Mugabe, has been
sending a series of weekly e-mails around the globe. As Zimbabwe votes
today, she tells of the daily battle for survival in a country facing
economic ruin
31 March 2005

Billion dollar birthday party

Saturday 26 February 2005

Dear Family and Friends

All roads are leading to Marondera today because President Mugabe's 81st
birthday party is being held in the town. An enormous white tent has been
erected on the local football field and all week the town has been filling
up with government dignitaries, entertainers, scores of police, security
officials, youth brigade members and men in dark glasses and big hats.

The birthday celebrations are being broadcast live on television. Many
thousands of people are in the tent: children in school uniform holding
little flags, ministers and government dignitaries wearing red sashes and
the usual large number of people who find it appropriate to wear clothes
with President Mugabe's face printed on the fabric. Lines of teenage girls
in youth brigade uniforms started the day off with displays of karate kicks
and punches and were followed by speaker after speaker who came forward to
praise the President and condemn anyone and everyone who is seen as an
enemy. As a Marondera resident I couldn't help but smile as I watched all
the VIPs and even local Marondera officials, drinking bottled water. I guess
they must have heard that our water issmelly and foul tasting.

After four hours, the birthday cake emerged. Slices were cut and handed out
to members of the family and then the television commentator made the most
amazing statement. She said: "As you can see, Robert junior is actually
eating the cake now while I am still hungry, but it looks very delicious."
The words would undoubtedly have been echoed by many of the thousands of
people in the tent.

According to the government media, donations to the value of Z$1bn (£87,000)
were raised for the Marondera birthday party. I needed a dictionary to check
how many zeros there are in a billion dollars and then my 12-year-old son to
show me how to use the calculator in my computer as a normal calculator
cannot accommodate all those zeros. We worked out that the money spent on
the party could have bought 285,000 loaves of bread which would have been
enough to give six slices of bread to every man, woman and child in
Marondera. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to dream of delicious birthday

Until next week, love Cathy

Everyone is sket

Saturday 5 March 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

"Everyone here is sket, coz last time they chaya'd us all." This little
sentence said to me by a local shop worker, says it all for the atmosphere
in Marondera just 26 days before parliamentary elections. Everyone in the
town is scared because we are all waiting for the beatings, stonings and
burnings that have characterised every single election here in the past five
years. Our town is full to bursting with strangers, luxury cars, vehicles
with no number plates and people with pockets full of money. The atmosphere
in the town is extremely tense. Most days I have to go past the house which
was petrol bombed in the last elections; the house that I watched burn for
hours through the night but which the fire brigade said they could not come
and attend to. Every week I see friends, both black and white, men and
women, who have been beaten and tortured in the past five years, lost their
homes, possessions and jobs and had to literally run for their lives.

Memories in Marondera are still very real, not only of burnings, beatings
and even human branding carved into men's backs at the last election, but of
a litany of abuse and decay that has become everyday life. Less than a year
ago our schools were closed down and the headteachers arrested. As I write,
our government hospitals and clinics do not even have phenobarb to control
epilepsy, patients have to take their own food and outpatients queue outside
in the open, sitting on the ground, for up to four hours before they are
seen. In a two-kilometre stretch of road leading to my home only two street
lights still work, none of the storm drains have been cleared for over a
year and grass is growing in the middle of tarred roads. I don't know anyone
in the town who doesn't boil their drinking water; more often than not it
has a brown or green colour, almost always it has specks floating in it and
always it smells bad. So, having to tolerate all these things every day, we
are all smiling at the mad flurry of activity in the past few days, and we
are all, equally, not being fooled.

This week, suddenly, our town is being cleaned up. Just 26 days before
elections, local officials have appeared out of the woodwork. Suburban roads
which have not had pot holes filled or edges repaired for the entire rainy
season, are being graded. Across the road from the main Marondera hospital
this week all the fruit and vegetable vendors' home-made shacks have been
pulled down and replaced with treated timber structures. In 2000 I used to
stop there and buy a banana for $4. Now, the bananas are $1,000 each and on
the lamp-post there, next to the women who sell bananas, is an election
poster... It is five years later, everything else has changed, but that face
on the election poster is still the same. There are no opposition posters on
trees or lamp-posts in Marondera yet. There are no people wearing opposition
hats or T-shirts and the reason is because "here everyone is sket because
last time we all got chaya'd."

Until next week, with love, Cathy.

Worried about food

Saturday 12 March 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

This week two little things happened which paint the most vivid picture of
life in Zimbabwe at the moment. After having tolerated foul and filthy water
in Marondera for at least two years, the local authorities switched off the
supply altogether to clean the reservoirs. When we still didn't have water
after 24 hours, people were getting desperate and there was quite a crowd
filling up buckets from a seasonal stream that runs in the vlei [wetlands]
near my house. A group of women who had just walked a kilometre to get
drinking water from a friend's borehole and had then carried the heavy
bottles all the way back, stopped to chat on the road. They asked me if I
had any water and I said no but that I thought it would be back soon as the
higher parts of town had water and it would take time for all the pipes to
fill. "May I give you one of my bottles," one of the women graciously
offered. THIS is the real Zimbabwe I thought, these few words gave me hope.

Also this week I had the chance to spend half an hour with a friend who has
no access to e-mail or anything other than state propaganda. She is a single
mum of three, can't afford newspapers, doesn't have her own phone or
transport and survives on a government stipulated minimum wage of less than
$3,000 a day, which isn't even enough to buy a single loaf of bread. My
friend asked me if I thought we would have any chance at all of being able
to vote and it didn't take me long to realise that she had no idea of how
the coming election was going to work because there has been almost no voter
education. Everyone knows that voting has been cut down to one day but
thinks that instead of queuing for half a day, like we did last time, this
time we'll queue all day and not get to the front in time.

My friend knew that we would be having see-through ballot boxes this time
but didn't know why. She didn't understand that ballot boxes would not be
moved to counting centres but that votes would be tallied where they were
cast. My friend was not at all convinced that this was a good idea. She
thought it might stop box stuffing but it would increase retribution
afterwards. People are scared, rumours are rife and threats and innuendos
are widespread. For the past three weeks there wasn't any sugar or maize
meal on the shelves and now suddenly there is and that is what ordinary
people are worried about - food. It's as simple as that. Everyone is
borrowing money to buy food because the rumours are that as soon as the
elections are over the prices will soar.

Of wolves and sheepskin coats

Saturday 19 March 2005

Dear Family and Friends

There are just 12 days left before parliamentary elections. The atmosphere
is quiet but tense and everyone seems to be waiting for something to happen.
I suppose the most accurate description of people's feelings this week is
suspicious. Nothing is ever as it seems in Zimbabwe and we are all looking
for wolves in sheep's clothing, keeping our mouths firmly shut and just
watching. The talk in the suburbs is that there are at least four dozen
young men openly walking around in public places at night wearing opposition
T-shirts - and nothing is happening to them. This is something we just
haven't seen in the past five years because wearing an MDC shirt has been
almost guaranteed to cause a beating so now that it is happening openly,
everyone thinks it's a trap. Maybe it is, who knows anymore!

We are all very suspicious of the sudden change in the ZBC radio programmes
too. After five years of hateful racist rhetoric and unashamed attacks on
the MDC, this week the announcers suddenly changed their tune. Blatantly
coinciding with the jamming of independent broadcasts from Short Wave Radio
Africa and the arrival of election observers, our radio news bulletins have
suddenly started reporting on both Zanu-PF and MDC speeches. The incessant
Zanu-PF propaganda suddenly changed into messages about the environment,
music by people other than members of Zanu-PF and little talks on Zimbabwe's
tourist destinations. No one is fooled though, like everything else we all
know it's just another wolf in sheep's clothing, designed to make outsiders
think that everything is OK but ignoring the fact that it's not the
outsiders that do the voting, but the sheep.

A leopard doesn't change its spots

Saturday 26 March 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

As I write this letter on Easter Saturday morning, there are just five days
left before our elections. The atmosphere in Marondera in this pre-election
week has been peculiar to say the least. I suppose the words that most
accurately describe the feeling are tension, suspicion, distrust and
expectation. The town is absolutely full to bursting with people, many of
whom are strangers. The electioneering and rhetoric has moved into top gear
and everywhere you look there are posters, T-shirts, wrap-around skirts,
head scarves and hats all advertising the ruling party. There are still a
couple of dozen MDC posters in the town but mostly they are high up and out
of reach. No one in the town can believe that there still haven't been any
reports of violence and we are all going through the motions of our normal
business but with eyes in the back of our heads just waiting for something
to happen. Reading through some of the letters I wrote at the time of
elections in 2000 and 2002, it is almost impossible to believe what we as a
town and Zimbabwe as a country have lived through as the ruling Zanu-PF
party has fought to stay in power.

