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

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The Scotsman

6:38am (UK)
Long Lines at Zimbabwe Polling Stations


Polls opened today in parliamentary elections which President Robert Mugabe
hopes will prove the legitimacy of his nearly 25-year rule.

Before any ballots were cast, opposition leaders and independent rights
groups said the vote had already been skewed by years of violence and

Despite a light rain, long lines started forming in the capital Harare hours
before the polls opened. There were some delays as electoral officials made
final preparations under the watchful eye of police.

At stake are Parliament's 120 elected seats. But Mugabe appoints an
additional 30 seats, virtually guaranteeing his party a majority.
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Downer fear for Zimbabweans
March 31, 2005
From: AAP

THE Australian Government was concerned for Zimbabweans on the eve of
legislative polls in the African nation, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
said today.

Mr Downer was pessimistic that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe would
allow democratic elections.
"We have concerns for the ordinary people of Zimbabwe," Mr Downer said

"There are enormous problems with food shortages.

"There are problems with the political process in Zimbabwe with political
intimidation and threats.

"We have concerns about the way the electoral roll was put together, we have
concerns about the independence of the Zimbabwean electoral commission.'

Mr Downer was uncertain how Australia could further press Zimbabwe towards

"Australia has taken a very tough stand on Zimbabwe, I'm not sure there is
much more we can do than what we have been doing," he said, referring to
Australia's support for Zimbabwe's expulsion from the Commonwealth.

"It's good not to have the Zimbabwean president in the Commonwealth until
Zimbabwe becomes a genuine democracy."

The United States has also denounced Zimbabwe's ruling party for using food
supplies to win over voters in this week's parliamentary elections.

"Our understanding is that ruling party candidates have given out
government-owned food to draw voters to rallies," US State Department
spokesman Adam Ereli said.

Mr Ereli said the campaign ahead of the poll 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.

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Yahoo News

      Thursday March 31, 06:48 AM

      Mugabe under fire as Zimbabwe votes

      HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has led his
ruling party into elections against a weakened opposition but in the face of
relentless international criticism that he has hijacked democracy to stay in

      Hundreds of voters braved early morning drizzle to queue hours before
voting started at some stations and polls opened in the capital Harare on
time at 7 a.m. (6 a.m. British time).

      "We have come to make a statement," said one young man, grinning as he
headed towards a polling station in the city.

      There was no visible police presence in the centre of Harare but
witnesses said there were some patrols in outlying townships where there
have been anti-government protests in the past.

      Veteran Mugabe, 81, told loyalists of his ZANU-PF party on Wednesday
that the poll would be fair and urged voters to reject the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which he calls a puppet of British
Prime Minister Tony Blair.

      ZANU-PF is widely tipped to win the parliamentary poll although the
MDC, despite crying foul even before polls open at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), has
put on a brave face.

      "The MDC is confident of victory," MDC Secretary-General Welshman
Ncube said in a statement on Wednesday.

      "The people are behind us. If the MDC does win the election it will be
because the will of the people will have prevailed over attempts by Mugabe
and ZANU-PF to rig the ballot."

      Nevertheless, the MDC, cowed by government pressure, appears weaker
than in two previous elections over the last five years when it came close
to shock victories.

      The MDC and Western observers said both those votes were rigged and
Thursday's election -- whose results are expected within 48 hours of polls
closing -- has already been branded unfair by both the United States and the
European Union.

      The EU blasted the polls as "phoney" and warned it would take
unspecified steps against Zimbabwe after the election.

      Mugabe says Washington and European governments led by former colonial
power Britain want to topple him over his seizure of white-owned land for
landless black Zimbabweans.


      Critics blame the land seizures, which began in 2000, for ruining the
commercial farming industry, leaving the once prosperous country short of
food and triggering a wider economic collapse that has seen inflation and
unemployment skyrocket.

      Mugabe, who has led the former Rhodesia since independence in 1980,
denies his mismanagement is to blame and accuses Western and domestic
opponents of conspiring to sabotage the economy.

      On Thursday he defended the land redistribution programme, telling
supporters at his closing rally: "We are not anti-white, but we are

      A clear victory would keep ZANU-PF firmly in control as its ageing
leader approaches planned retirement in 2008.

      The party hopes to win back urban voters who rejected it in
parliamentary and presidential votes in 2000 and 2002, while the opposition
MDC, which emerged from urban trade unions, has targeted several rural
districts to broaden its voter base.

      Mugabe has come under regional pressure to abide by new election
standards adopted last year by the Southern African Development Community
(SADC), and although the MDC says Zimbabwe falls far short of full
compliance, the opposition party says violence this time is much reduced
compared to 2000 and 2002.

      Results are expected within 48 hours of polls closing.

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Business Day

Nothing short of a runaway MDC victory will buck odds of Mugabe's loaded
Wyndham Hartley


Parliamentary Editor

ONLY a massive landslide victory by the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) in today's election in Zimbabwe will result in President Robert
Mugabe's Zanu (PF) losing control of the country's parliament.

Zanu (PF) will have to win only a little more than 38% of parliamentary
constituencies to stay in power, according to a report by South African
Institute for International Affairs researcher John Makumbe.

Mugabe, either directly or indirectly, appoints 30 MPs to parliament over
and above the 120 who will be elected today.

These MPs have voting rights in the assembly.

He is hardly likely to appoint MPs who will oppose him, and this gives him a
head start in the race for a 76-seat majority. Mugabe already has 30 MPs in
his pocket and a further 46 is all that he needs to retain control of

But for the MDC the election race is dramatically different. It has to win
76 of the 120 constituency seats to take control of parliament.

"The president appoints either directly or indirectly 30 (or 20%) of MPs.
This is a major bone of contention, at least from the point of view of the
opposition political parties since the appointed MPs tend to vote Zanu
 (PF)," Makumbe says.

The fact that 30 seats in parliament are occupied by MPs who are not elected
distorts the real meaning of the people of Zimbabwe's wishes, Makumbe says.

"This makes a mockery of the government's claim that Zimbabwe is a truly
democratic state. A party winning a majority of the 120 seats could still
find itself lacking an overall parliamentary majority," he says.

"Zanu (PF) will need to win only 46 seats to retain an absolute majority in

Makumbe also reports that the electoral system in Zimbabwe has always been
controversial because while laws governing elections were designed in
accordance with the constitution, subsequent amendments have been intended
to erode civil liberties.

"The amendments share a single thrust: to whittle away at the electorate's
civil liberties. One set of changes, for instance, restricts the use of
mail-in ballots to absentee civil servants, diplomats, and uniformed members
of the military and security forces," he says.

"The obvious intent is to disenfranchise Zimbabweans living abroad - there
are thought to be about a million in SA and other southern African
countries - who tend to be hostile to Zanu (PF)."

Makumbe says that in the 2000 parliamentary elections Mugabe faced the real
possibility of losing power to the MDC, and "only careful manipulation of
the electoral law and the election process allowed Zanu (PF) to eke out a
narrow win".

"The MDC's strength at the polls so frightened Mugabe and his party that
they resolved upon extreme measures as the only means of stopping an
opposition win in 2002.

"These included amendments to the electoral act of 1990, promulgation of
laws such as the Public Order and Security Act of 2000, sharp cuts in the
number of urban polling stations and physical assaults against, or
intimidation of, voters suspected of MDC sympathies," he says.

The study also explores the "politics of incumbency", which ensures that
Zanu (PF) has access to state resources denied to the opposition.

"The ultimate result has been the creation of a grossly uneven political
playing field in favour of the ruling Zanu (PF) and to the detriment of
opposition political parties," says Makumbe.

He says it is ironic that Zimbabwe has one of the most impressive and better
organised legislatures in the region. "On the surface it would appear that
Zimbabwe's parliament is a competent institution that carries out its
functions effectively in the interest of the country.

"Serious investigation of the workings of this august institution, however,
reveals that it is little more than a rubber stamp of whatever the executive
and ruling political party wish to do. Indeed, to the executive parliament
is more of a necessary nuisance than an essential partner in the governance
of Zimbabwe."

Makumbe says a culture of tolerance should replace the current political
culture of fear if Zimbabwe is to develop along democratic lines.
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Rudd questions Zimbabwe 'silence'
March 31, 2005
From: AAP

THE Australian Government had lost its democratic voice by staying silent in
the lead-up to the Zimbabwe parliamentary elections, the federal Opposition
said today.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd accused Prime Minister John
Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer of remaining quiet on Zimbabwe.
"The Australian Government talks long and loud about democracy in the Middle
East, strangely, in recent months has lost its voice when it comes to
democracy in Africa, and democracy most particularly in Zimbabwe," Mr Rudd
said in Brisbane.