My descriptions of the last two elections told of war veterans breaking down
doors, burning huts and force-marching villagers to rallies and all-night
re-education sessions. They told of arson, of petrol bombs being thrown
through windows, of women being raped and men being beaten with electric
cables, sticks and batons. The things that were done to the people of
Zimbabwe in the last two elections were so widespread that there was hardly
a suburb or even a street where there was not a victim, a relation or an eye
witness. We saw the blood, broken bones, burns and bruises with our own
eyes; we heard the screams, groans and cries with our own ears. From
February 2000 to March 2005 we have waited for the perpetrators of those
deeds to be apprehended, tried and convicted for their crimes but we have
waited in vain. There has been no accountability and so now we watch, we
listen, we keep our mouths shut and we wait. The old saying that a leopard
does not change its spots is very much in our minds just a few days before

It does not matter how polite Zanu-PF are in this election campaign, how
bright and white their T-shirts are or how they crow incessantly on the
radio that Zimbabwe is now a mature democracy, the fact of the matter is we
are tired and absolutely fed up with living like this. When we vote on
Thursday it will be for food, clean water, affordable schools for our
children, hospitals which have drugs and leaders who will respect us and our
universal rights of speech, movement and association. I have a picture in my
head of a man on a horse trailing a yellow banner in the middle of this
week's revolution in Kyrgyzstan. That image from the other side of the world
in a country whose name I cannot even pronounce, gives me hope.

With love, Cathy
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The Scotsman

Day of reckoning in Zimbabwe


MORE than 5.6 million Zimbabweans go to the polls today to choose a new
parliament, amid widespread fears that the president, Robert Mugabe, may
have already rigged his way to victory.

The elections pit the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic
Front (ZANU-PF) against the five-year-old Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), which is led by Morgan Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist.

ZANU-PF, like Mr Mugabe, has been in power in this struggling southern
African nation for the past 25 years, and clearly has no intention of losing
its grip.

The opposition says that the ruling party has mounted an insidious campaign
of intimidation, propaganda and a flawed electoral roll in an attempt to
steal the result.

Speaking at his last campaign rally in the capital, Harare, yesterday, the
Zimbabwean leader predicted a massive victory for his party.

"We have never been losers, because we have always been a party of the
people," he said.

Mr Mugabe also said he would not agree to forming a government of national
unity with the MDC. "Once we have fought in an election, a party has lost
and we have won," Mr Mugabe said. "Why should the outside world ... say they
need to have a government of national unity?" he asked about 3,000

However, the president's confidence appears to have been dented by the large
turnouts at recent MDC rallies.

Opposition leaders are urging their supporters to show their discontent with
years of declining incomes, soaring unemployment and rampant inflation.

The economy has shrunk 50 per cent over the past five years. Unemployment is
at least 70 per cent. Agriculture, the economic base of Zimbabwe, has
collapsed and at least 70 per cent of the population live in poverty.

Opposition leaders blame the country's economic woes on the government's
often violent seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for
redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

Mr Mugabe defends the programme as a way of righting severe racial
imbalances in land ownership which were inherited from British colonial
rule. He blames food shortages in a country that was once a regional
breadbasket on years of crippling drought.

In a last-ditch attempt at sweetening the vote for hundreds of thousands of
traditionally down-trodden domestic workers, Mr Mugabe unexpectedly
announced their salaries would go up ten-fold.

Under an extraordinary government proclamation published yesterday morning,
maids will now earn 900,000 Zimbabwe dollars (about £90) a month, up from

Critics said the move would lead to massive redundancies and increase
divisions between household staff and their employers, most of whom are
likely to be MDC voters.

Mr Mugabe is determined to avoid a rerun of the last parliamentary polls in
June 2000, when the MDC took 57 seats of the 120 being contested.

The ruling party secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, told state
radio yesterday his party would only be content if it took "80 per cent" of
the seats.

On the eve of the election, the opposition, which says it is only taking
part in the polls "under protest", stepped up its complaints against the
ruling party.

It said it had seized millions of fliers at a Harare-based printing company
stating that the MDC had withdrawn from the polls. Party spokesman Paul
Themba Nyathi said the leaflets were part of "a plan obviously meant to
discourage Zimbabweans from going to cast their vote on 31 March."

The opposition says that, while there has been less political violence than
in previous years, MDC supporters have been subjected to months of
intimidation, especially in the rural areas.

Some have been threatened with eviction or denied food aid because they do
not belong to the ruling party.

The MDC complains that three million of its supporters living outside the
country have been denied the vote.

The party also says that the registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede, has done
nothing about the estimated 800,000 dead voters whose names still appear on
the voters' roll.

An EU spokesman described the poll yesterday as "phoney". Nicholas Schmit,
Luxembourg's deputy foreign minister, said: "As soon as these phoney
elections have been held, I can commit myself to the fact that the issue of
Zimbabwe will be on the [EU leaders'] Council's agenda when we next meet."

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the biggest local grouping of aid
groups, said in a pre-election report released yesterday that food handouts
had been politicised.

"The damage to the democratic process has already been done," the report

Not all watchers have criticised the electoral process. The MDC said
yesterday it was disappointed with the head of the observer team from the
regional Southern African Development Community (SADC), South African energy
minister Phumzile Malambo-Ngcuka.

The MDC's secretary general, Welshman Ncube, accused the minister of failing
to investigate allegations of food handouts being politicised.

"They [South African observers] are only interested in manipulating events
so that they can rubber-stamp another fraudulent ZANU-PF victory," Mr Ncube

Yesterday, an air of suppressed excitement hung over the streets of Harare.

Large white marquees had been erected on open grassy areas to serve as
polling stations.

Groups of riot police could be seen sitting by the tents, and police
vehicles prowled the main roads.

Fresh posters - both for the MDC and ZANU-PF - had been plastered to
telegraph poles. Several bystanders were seen surreptitiously showing their
open palms - the MDC's symbol. Shoppers thronged the streets, stocking up
ahead of the public holiday.

The final results are expected on Saturday.
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China aids Mugabe's move to silence rivals

IAN BRUCE, Defence CorrespondentMarch 31 2005

 CHINA supplied Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's autocratic president, with a
military-strength radio jammer to block opposition broadcasts ahead of
today's poll in the country, diplomatic sources confirmed.
The jammer has been operating from a base outside Harare, the capital, for
several weeks to prevent candidates for the Movement for Democratic Change,
the main alternative party to the ruling Zanu-PF, from putting their
policies across on the airwaves in a state where radio is the only method of
mass communication.
It has also blocked broadcasts by the Short Wave Radio Africa station, the
population's main source of independent and uncensored news from outside
The army and police forces are on full alert to avert anti-government
demonstrations and voters have been warned to leave polling stations after
casting their ballots or face arrest.
Mugabe, whose 25-year reign is expected to continue until at least 2008, was
accused of vote-rigging by international monitors at elections in 2000 and

CHINA supplied Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's autocratic president, with a
military-strength radio jammer to block opposition broadcasts ahead of
today's poll in the country, diplomatic sources confirmed.
The jammer has been operating from a base outside Harare, the capital, for
several weeks to prevent candidates for the Movement for Democratic Change,
the main alternative party to the ruling Zanu-PF, from putting their
policies across on the airwaves in a state where radio is the only method of
mass communication.
It has also blocked broadcasts by the Short Wave Radio Africa station, the
population's main source of independent and uncensored news from outside
The army and police forces are on full alert to avert anti-government
demonstrations and voters have been warned to leave polling stations after
casting their ballots or face arrest.
Mugabe, whose 25-year reign is expected to continue until at least 2008, was
accused of vote-rigging by international monitors at elections in 2000 and
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      Zimbabwe's veneer of fairness
            By Alastair Leithead
            BBC News, Johannesburg

      Three years after a questionable presidential poll, Zimbabwe has all
the hallmarks of a country ready to hold free and fair elections.

      Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is on the rural campaign trail,
while his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) broadcasts on
state TV.

      It has been a peaceful non-violent build-up to the elections, with
little obvious intimidation - so what is the problem?

      "Systematic human rights violations," says Amnesty International.

      "Substantial infringements of the right to express political
opinions," says Human Rights Watch.

      "It cannot be free and fair," shout the civil-society coalitions,
think-tanks and NGOs who have been watching Zimbabwe for months.

      New-found freedom

      A small and select group of election monitors will observe and report,
but critics of President Robert Mugabe say the climate of openness is a thin
veneer over a deeply flawed electoral process.

      The voters' roll lies at the heart of the protest.

      Without proper scrutiny there are claims that hundreds of thousands of
dead people will take part in the election - and cynics add that the dead do
not vote for the opposition.

      The police and army will man many of the 8,000-odd polling stations.

      There are complaints that the electoral commission is run by ruling
party loyalists.

      There have been claims of subtle intimidation in the rural areas and
even reports of food aid being used as a political weapon.

      But the MDC, an opposition party worn down by strict laws and reported
human rights abuses, appears to have been invigorated by its new-found
freedom to campaign.

      Constitution plans

      Youths from the ruling Zanu-PF party may have patrolled the perimeter
of the MDC's rural rallies but the violence of 2002 that saw clinics and
hospitals filled with injured opposition supporters has not been played out
this time around.

      It does not mean the intimidation is not there but it has given the
opposition momentum to fight the election.

      People across the country are speaking freely, and there is every
chance the MDC will put up a fight and win a good share of the 120
parliamentary seats up for grabs.

      The president picks the other 30, so securing a majority is unlikely.

      Zanu-PF wants two-thirds of the seats to win the power to change the
constitution - something with deep ramifications for presidential

      It could give President Mugabe the chance to choose his successor and
organise a retirement plan.

      Economy in crisis

      But it is the response in Africa that will be the most interesting,
for its impact will be felt beyond Zimbabwe's borders.

      Last August, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) set a
list of guidelines for free and fair elections.

      On the list were guarantees of freedom and independence for the
judiciary and media, political tolerance and impartial electoral

      Many observers argue these criteria clearly have not been met in
Zimbabwe, and that approval of the election as "free and fair" from the SADC
observer mission would question its commitment to democracy.

      The people of Zimbabwe simply want the economic ills that have
befallen them over recent years to subside.

      The economy is still in crisis. Millions of Zimbabweans have fled to
other countries in search of work and money. Unemployment and inflation are
riding high.

      Many want what the opposition offer - "a new beginning" - but whether
they can deliver that is in the hands of the voters and the observers with
the power to award the electoral commission a pass or fail.
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      Doubt Surrounds Results of Zimbabwe Election
      By  Tendai Maphosa
      31 March 2005

Zimbabweans are expected to come out in the thousands to cast votes in the
country's fifth general election since independence in 1980. Some analysts
say the election is not going to be free and fair.

Since independence, elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by intimidation
and violence. The 2000 parliamentary and 2002 presidential votes were
particularly bloody.

Numerous local and international observer groups concluded that both polls
were not free and fair. Analysts say the scaled-down violence prior to
today's election is the result of pressure on the government by the
international community.

But Brian Raftopoulos of the University of Zimbabwe says that even though
there was less overt violence during the campaign for Thursday poll,
violence will still have a bearing on how people vote. "There is clearly the
legacy of violence which in itself is a huge intimidatory factor in a
situation like this where political violence has been used consistently even
the threat of violence and the symbolic presence of it in communities can
have an enormous effect on voters," he said.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo is one of those who
strongly believe that the poll is going to be rigged. "These elections are
already won by Zanu-PF because first of all there hasn't been transparency
in the voters roll," he said. "We understand there is something like 600,000
duplicate voters, people who have registered more than once, we understand
on the voters roll there are 800,000 dead voters whose names will be used by
certain people. So these parliamentary elections will be rigged."

Earlier this week, Archbishop Ncube called for a peaceful uprising after the
result is announced. He accused the government of trying to starve
supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in his
drought-stricken diocese.

His call brought a rebuke from the government and the ruling party which
called him an "inveterate liar."
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Mugabe Election Win May Spark `No-Brainer' Zimbabwe Devaluation
Bloomberg News:  Mar 31, 2004: 04:59

March 30 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe drove 85 percent of the country's commercial farmers off their property and sparked three straight years of famine. His party's expected victory in tomorrow's elections will probably prompt him to help the only major income earner left: mining.

A planned $750 million expansion by Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the world's No. 2 platinum producer, may be in jeopardy unless Mugabe devalues the Zimbabwe dollar after the elections. Prices are rising almost 130 percent a year and Impala, which holds the rights to most of Zimbabwe's platinum deposits, needs a devaluation to cut costs. At one mine they rose 63 percent in South African rand in six months.

``The need for a devaluation is a no-brainer,'' says Ian Saunders, president of Zimbabwe's Chamber of Mines in Turk Mine, south of Harare, the capital. ``There are nickel and gold projects waiting for an exchange-rate devaluation.''

Zimbabwe, which in 2000 exported more top-grade flue-cured tobacco than any other country except Brazil, now grows 75 percent less than it did that year. Production of corn, once an export crop, has slumped so much that the government now imports grain and the United Nations feeds about a 10th of the 11.8 million population. Mugabe, 81, needs U.S. dollars from gold, chrome, nickel and platinum sales.

``The exchange rate is important because the exporters who make the foreign currency needed to pay foreign debt aren't able to cover their local costs,'' says John Robertson, an economist at Robertson Economics in Harare.

Platinum Prices

The Zimbabwean dollar trades for about 14,000 to $1 on the black market. Companies must use the central bank's official auction, where the rate is 6,082 to $1. As consumer prices surge, their costs go up as well because the exchange rate does not adjust as it would in a country where currency values are determined by the market.

``They need to devalue,'' says Fidelis Madavo, a platinum analyst at Citigroup's Smith Barney unit in Johannesburg. ``Input costs are out of sync.''

Aquarius Platinum Ltd., Anglo American Plc, Anglo American Platinum Corp. and Rio Tinto Group mine or are planning to mine in Zimbabwe, which has the world's second-biggest deposits of both platinum and chrome. Platinum averaged $846.50 an ounce in 2004, compared with $691.82 an ounce in 2003. The 22 percent gain was spurred by the metal's rising use in jewelry and pollution- control devices for cars.

Margins Squeezed

``It's important for all exporters,'' says David Brown, Johannesburg-based Impala's finance director. ``With inflation in triple figures, the gross margins have been squeezed quite significantly.''

While a devaluation may cause prices of imported goods to rise, the higher black-market currency rate is already having the same effect, Robertson says.

Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono, a former chief executive officer of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, was appointed by Mugabe in December 2003. A month later, he started central bank foreign-currency auctions in a bid to curb black-market trading, and agreed with gold miners on preferential currency rates to boost production.

Zimbabwe last reduced its general exchange rate for the Zimbabwe dollar in August 2000, by 24 percent. In 2003 it adjusted the rate the central bank paid to exporters. It hasn't made any major changes to its exchange rates since the auctions were put in place in January last year.

Inflation Slows

Gono, 45, has slowed the annual inflation rate to about 127 percent in February 2005 from a record 623 percent in January 2004.

Now the economy -- which contracted by 40 percent from 1999 to 2003, according to the International Monetary Fund -- may expand 3 percent to 5 percent this year, Gono said last month.

``The opportunities in Zimbabwe are very, very attractive from a resource-sector point of view,'' says Mike Davies, an analyst at Control Risks Group in London. ``It's going to take a while for investor confidence to return.''

The economy started its free fall in 2000, when Mugabe began seizing commercial farms to hand over to blacks. They had been largely deprived of land during a century of white minority rule.

Since the land grab began, the Commercial Farmers Union says, all but 700 of its 4,500 members have left their farms. More than 340 have moved to Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania, creating jobs and boosting exports from some of the world's poorest nations.

Voting Rights Suspended

The IMF suspended Zimbabwe's voting rights in the Fund in June 2003 after the nation failed to meet its debt obligations. While Zimbabwe has taken steps to stem an economic decline, the IMF said in a Feb. 16 statement, the measures are ``insufficient to decisively turn around the economic situation.''

Since a review last July, Zimbabwe has repaid $16.5 million of its debt, the IMF said. It is almost $300 million in arrears to the Washington-based lender.

Mugabe's government wants to ``pay every penny'' of its $5 billion foreign debt, Central Bank Governor Gono said on Feb. 10. ``We are not looking for any debt write-offs.''

A devaluation would increase the cost of debt payments in Zimbabwean-dollar terms. At the same time, though, it would help export earners such as mining companies bring in the hard currency the government needs for imports and debt payments.

``The biggest imbalance in the Zimbabwean economy is the overvalued currency.'' says Isaac Matshego, an economist at Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa's largest bank, in Johannesburg.

Even so, he says, ``They are not servicing their debt, so the impact of a devaluation is that their arrears will accumulate at a faster rate in Zimbabwe dollars.''

Metal Exports

At independence in 1980, a Zimbabwean dollar would buy $2; it's now worth about a 60th of a cent at central bank-run auctions and less than half of that on the black market. The central bank said it sold less than a 10th of the $143 million that companies bid for at its biweekly auction on March 22.