President Robert Mugabe is hoping to clinch a huge win tomorrow for his
ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party (ZANU-PF), in
power since independence 25 years ago, but civil groups and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say he may be surprised.

The vote will cap weeks of campaigning that have been surprisingly free of
the bloodshed that marred the previous votes in 2000 and 2002 when scores
were killed and beaten in political violence.

Mr Mugabe's promise of fair and free elections has raised eyebrows around
the world.

Mr Rudd said today he agreed with Mr Downer, who said Zimbabwe's elections
would not be free and fair.

Mr Rudd said he had witnessed "systematic violence on a grand scale" when he
monitored Zimbabwe's elections in 2002.

He said the ZANU-PF party was one of the most violent and corrupt political
parties in the world.

"What I saw then was systematic violence on a grand scale perpetuated by
Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party," Mr Rudd said.

"I have no confidence whatsoever that ZANU-PF will lift its game.

"On top of that, ZANU-PF, after the criticism of the last parliamentary
elections in Zimbabwe, has barred international monitors from the European
Union, from the Commonwealth, and from elsewhere.

"This is a very retrograde step when it comes to the international community
having any confidence in the electoral process which is about to occur
there," he said.
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Business Report

Mining firms in Zimbabwe call for currency devaluation
March 31, 2005

By Antony Sguazzin

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, drove 85 percent of the country's
commercial farmers off the land and sparked three consecutive years of

His party's expected victory in today's parliamentary elections will
probably prompt him to help the only major income earner left: mining.

A planned $750 million (R4.75 billion) expansion by Impala Platinum
(Implats), the world's second-biggest platinum producer, may be in jeopardy
unless Mugabe devalues the Zimbabwean dollar after the elections.

Prices are rising almost 130 percent a year and Implats, 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 rand terms in six months.

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

Zimbabwe now grows 75 percent less tobacco than it did in 2000 and
production of maize, once an export crop, has slumped so much that the
government now imports grain and the UN feeds about a 10th of the 11.8
million population.

John Robertson, an economist at Robertson Economics in Harare, says: "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."

In January 2004 Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe,
started foreign currency auctions in a bid to curb black market trading, and
agreed with gold miners on preferential currency rates to boost production.

One US dollar fetches about Z$14 000 on the black market, but companies must
use the central bank's official auction, where the rate was last bid at Z$6

As consumer prices surge, the costs of exporters go up 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, an analyst at Citigroup's Smith
Barney unit in Johannesburg. "Input costs are out of sync."

Anglo American, Anglo American Platinum, Aquarius Platinum and Rio Tinto are
planning to mine in Zimbabwe, which has the world's second-biggest deposits
of both platinum and chrome.

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

Robertson says a devaluation may cause prices of imported goods to rise, but
black market currency dealing is already having the same effect.

The government last reduced the general exchange rate for the Zimbabwean
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 since Gono put the auctions in place a
month after he was appointed by Mugabe.

Gono has slowed annual inflation to about 127 percent last month from a
record 623 percent in January 2004.

"The biggest imbalance in the Zimbabwean economy is the overvalued
currency," says Isaac Matshego, an economist at Standard Bank.

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".

Gono said currency inflows from exports and money repatriated by an
estimated 3 million Zimbabweans living abroad amounted to $1.7 billion in
2004. Earnings from tobacco sales dropped to about $138 million last year
from $400 million five years ago.

"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. However, "it's going to take a while for investor confidence to
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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Poised to Thwart Challenge in Vote
      March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabweans may extend the 25-year rule of
President Robert Mugabe's party in parliamentary elections today, blunting a
five-year drive for power by the opposition party, the Movement for
Democratic Change.

      Mugabe, 81, has defeated the MDC, founded by labor union leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, in two previous polls since 2000 that observers, including
European Union monitors, said were marred by violence and vote rigging.
Amnesty International and New York- based Human Rights Watch have said
today's vote is flawed because of an outdated register of voters and

      Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party is
seeking to win a two-thirds majority of the 120 elected seats in parliament
that would give it the power to change the constitution. That would allow
Mugabe to appoint a prime minister who would succeed him in 2008, the date
he has set to step down.

      ``The president is definitely fighting for a two-thirds majority
because he wants to plan his exit package,'' said Alois Masepe, a political
analyst at the University of Zimbabwe in the capital, Harare. ``It's up to
Mugabe to play his end game. He will hold all the cards.''

      Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the southern African nation emerged
from a guerrilla war against the white-minority regime of Rhodesia, a U.K.
colony, as an independent country in 1980. He won re-election to a six-year
term in March 2002.

      Voting began at 7 a.m. local time and will end at 7 p.m. Results are
expected within 48 hours.

      Farm Seizures

      Since 1998, the economy has contracted by about 40 percent, and the
seizure of mainly white-owned farms for black resettlement has cut
production of tobacco, the top agricultural export earner, by 75 percent.

      A 10th of Zimbabwe's 11.8 million people need food aid, according to
the government. The United Nations Children's Fund says Zimbabwe has the
world's fourth highest rate of infection of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

      Mugabe needs these elections to try to restore relations with Western
donors and the International Monetary Fund, which has suspended Zimbabwe.
The EU and the U.S. have imposed travel bans on Mugabe and other Zimbabwean
leaders and frozen their foreign bank accounts.

      While MDC promises of change in 2000 won the opposition party every
seat in Harare and control of all major urban councils, Tsvangirai has
failed to oust Mugabe, whose government has presided over a five-year
recession and three years of famine. Zimbabwe now has shortages of
everything from gasoline to corn, the staple food.

      No Leadership

      ``There is nothing tangible the MDC has done for us; even in the urban
areas they control they have done nothing,'' said Mufudze Tongesai, a
33-year-old factory worker at fridge-maker Capri Group in Harare.
``Tsvangirai hasn't shown any real strong leadership.''

      None of the eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected the MDC to
improve its 2000 showing of 57 lawmakers in the 150- seat parliament. As
president, Mugabe appoints 30 members.

      ``We have done our level best to use the little space we have been
given to campaign, even in the face of extensive intimidation of our
supporters, little media coverage of our rallies and disruptions of our
meetings by the police,'' said MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube.

      Some Zimbabwean observers say the MDC has itself to blame if it fails
to pick up seats.

      ``Their mistake was not to do more before agreeing to the election;
they should have fought harder,'' said Lovemore Madhuku, leader of the
National Constitutional Assembly, which is lobbying for a new constitution.
``They are likely to lose further seats.''

      Human Rights

      International human rights groups have said the elections won't be

      ``Persistent, long-term and systematic violations of human rights and
the government's repeated and deliberate failure to bring'' those
responsible to justice means Zimbabweans won't be able to vote ``freely and
without fear,'' London-based Amnesty International said in a March 16

      The government has shut down privately-owned newspapers including the
Daily News, a national daily, and limited opposition access to the state
media. Rights groups say the voters roll is outdated and the MDC says it has
been denied access to the register.

      Mugabe invited South Africa, the Southern African Development
Community and Russia to observe the elections.

      He has excluded the Commonwealth, a grouping of the U.K. and its
former colonies, and the EU, whose teams condemned the previous two polls.

      Africa Aid

      Thabo Mbeki, president of neighboring South Africa, the region's
dominant economy, said on March 2 he expects the polls to be free and fair.

      Mbeki's endorsement may harm his bid for increased aid to Africa in
exchange for better governance under the New Partnership for Africa's
Development, or NEPAD, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposal that
industrial nations double to $50 billion annual aid for Africa, the world's
poorest continent.

      Nathan Shamuyarira, the information secretary for Mugabe's Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front party, dismissed criticisms of the
elections as ``nonsense.''

      ``We have organized five elections in this country since
independence,'' Shamuyarira said in a telephone interview in Harare.
``People have come in their thousands to our campaign meetings and we think
we will romp home.''

To contact the reporter on this story:
Antony Sguazzin in the Johannesburg bureau

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Stephen Farr at
Last Updated: March 31, 2005 00:39 EST
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New Zimbabwe

Mugabe's ex-propaganda chief to write memoirs

By Mduduzi Mathuthu
Last updated: 03/31/2005 11:03:37
PROFESSOR Jonathan Moyo, the mercurial former propaganda chief for President
Robert Mugabe is putting pen to paper to write his memoirs about life as the
81-year-old despot's spokesman, New can reveal.

In an exclusive interview with New, Moyo also reveals he will
never rejoin Zanu PF. He warns the ruling party is headed for disintegration
within the next 36 months.

He blasted: "The seeds of disintegration were sown for Zanu PF during
congress in November last year, they will be germinated in the parliamentary
elections and harvested at the presidential elections."