``With the currency depreciating at around 30 percent per annum, but with an inflation rate around 130 percent, the exchange rate doesn't fully compensate exporters for inflation,'' says Robert Bunyi, an economist at Standard Bank Group in Johannesburg. He expects a 20 percent devaluation by July.

Platinum and metals such as nickel and chrome have risen in importance since crop exports collapsed with the land grab.

Gono said last month that foreign-currency inflows from exports and money repatriated by an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans living abroad in 2004 amounted to $1.7 billion.

Tobacco Earnings

Of that, Zimbabwe's ferrochrome production was worth $310 million, gold earned about $290 million, nickel $151 million and platinum $123 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg using current prices.

Tobacco companies such as Universal Corp. and British American Tobacco Plc also are seeking to restore supplies of some of the world's best-quality tobacco leaves. Earnings from tobacco sales dropped to about $138 million last year from $400 million five years ago.

Universal's purchases of Zimbabwean tobacco fell to 14 million kilograms (30.9 million pounds) last year from 100 million kilograms in 2000.

Without a devaluation, tobacco farmers won't be able to profit at annual auctions that begin on April 5, says Rodney Ambrose, chief executive of the Harare-based Zimbabwe Tobacco Association. The trade group has asked the government to boost a subsidy of 2,000 Zimbabwean dollars per kilogram of tobacco to 5,000 Zimbabwean dollars.

``If the floors opened today, the industry wouldn't be viable,'' Ambrose says. ``There's not much time to work.''

Mugabe Unchallenged

Mugabe, who says he plans to retire in 2008, has ruled Zimbabwe for a quarter-century. Now his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party may win a two-thirds majority in the parliamentary elections, giving him the power to change the constitution to ensure he can see out his term free of political challenge.

New York-based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party say the poll won't be fair because of intimidation and an outdated register of voters.

A poll marred by rigging and intimidation may hurt U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's plea to the Group of Eight industrial nations to double aid to Africa to $50 billion a year, analysts say.

``If Zimbabwe's election isn't fair and most of Africa still gives it the nod, that will make it more difficult for Tony Blair to promote his Africa agenda at the G-8 summit because the perception will be that Africa isn't serious about dealing with its problems,'' says Richard Dowden, director of the Royal Africa Society in London.


Mugabe's re-election in March 2002 drew condemnation from the European Union and the Commonwealth, an association of the U.K. and its former colonies.

They cited vote rigging and intimidation. The U.S. and the EU responded by imposing travel restrictions on Mugabe and senior government leaders, while the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from membership. Donors such as the U.S. and the U.K. cut all aid except for emergency food assistance.

Zimbabwe, where AIDS claims a life every 15 minutes, now gets $4 for each person infected with the HIV virus, while neighboring Zambia gets $74, according to the United Nations Children's Fund in New York.

``You don't get a sense of passion for the elections this time,'' says Eldred Masungure, a politics lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. ``The concern is day-to-day survival rather than the politics of the ballot.''

`Overwhelming' Victory

Mugabe invited South Africa, the Southern African Development Community and Russia to observe the elections. He has excluded the Commonwealth and the EU, whose teams condemned the previous two polls.

``I don't think that a free and fair election is possible in Zimbabwe given the technical deficiencies such as the absence of an independent electoral commission, a proper voters' roll and the political environment,'' says Chris Maroleng, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa. ``The question is, how overwhelming will the ZANU-PF victory be.''

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sokwanele blog

Thursday, March 31, 2005





Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Armed forces say “Enough is enough”

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission opened the postal ballot to all civil servants working outside the country as well as the local army and police. Those in the armed forces within the country were also allowed to choose to vote by postal ballot or to go to their own registered polling station on the 31st March.

That ballot has already closed, all ballot papers have been submitted to the relevant Constituencies, to be opened at the end of the voting process and added to the local votes.

A mere 9500 postal ballots have been submitted. This means the armed forces have already decided to say “Enough is enough” and refused to vote in the presence of their commanding officers.

All activists working in the name of democracy would like to congratulate the armed forces for joining them in their quest for freedom!

Please put our beloved Gogo in your prayers

Selina packed some rations for her grandchildren in her rural home this morning, enough to feed them for a few days, but not enough to attract any tsotsis to her loot. Armed with a huge smile and an enormous amount of determination, we hugged, shed tears for our impoverished and battered nation and off she went to vote in her home constituency.

I am wracked with worry as to her safety, for in the presidential elections her activist husband was beaten to a pulp and had to hide in the bush for five days.

For any of you out there who are listening, please put our beloved Gogo in your prayers tonight.

"Chinese brought boxes for zanu pf to win"

Along the Nyanzane river resettlement area people are so afraid and were told that the Chinese brought boxes for zanu pf to win. The people think that the boxes are somehow already rigged in favour of zanu pf.

People were told to rally behind their headman for if not, it will be known who did not comply. Some people in the area asked for protection from zanu pf thugs. It is a 50 / 50 situation there.

Reported from a Sokwanele activist on the ground: Fort Rixen . Name withheld for security.

COSATU Vigil in Musina, South Africa

I just returned from South Africa today. At 8am this morning, when I drove through Musina the COSATU vigil was already in full swing. There were colourful banners and Zim flags everywhere. The people were singing as they walked. SA police helicopters were flying overhead. There was massive police presence all around us. Film crews are on the ground reporting. I spoke to some of the supporters who are peacefully making their way down the road between Musina and Beitbridge. They say they are expecting around 20 000 people to join them during the course of the day. One man commented ‘we want our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe to know we are here in solidarity. We are with you all the way”.

I still have a lump in my throat! I cannot describe the joy I felt at seeing so many people turn out in support.
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Financial Times

Zimbabwe opposition talks of protests if elections are rigged
By Tony Hawkins and John Reed in Harare
Published: March 31 2005 03:00 | Last updated: March 31 2005 03:00

A Zimbabwean opposition leader yesterday raised the prospect of "mass
mobilisation" in the event of government fraud in today's parliamentary
election, and ruled out resorting to the courts, as the opposition did in
2000 and 2002.

Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, the
main opposition party, declined to be specific on the party's plans should
it wish to challenge the results of the widely criticised poll.

However, Mr Ncube said: "What we can say is that we won't go to court - that
strategy proved futile and useless." He added: "These are political issues
that could only be solved through mass mobilisation of people."

The MDC will face President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in the election,
which is under intense international scrutiny.

Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC president, and Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic
archbishop of Bulawayo, have both warned of an angry public response to
perceived voter fraud. However, the MDC has no history of successful mass
street protests, and few in Zimbabwe expect a response to a rigged poll on
the scale of the "people's power" in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

Zanu-PF is predicting victory in today's vote. It hopes to secure a
two-thirds vote that would marginalise the MDC, one of Africa's best-
organised opposition parties.

But the MDC, despite protesting over what it says were unfair pre-vote
conditions, says it expects to add several mostly rural seats to its 57
seats in Zimbabwe's 150-seat parliament.

After threatening to boycott the vote, the party appears to have caught
Zanu-PF off-guard by staging a spirited and efficient campaign, extending
its party structures deep into ruling-party strongholds. It has drawn crowds
of up to 20,000 at its rallies, compared with fewer than 5,000 at President
Mugabe's final rally in a Harare suburb yesterday.

However, the MDC would have difficulty winning the 76 seats needed for a
majority in parliament, as Zimbabwe's constitution allows President Mugabe
to appoint up to 30 MPs. Independent observers have echoed the MDC's
misgivings over the fairness of today's election.

Opposition and watchdog groups claim the voters' roll of 5.7m could
overstate the true numbers by 2m or more, allowing for potential ballot-box

Further potential for rigging could come if Zimbabwean authorities limit the
number of election agents at the 8,200 polling stations.

On Monday, a member of the nominally independent Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission, charged with organising the vote, sent home 800 election agents
from the Mudzi East constituency, east of Harare, on the grounds that they
were MDC sympathisers or supporters.

While the campaign has seen little of the violence that marred previous
elections, the rise in rural polling stations could increase the chances of
voter intimidation. "It's fair to say the election will certainly not be
free and fair," said Brian Kagoro, chair of the Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition, an umbrella group of non-governmental organisations.

However, any potential fraud will be easier to detect under new electoral
rules Zimbabwe adopted under pressure from its neighbours. Transparent
ballot boxes, the elimination of mobile polling stations, and voting on a
single day are among changes Zimbabwe adopted last year.

New counting methods will enable candidates to see results before they are
officially announced. "The electoral changes have made it harder to
manipulate the ballot," said one foreign diplomat.

The "people's power" protests in the former Soviet Union may also make for a
greater international outcry should the vote be deemed unfair. Yet whereas
about 17,000 observers monitored Ukraine's vote last year - allowing foreign
diplomats to cry foul quickly - Zimbabwe has accredited only about 400,
mostly from other African countries.

While Zimbabwe denied access to Commonwealth and EU observers, about 100 of
the observers will be diplomats from the US, Europe and other industrialised
countries. Zimbabwe's government has also accredited more than 300
journalists to cover the election.
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ABC News Australia

Zimbabwean farmers hoping for change of policy

As elections begin in his country today, a Zimbabwean farmer says he is not
looking for a change of government, despite President Robert Mugabe's policy
of land seizures.

Once one of Africa's major producers of grains, dairy and tobacco, farm
production in Zimbabwe has fallen dramatically, with land owned by white
farmers seized and redistributed to black Zimbabweans with little
agricultural experience.

But dairy farmer AJS Kirk, who is visiting Australia, says farmers are still
optimistic and looking for a change of policy regardless of the election

"As farmers we wouldn't advocate for a change in government, what we'd like
is a change in policy," he said.

"We believe we can work with whichever government is there providing we can
put the right laws in place.

"We're not opting for a change in government we're opting for a change in

This is a transcript from the ABC National Rural News that is broadcast
daily to all states on ABC Regional Radio's Country Hour and in the city on
ABC News Radio.
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The Mercury

      Fighting each other to a standstill

      A win for the MDC in today's Zimbabwean elections could force the
country into political paralysis
      March 31, 2005

      By Moshoeshoe Monare

      The Zimbabwean parliamentary elections today won't really change the
governing of the country even if the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change manages to pull off a surprise victory.

      In simple terms, such a victory would not cause any meaningful power

      What might happen if the MDC wins with a clear majority is a
constitutional crisis or governmental stalemate, because Zimbabwe is a
presidential rather than a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy.

      Unlike in SA, the party that wins Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections
does not form the government. It is the president who is constitutionally
empowered to form a cabinet (the executive government).

      The rationale is that the president is directly elected by the people.

      Another paralysing effect is that the president appoints an additional
30 MPs who do not have to contest the elections - a presidential

      Theoretically, President Robert Mugabe could form a minority
government from among those appointed MPs, without Zanu-PF having to win a
single seat in the elections.

      In this year's elections, Zanu-PF needs to win 46 seats to gain a
majority in parliament because, by virtue of having the presidency, it has
30 seats at its discretion.

      The system is an effective form of ensuring the separation of power in
terms of democratic theory, but it is susceptible to a constitutional
nightmare. That nightmare is possible after today's parliamentary elections.

      If the MDC won the election today, it would have legislative influence
through its majority in parliament, but Mugabe would not be obliged to
reconstitute his government (the executive arm) until the presidential
elections in 2008.

      He could pass laws through presidential powers for six months, but the
constitutional logjam would be felt when those laws had to be endorsed by

      Unless the MDC won the presidential elections, too, it would remain a
majority that could not rule while Zanu-PF constituted a minority

      The stalemate would be that the MDC, because of its legislative power,
would frustrate Zanu-PF and Mugabe by not giving the ruling party the
required majority to pass laws and approve budgets. The ruling party would
be paralysed - unable to govern effectively.

      The only way out of this possible deadlock would be for the MDC to win
the presidential elections in three years' time, or agree to form a
government of national unity with Zanu-PF.

      The first alternative is a long-term solution and would not solve the
immediate stand-off.

      The second alternative, a government of national unity, would be a
viable and desirable compromise, but would be highly unlikely to happen
because there has been no negotiated concession, and both parties would feel
that they had the legislative and executive arms of government by right and
not default.

      Mugabe might want to invoke a constitutional clause to dissolve
parliament and call for elections within 90 days. But the constitutional
vicious circle and deadlock would remain.

      One could argue that a stalemate would force the two rivals to
reconsider their stubborn attitudes and co-operate, or negotiate
constitutional reforms if they wanted to have an effective government.

      But this would not be in the MDC's interest. If it won, it would want
to see Zanu-PF frustrated and ultimately out of power - therefore an impasse
would work to its advantage.

      The hurdle is that the MDC has not used its parliamentary power and
influence effectively in the past five years.

      Zanu-PF does not have a two-thirds majority in the current government,
but the MDC has failed to influence any reforms or changes by using its
legislative leverage.

      Observers and regime-change proponents favour the deadlock scenario
because it would weaken Mugabe's and Zanu-PF's grip on power, and would have
a psychological effect on its waning support.

      They argue that the party would be so politically fatigued and
frustrated that it would be unable to abuse the state machinery for
presidential elections and it would be too weak to mount any serious

      But Zimbabwean society is as unpredictable as American society when it
comes to electoral choices.

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Washington Post

In Zimbabwe, 'There's No Reason to Be Scared'
Drop in Violence Before Vote Kindles Hope in Opposition

By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 31, 2005; Page A14

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe -- Two weeks ago, Mike Sibanda strode down the dingy
streets of Zimbabwe's second-largest city with a swagger, chest out,
shoulders rolling, a broad, wise-guy smile on his face. The image exuded a
single message: I'm nobody's fool.

So when the subject of Thursday's national election came up, Sibanda, 24 and
long attracted to opposition politics, swiped his right hand in the air and
said dismissively, "Ah, it's useless." That week, as opposition activists
braved possible arrests by gathering for a nighttime rally at a suburban
park near here, Sibanda gathered instead with friends to drink beer.

But as the national parliamentary election has drawn nearer, his interest in
voting against the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe -- in power since
before Sibanda was born -- has returned. Sibanda has found his faith in
democracy rekindled by what he calls growing tolerance of dissent and
reduced threat of violence.

Mugabe's camp still uses such rough tactics as withholding food from
villagers who support the opposition, human rights workers say. And there
have been dozens of arrests for participating in such political activity as
candidate-voter meetings or hanging campaign signs.

But in the face of strong international pressure, Mugabe is seeking to
convince the world that he can stage a fair election, analysts here say. The
violent tactics of recent elections, such as beatings, torture and murder by
government supporters, have declined, according to human rights workers. The
government has also eased restrictions on access to airwaves, though they
are still dominated by Mugabe's message that members of the opposition are
traitors who want to reestablish Zimbabwe as a British colony.

With these small steps toward fairness, attendance at campaign rallies is at
the highest level in the five-year history of the main opposition party, the
Movement for Democratic Change.

"There's a possibility for them to win now. There's hope," said Sibanda, who
joined throngs at a soccer stadium on Saturday to cheer the opposition.
"There's no reason to be scared."

The turning point came when he saw a television advertisement for the
opposition party. On the national network, usually reserved for ruling party
propaganda and official government pronouncements, opposition activists were
shown flashing the party's signature open-hand gesture.

The opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai -- who was on trial and facing a
death sentence on charges of treason six months ago but was acquitted -- was
pictured in his trademark cowboy hat addressing cheering crowds. On the
radio, the opposition can be heard spreading its slogan, "A New Zimbabwe, a
New Beginning."

Up for grabs are 120 seats in a parliament representing all parts of this
troubled southern African nation of 13 million people. Mugabe, whose term as
president lasts until 2008, will appoint the remaining 30 members of the
150-seat body, making it difficult for the Movement for Democratic Change to
gain outright control. It now has 51 seats.

Mugabe has vowed to have a "free and fair election." He has also called for
voters to "bury the MDC," by giving the ruling party control of two-thirds
of parliament, which would allow Mugabe to rewrite the constitution to
further entrench his party in power.

Leaders of the opposition, meanwhile, say that if they could win more than
half of the popular vote, it would undermine Mugabe's claims to credibility
and hasten his ouster. Such a result, they say, would make it easier for
Zimbabwe to attract foreign investment and end the economic decline and
hunger and hyperinflation that has ravaged the country, once an oasis of
prosperity in the region.

International human rights organizations and such other groups as the
European Union, which on Wednesday called the election "phony," say the
outcome is unlikely to reflect the will of most Zimbabweans. Mugabe controls
every daily newspaper, all broadcasting, thousands of patronage jobs, the
electoral commission, the courts that would judge accusations of rigging and
the dwindling food reserves for a populace on the brink of starvation.

Most international election observers have been kept away. And Mugabe
increased the budget of his secret police force by six times in advance of
the vote.
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The Star

      The high cost of challenging Zanu-PF's hold

      Election campaign ends violently in the constituency where 25 years of
independence has delivered nothing
      March 31, 2005

      By Peta Thornycroft

      Harare - Alan McCormick was exhausted on Monday. He hadn't slept for
36 hours as he had driven hundreds of kilometres across bushveld after he
and campaign workers were attacked by veterans of Zimbabwe's war for
independence and supporters loyal to President Robert Mugabe.

      McCormick (55), a former commercial farmer evicted from his home four
years ago, is standing in today's general election in a ruling Zanu-PF
stronghold, Guruve North, for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change

      He knew from the start he had no chance of winning in a constituency
where 25 years of independence has delivered nothing, but his campaign ended
violently over Easter
            "Psychological and physical violence is there, all the time. It
is less obvious than before but most rural people are short of food and so
are vulnerable to threats about how they will vote."

      The two farthest points of his vast constituency are about 330km apart
with little in between but bush.

      Five hours north of Harare, the constituency reaches up to
      the cliffs on the edge of the Zambezi River and neighbouring

      There is no electricity, telephones or any way of calling for help
even if the police were prepared to respond.

      McCormick's campaign was conducted on bicycles and a couple of
bakkies, village to village.

      "It started in earnest when the election period began on February 25.
Over Easter it got too bad and we have pulled out," he said.

      He drove into Harare early on Monday.

      As the campaign kicked off three weeks ago, young MDC activist Noah
Chirembwe was hanged from a tree by his wrists locked together with police
handcuffs, with burning logs underneath his dangling feet.

      "When the branch eventually broke, he fell, rolled over into a ditch
and stayed there in the blistering heat and then crawled away at night.
Eventually we found him and brought him to hospital in Harare, and he's okay
now," says McCormick.

      He says the latest round of attacks began on Saturday when one of his
people, Elphas Mhamiti, was abducted and left for dead. He was coughing up
blood when they found him, so they sent him to Harare where he was treated.

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

      "Two of our members who went to the police admitting they had torn
down Zanu-PF posters are still in police cells and have sent messages saying
they have been tortured."

      "One of our polling agents was beaten up in a bar. Zanu-PF began
pelting our vehicles with stones, grabbing our people and beating them. Four
were injured in the first attack and have been treated in hospital for
superficial injuries."

      In the second attack, their escape route was cut off and they had to
use the back roads.

      Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said reports of the violence in
Guruve North had not yet reached Harare, but he would look out for them.

      The run-up to Zimbabwe's general election has been far less violent
than the last two polls, but reports come in persistently of people fleeing
villages to the smaller towns.

      Bishop Sebastian Bakare from the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland in
eastern Zimbabwe said: "Psychological and physical violence is there, all
the time. It is less obvious than before, but most rural people are short of
food and so are vulnerable to threats about how they will vote."

      There are only four functioning foreign observer teams of about 150
people allowed to observe the election. Three are from South Africa,
dominated by loyalists from the ANC, and one is from the South African
Development Community, but still dominated by SA.

      None have been to monitor the campaign in Guruve North, nor to many
isolated areas, particularly in the Manicaland Province and in the far
north, where heat and mosquitoes are unbearable to anyone not hardened to
conditions. Cellphones don't work out there, and there are no landlines in
many areas where millions will vote today.

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The Star

      Could Mugabe's gamble give the opposition a chance to win?
      March 31, 2005

      By oshoeshoe Monare and Christelle Terreblanche

      Harare - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe takes a big gamble today
on returning his isolated and impoverished country to international
legitimacy through parliamentary elections which will give the opposition
their best shot yet at victory.

      In his final rally yesterday, Mugabe declared to his supporters that
today is "V-Day for Zanu-PF", the party that has ruled Zimbabwe for 25
years. But riven by internal divisions, hunger, and a crumbling economy,
Mugabe's party faces its toughest challenge so far.

      Buoyed by new freedom to campaign even in rural areas, and boasting
huge crowds at its rallies, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) predicted victory yesterday.

      MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said: "Our rallies around the
country have attracted thousands of people - 35 000 attended the rally in
Bulawayo last Saturday and 40 000 attended the one in Harare the next day."

      In an effort to impress foreign electoral observers - and the world -
Mugabe has ordered his party cadres to turn down the violence which
dominated the last two electoral contests with the MDC, in 2000 and 2002.

      MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told CNN yesterday that the government's
"clamp-down on violence has had a very tremendous effect", which, coupled
with some legislative and political reforms, made the MDC optimistic it
could win.

      Brian Kagoro, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition, told a
press conference yesterday that despite many distortions still favouring
Zanu-PF, "This is an election where I think any result is possible.

      "The fact that this year the margin of terror has been reduced means
that the MDC has had greater access to rural Zimbabwe than in 2000 and
2002," he added.

      The MDC still fears that Zanu-PF is planning to steal the election by
cheating - including stuffing ballot boxes in remote areas.

      Yesterday MDC MP David Coltart said the MDC had filed yet another
complaint to the electoral commission because its election agents had not
been allowed into polling stations in some rural constituencies.

      The issue is crucial as only one MDC officer is allowed into each of
the 8 200 polling stations to ensure that no rigging is taking place.

      Mugabe, however, insisted at his final rally that today's contest
would be "a clean fight".

      In a move condemned by the MDC, Mugabe's government yesterday
increased the minimum wage for domestic workers tenfold. The MDC said it was
an attempt to drive a wedge between employers and their employees.

      Mugabe's hopes of regaining international legitimacy depend heavily on
foreign election observers judging the election to be free and fair. Because
he has barred all Western observers, most of those on the ground are South

      But yesterday Welshman Ncube delivered another attack on the SA
observers. He said: "the MDC no longer has any faith whatsoever in the
capacity of Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of the SADC (Southern
African Development Community) observer mission, to act impartially."

      This was because in an SABC interview yesterday the SA Minerals and
Energy Affairs minister "contemptuously dismissed" MDC allegations of the
use of food aid as a political weapon, the role of chiefs, and concerns
around the voters roll. He said the observers had failed to investigate
these charges. - Independent Foreign Service.
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Cape Times

      What would happen if the MDC won?

      Zanu-PF legacy presents huge challenges
      March 31, 2005

      By Dot Keet

      Even if the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) manages, against all
odds, to win a healthy majority in today's election in Zimbabwe, the
problems that the putative government will face are deeper and more
challenging than the mainstream media convey - or than the MDC itself, at
present focused on winning the election, seems to acknowledge.

      The main focus of public debate on Zimbabwe is currently on the formal
electoral provisions and actual electioneering processes on the ground. This
is understandable and essential.

      However, Zimbabwe is rent by broader and deeper economic and social
changes that have been taking place in that country over the past five or
six years, as well as negative and intractable patterns of political and
administrative rule that have been entrenched over past decades.

      Starting with the latter, the major challenge facing a new government
in Zimbabwe will be the nature of the state that has been created under
Zanu-PF since independence.

      In the earlier years, public administration in Zimbabwe was relatively
efficient and effective, but there was a growing tendency towards
identification of public service with party loyalty, and the conflation of
the ruling party with the organs of the state, particularly all the security

      However - apart from the outrage expressed over the bloody army
campaign against so-called dissidents in Matabeleland province in the early
1980s - what was not given enough attention was the more general highly
authoritarian nature of the Zimbabwean state.

      This was based both on the inherited (and sustained) draconian
security legislation of the settler regime, as well as the modalities of
strict "revolutionary discipline" and often brutal internal controls within
Zanu-PF, itself created during the armed struggle.

      Despite the abuses of the much-feared Central Intelligence
Organisation, the majority of the population "lived with" this, as long as
there was economic growth and social delivery in the country - which was
certainly the case in the earlier years.

      However, as problems began to arise and as opposition to the ruling
party began to emerge in the later 1990s, the authoritarian tendencies
within the state were powerfully reinforced.

      This was sometimes done in blatant form with the removal of "disloyal"
judges and other public servants, but less obviously and more pervasively
through the politically biased (and nepotistic?) selection and promotion of
"reliable" people at every level of public administration.

      These processes of the merging of the aims and interests of Zanu-PF
with all the organs of state in Zimbabwe has, in the past few years, been
even more deliberately engineered. Even if the MDC wins the election, they
will face the extremely difficult challenges of trying to work through this
Zanu-ised state machinery.

      The fundamental question facing Zimbabwe is whether those running the
public services will transfer their loyalties to the newly-elected governing

      Many may have conformed in the past through economic necessity and to
hold on to their jobs. Others, with similar pragmatism, will accept orders
from the new ruling party.

      Yet others may remain loyal to Zanu-PF as the liberatory party it once
was. Many Zimbabweans have accepted Zanu-PF's projection of itself as the
continuing liberation movement in the latest chimurenga (uprising) against
the remnants of white settler and European colonialism within Zimbabwe, and
American and European imperialism internationally - on both of which there
is ample evidence to give powerful credibility to Zanu's propaganda.

      It is this ideological self-projection that also gives Zanu-PF
political legitimacy amongst sectors of the South African population - and
within the ANC - and throughout the continent, which the privileged white
population of South Africa, and foreign interests in this country, in the
region and abroad fail to understand.

      However, for the MDC, or any other party taking over in Zimbabwe, the
economic distortions and political legacy of colonialism, the continuing
role of foreign - and increasingly South African - capital within the
country pose serious challenges.

      In the early 1990s, the Zanu-PF government, under internal and
external economic pressures, implemented an Economic and Social Adjustment
Programme (ESAP), its own package of International Monetary Fund-World Bank
prescriptions as a condition to qualify for financial support.

      The negative impact of government financial cutbacks, services
"cost-recovery" and commercialisation and related aspects of Zimbabwe's
homegrown economic "restructuring" soon led ESAP to be popularly dubbed the
Extended Suffering of African People.

      Growing poverty in the rural areas led to scattered but highly
significant spontaneous popular land invasions which the government
hurriedly covered up. But it was more difficult for the government to hide,
or hide from, the demonstrations and demands of the better organised "war
veterans" feeling the daily pinch of the new state policies.

      As social tensions mounted, and the economy deteriorated further, the
Zanu-PF government was pulled into and, for political and economic reasons,
itself pushed the now notorious land seizure programme.

      Since then, the major focus by the mainstream media has been mainly
with the plight of the white farmers, the assault on established property
rights in that country and, by extrapolation, on the security of property
rights in South Africa and elsewhere in southern/Africa.

      However, both the land distribution programme and Zimbabwe's ESAP were
contributing towards an even more profound "social revolution" than only
getting rid of a small, hangover settler elite. An extensive economic
transformation was under way in that country that went far beyond the
botched rural revolution.

      Zimbabwe's ESAP and its drive to "indigenise" the economy were
transferring significant sectors of the urban, and not only the rural,
economy into the hands of a burgeoning business class.

      Having benefited from a decade and more of an excellent state
education system, a new professional and technical elite were well
positioned to take advantage of Zanu-PF's campaign against the continued
domination of the Zimbabwean economy by whites and foreigners.

      This new capitalist class owes much to Zanu-PF. However, their
exploding wealth and related power are also an uncomfortable new factor for
the "totalitarian" Zanu-PF old guard accustomed to controlling everything in
that country.

      The putative MDC ruling party may have more selfless aims and
intentions than the old Zanu-PF political elite and its partners, parasites
and sycophants - although, faced with electoral regime change, these latter
may, as is typical of such opportunists and careerists, transfer their claws
on to the MDC.

      Either way, a more fundamental set of major problems facing the MDC is
how to win over the new national capitalist class to a national programme
that must, of necessity, entail vast programmes of support to the desperate
and starving millions of Zimbabweans devastated also by the Aids pandemic.

      If nothing else, this national crisis will demand another programme of
(re)distribution - if not of the assets of the new elites, then at least
through extensive taxation of their obscene wealth towards urgent recovery

      The MDC will also have to decide whether it can relaunch Zimbabwe's
economic recovery with and through the new national capitalist class. And if
so, whether this class will happily work in partnership with established,
returning and new South African capital, or feel threatened by their
stronger neighbours.

      And, in either case, how will the new MDC government "engage"
proactively with these business forces, and with international investors
that it seems to be wooing, in ways that will directly serve national
reconstruction and recovery?

      Finally, how will the IMF and World Bank, whom the MDC are also
looking towards, view the kind of activists and interventionist state in
Zimbabwe that will be absolutely essential to pull that country out of its
current economic and human crisis?

      .. Keet is a research associate of the Alternative Information and
Development Centre, Cape Town.

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New York Times

Zimbabweans Campaign in the Shadow of Mugabe's Fist

Published: March 31, 2005

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, March 30 - With Zimbabweans set to vote in crucial
parliamentary elections on Thursday, President Robert G. Mugabe's opponents
have appeared to be riding a wave of popular support that could carry them
from near oblivion to a stunning comeback.

But as the opposition made final election day plans on Wednesday, there were
hints that Mr. Mugabe's party would not allow that.

In the Bulawayo office of David Coltart, a member of Parliament and of the
opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, party members telephoned
from around the nation to complain that government-appointed election
officers were barring the party's voting monitors from polling places,
claiming they had no proof of their identities.

Although the law does not require it, the officials were demanding that the
party's monitors produce copies of a newspaper advertisement in which the
names of poll monitors are published. In rural areas, where communications
are often slow or nonexistent, this could be impossible.

"There's definitely a pattern that has emerged today of trying to deny our
agents access to the polling places," Mr. Coltart said. "And if this is
happening in urban areas, imagine what's happening in rural areas."

His complaint appeared to bolster what democracy advocates and opposition
party members have charged for some time: that this election, a possible
turning point in Mr. Mugabe's 25-year rule, is rigged to favor those in

The true test will come when the votes of millions are cast and counted
under new election laws that critics say have been baldly rigged against the
opposition, using voting rolls that critics say are both padded and wildly

Mr. Mugabe's aides deny even the hint of irregularity. "This is a country
free to campaign," said Eliot Manyika, the political director of the
president's party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or
ZANU-PF, and a veteran of the government intelligence service. "We have the
people's support."

The stakes are huge, the risks high. For the opposition, a strong showing
might allow it to challenge Mr. Mugabe's legitimacy as president and demand
a share of power in the government. A drubbing that appears rigged could
bring anti-Mugabe protesters into the streets for the first time.

Mr. Mugabe's party needs a convincing victory not just to keep a grip on
Parliament, but also to start the delicate process of succeeding Mr. Mugabe,
now 81.

His term ends in 2008, but a bitter struggle over a successor has already
broken out between his tribal allies within ZANU-PF, who control much of the
nation's economic and political machinery, and party officials from other
tribes who have been sidelined.

Many in the party hope to arrange Mr. Mugabe's early retirement and an
orderly transition to one of their own before any 2008 ballot. But that
requires changing the Constitution - and that, in turn, requires a
two-thirds majority in the 150-seat Parliament, which ZANU-PF now lacks.

Mr. Mugabe has repeatedly predicted that ZANU-PF would win two-thirds of
Parliament. That would require it to claim a handful of seats from the
Movement for Democratic Change, which now clings to 51 seats.

To place a stamp of legitimacy on the election, Mr. Mugabe has invited
hundreds of foreign observers, mostly from friendly nations like Russia,
South Africa and China. He has also agreed to follow fair-election
guidelines laid down by the Southern African Development Community, 14
nations mostly friendly to Mr. Mugabe. But those rules have been haphazardly
followed, and the group's election monitors were let into Zimbabwe only

Independent election monitors and international agencies contend - and the
government denies - that food has been widely used as a political weapon. In
a nation beset by chronic shortages, residents are routinely denied the
right to buy corn unless they produce a ZANU-PF party card.

Yet to foreign journalists, also unexpectedly admitted to report on the
election, Mr. Mugabe's forecast of a sweeping victory has often seemed to be
a pipe dream.

The five-year-old opposition party M.D.C. lost more than 300 members to
violence in the last two elections, which were widely condemned as
fraudulent. The party had vowed to sit out this election unless Mr. Mugabe
followed basic rules for fair voting but relented under outside pressure -
and has been stunned by the results.

Mr. Mugabe's government, intent on convincing foreign governments that its
rule is legitimate, has permitted relatively open campaigning in the last
two months, and violence has dropped dramatically.

Perhaps because of that, M.D.C. candidates have found a gusher of popular
support, attracting large and frenetic crowds even in areas where its
members once were banned. In the capital, Harare, an M.D.C. stronghold, up
to 25,000 cheering supporters jammed a field on Sunday to hear the party's
president, Morgan Tsvangirai, call for a wholesale change in Zimbabwe's

By contrast, Mr. Mugabe's party has looked moribund, drawing scant crowds
and often packing campaign sites with bused-in audiences. At a listless
rally on Monday in rural Chivhu, a town of 30,000 that has been a center of
ZANU-PF support, barely 3,000 people showed up, a quarter of them
schoolchildren. Mr. Mugabe's harangue against his opponents and Prime
Minster Tony Blair of Britain - whose supposed plan to reclaim Zimbabwe as a
colony is the center of the party's campaign - drew just seconds of polite

Still, Mr. Mugabe has seemed almost serene. While opposition party leaders
barnstormed over the weekend, drawing tens of thousands, the president took
a three-day vacation.

When a journalist for The Economist asked after the soporific Chivhu rally
whether he could govern with a dominant M.D.C. faction, Mr. Mugabe did not
miss a beat.

"It will never happen," he said.
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Cape Times

      The ghost voters, the exiles, the non-citizens: an election of
      March 31, 2005

      By James Muzondidya and Karin Alexander

      A political system is perhaps better judged by who and how it excludes
rather than the ideas it professes to uphold.

      While much attention was focused on who got to observe Zimbabwe's
parliamentary elections today, and who was denied, a further problem has
become evident - which Zimbabweans get to vote and which have been excluded.

      Zimbabwe's population is estimated at 12 million. If all adult voters
could register and vote, there would be approximately six million ballots.
The current voters' roll confirms this, with 5.6 million voters registered.

      Yet despite this match of overall numbers, concerns have been raised
about the roll's accuracy, given the many deceased people still registered
and the continual discovery of ghost voters on the roll. Estimates suggest
the number of dead voters registered runs into hundreds of thousands.

      Also included on the current voters' roll are many of the over 1.5
million Zimbabweans living in the diaspora. These Zimbabweans have learned
that they no longer have the right to vote. The current system is designed
to allow Zimbabweans to vote only in their constituency of original
registration - that is, a specific suburb or region of Zimbabwe.

      South Africa's major cities have become home-in-exile to countless
Zimbabweans. Others have made their way elsewhere in the region or even
overseas, having fled economic hardship or political persecution.

      Many Zimbabweans living in Zimbabwe have also found themselves
deprived of the right to vote in these elections. Hundreds of thousands of
"invisible" and "forgotten" Zimbabweans inside the country have been
disenfranchised by the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2001, which denies
citizenship to anyone whose parents were born outside of Zimbabwe unless
he/she renounces a claim to a second citizenship.

      This requires those seeking to retain or acquire Zimbabwe citizenship,
and who have a second citizenship, to provide documentary proof to the
registrar-general that they have legally renounced that foreign citizenship.

      The act, enacted following the Movement for Democratic Change's
winning of 57 of 120 contested seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections,
was reportedly designed to disenfranchise the largely immigrant white
population (suspected of sympathising collectively with the MDC) before the
crucial 2002 presidential election.

      However, the act affected not just the estimated 30 000 white
Zimbabweans but also over two million second- and third-generation
Zimbabweans, descendant from immigrants.

      Many of these Zimbabweans trace their ancestral roots in the country
to before the inception of modern-day Zimbabwe when their parents and
grandparents immigrated in search of better economic opportunities.

      But the act stripped them of their Zimbabwean citizenship and their
rights to participate in the decision-making processes and structures of
governance because they are "not indigenous enough".

      In the exclusive concept of citizenship and nationhood promoted by
Zanu-PF, only those groups which were in the country before the imposition
of colonial rule are true Zimbabweans. Before the act was amended, those of
Malawian, Zambian or Mozambican descent were regarded as aliens.

      For this category of Zimbabweans, their birthright is not sufficient
qualification for the right to participate in the national decision-making

      Groups affected by these divisive politics are various and include
Zimbabweans of Indian descent and those of mixed race. Most members of
Zimbabwe's mixed-race community were born in the country, and descend from
unions between white settlers and Africans or between Indians and Africans.

      Many of these second-, third- or fourth-generation Zimbabweans have
lived in the country their entire lives and have no links to the countries
of their ancestral origin. They have lived and provided cheap labour for the
country since the colonial period. The majority of these Zimbabweans cannot
even legally claim citizenship in the countries of their ancestral origin.
As such, the Citizenship Amendment Act has rendered them utterly stateless.

      While the act was amended in 2003 to exempt from exclusion descendants
of African immigrants originating in the Southern African Development
Community region, section 9 of the act, enforcing renunciation, has
continued to render many Zimbabweans stateless.

      The actual process of renunciation is laborious and expensive.

      Most of the people required to renounce either their foreign
citizenship or entitlement to foreign citizenship or their parents' foreign
citizenship, especially those in rural farming communities, have no access
to information on the new laws and no access to the resources that would
facilitate renunciation.

      Other Zimbabweans find themselves having to claim and renounce a
citizenship they have never had in order to claim their Zimbabwean

      The politics of identity in Zimbabwe has become increasingly divisive
and alienating. The citizenship of a huge part of the Zimbabwean electorate
has become murky and this has had important implications for their civic and
legal rights.

      It also has implications for today's elections, which will deny the
vote to literally millions of Zimbabweans.

      .. Muzondidya is a Zimbabwean academic and political analyst based in
South Africa. Alexander is the project officer on the Zimbabwe desk at the
Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. They are contributing authors to
the book, Zimbabwe: Injustice and Political Reconciliation.
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The Star

      Quo vadis, Zimbabwe?
      March 31, 2005

      by The Editor

      The parliamentary election in Zimbabwe today is unlikely to change the
status quo. Octogenarian despot Robert Mugabe remains in power, the moribund
Zanu-PF ruling party will cling to its parliamentary majority (by hook or by
crook) and the opposition MDC will again fail to impress as a viable

      Where does this leave South Africa and the Southern African
Development Community's policy of "quiet diplomacy" on Zimbabwe, and the
country's status as a "failed state" in many of the world's most important

      Like the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, who believes Zimbabwe
will know no peace until Mugabe dies, we could start praying for divine
intervention. Mugabe "is one of those people who would be enormously
improved by death" (to misquote HH Munro).

      The good cleric's wishful thinking, however, may not be entirely
farfetched. The timely death in the '90s of Sani Abacha, one of Nigeria's
most detested military rulers, paved the way for democratically elected
lawmakers and a president in Abuja.

      But President Thabo Mbeki has to deal with the "existential reality"
in Zimbabwe. Our proximity to Zimbabwe as a powerful neighbour and
historical circumstances and connections have given rise to an expectation
that South Africa could easily effect political change in this hapless

      This after the failure of the British government to deliver on its
post-independence promise to assist Zimbabwe in the redistribution of land
and more latterly, the futile "grandstanding" of the Blair government at the
Commonwealth and other forums.


      As Zimbabweans go to the polls today with little hope their vote will
mean or change anything, it may be opportune to ponder a number of
questions. They include: Has Mbeki had any other option but his policy of
"quiet diplomacy"? Would a more forceful approach have delivered a
different, improved situation on the ground? Have international sanctions
and the censure of the Commonwealth worked? Is South Africa not paying too
high a price for quiet diplomacy?

      The conclusion we have come to, however, is that the answer is no to
all the above questions even though in this column we have been critical of
Mbeki's policy of "quiet diplomacy".

      There have been many calls for Pretoria to publicly denounce the
Zimbabwe government for human rights abuses, to "switch off the country's
lights" and, ridiculously, to use South Africa's military might to unseat
Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

      And what's the cost of maybe having avoided another Ivory Coast or
Congo situation on our doorstep?

      As a new starting point, we can only hope today's poll, if not
entirely free and fair, will at least be credible. South Africa's continued
stance must be to help manage a bad situation in Zimbabwe from becoming
worse. There is, for instance, a flickering sign of an economic recovery
which we must assist.

      The next step is to prepare the ground for Mugabe's departure which
must happen before the next presidential election in 2008. Better still, can
Pretoria persuade the old man that an early retirement will be in his and
the country's best interest?

      Mindful that diplomacy works best out of the public eye, we urge Mbeki
to, at the very least, tell the South African public in broad terms what the
government's medium-term plans are regarding Zimbabwe.

      If nothing else, it will help to instil some confidence that the
policy of "quiet diplomacy" may yet deliver a stable Zimbabwe with a better

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Cape Times

      More of the same?
      March 31, 2005

      by the Editor

      Events in Zimbabwe seem set to unfold in a depressingly predictable
manner over the next few days. The poll will go ahead with occasional
complaints of irregularities and suggestions of some ballot box tampering.
There will be little violence.

      The counting will take place and President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF
party will be declared the winner.

      The South African observer missions will shrug and say they have seen
nothing serious enough to warrant a finding that the election was not free
and fair.

      And Zanu-PF will have been given another mandate - including one from
its most powerful neighbour - to wreak havoc in Zimbabwe for five more

      This in spite of the range of steps Mugabe has taken in recent months
to render the opposition ineffective.

      And reports that Zanu-PF have indulged in disgraceful bartering of
food for votes (not to mention Mugabe's tactic of giving last-minute salary
increases to sectors of the community whose votes he was wooing).

      And, of course, the many reports of flaws in the voters' roll,
including the presence of thousands of long-dead people on the list. No
doubt some of these will manage the remarkable feat of voting more than

      Or perhaps not.

      While the opposition Movement for Democratic Change seems unlikely to
overcome Mugabe's months of election fixing, there is one possible variable
in the above scenario.

      That is that the South African observer missions follow their
conscience and not the alarming example set by Labour Minister Membathisi
Mdladlana. And that they take into account the events leading up to the
election, and not just the circumstances prevailing on the day.

      If they do so, there is surely no way they can pronounce this election
free and fair.
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