Moyo is largely tipped to win the Tsholotsho parliamentary election today
after being thrown out of government and Zanu PF amid a storm over
allegations of plotting a coup aimed at Mugabe and his deputy Joyce Mujuru.

Speaking for the first time to New after a TWO year snub, Moyo
said he was confident he would finish his memoirs about his five years as
Mugabe's image maker within the next six months.

"My experiences in government certainly do require something like that
(memoirs)," he said in response to a direct question. "There are so many
questions, so many things that people want answers to, and to just quit and
do nothing would be unfair."

The book could fetch millions and become a best seller, according to
industry experts. Moyo is credited with drawing-up anti-press laws and other
draconian legislation to defend Mugabe's hold on power for the past five
years. Opponents also accuse him of shutting down independent papers, a
charge he rejects.

Asked if he was not concerned about possible arrest from a fearful regime
eager to guard its secrets, Moyo retorted: "If I am jailed, I will write the
book from behind bars."

Moyo also used the interview to take a dig at President Mugabe, saying Zanu
PF was going into today's election "confused and lacking strategy". He said
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had organised bigger crowds at
their rallies, and warned of a major upset.

"(Morgan) Tsvangirai addressed over 20 000 people at White City Stadium and
Mugabe had two star rallies at two schools. Now, if you see a head of a
party like Zanu PF and President of a country being reduced to holding
rallies within the perimeter of a school, almost like a secret society, that
is worrisome," said Moyo.

Moyo said Zanu PF had undergone "a radical retreat to its old self" and was
"constantly at war with itself". He said the party had excluded all but one
tribal group from its ranks -- the Zezuru's.

"They have no coherent message. The anti-Blair campaign hasn't worked. The
other slogan about Zimbabwe never being a colony again worked during the
land resettlement programme, but it has now become moribund and unappealing.
The MDC, for its part, has largely benefited from an on-going protest
because they are the only alternative.

"The MDC could get a simple majority in this election for the 120 contested
seats. While constitutionally that is inconsequential, it will dramatise the
defects of the Zimbabwean constitution creating a crisis of legitimacy,
which will be real this time, not their claims of 2002.

"If the MDC got a majority of the seats, that would really be deadly for
Mugabe. It would also be very dangerous for Zanu PF which will certainly be
doomed after that."

Moyo said when he joined Zanu PF in 2000, there were signs the party was
ready to embrace democracy. He said the real test for this resolve came at
the party's national congress last November where Joyce Mujuru was elevated
to Vice President, becoming the first woman to hold the post in the
country's history. This followed a directive by Mugabe, against the Zanu PF
constitution, directing that one of the two vice presidents should be a

"The party squandered an opporunity to embrace democracy. Instead, it
mutated into a monster like UNIP, Kanu of Kenya and the Malawi Congress
Party. That opportunity will never come for Zanu PF and it is now certainly
headed for doom.

"The next 36 months are crucial for Zanu PF because if Mugabe seeks
re-election, which I doubt he will, he will certainly lose. If he does get
someone to succeed him, that person will find it absolutely impossible to
win," Moyo said.

The 48-year-old political scientist and former university lecturer also
rejected claims that he was going to rejoin Zanu PF.

"Zanu PF dug its own grave in November, and they have fallen into it. Only a
foolish person will walk into that grave, and I am not. Besides, this idea
that I can win an election and then walk back to Zanu PF is baseless because
the constitution is clear that if you want to cross the floor, even if you
are an independent, the electorate has to be consulted," Moyo said.

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The Mercury

      Tsvangirai blamed for mess within MDC
      March 31, 2005

      Harare: Morgan Tsvangirai was once seen as the great hope of
Zimbabwe's opposition, a fiery trade unionist with the guts to unseat
President Robert Mugabe.

      But as Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change heads into
parliamentary polls today as clear underdogs, many supporters are now
focusing increasingly on their leader's failure to deliver.

      The MDC, its supporters cowed and weakened by government pressure, is
given less of a chance of victory in this poll than in elections in 2000 and
2002, when it came very close to beating Mugabe.

      Political analysts say although Tsvangirai has missed some
opportunities and was probably cheated in the presidential elections three
years ago, many still see him as a hero for standing up to Mugabe - the
country's only ruler since independence from Britain in 1980.

      The self-taught son of a bricklayer, Tsvangirai climbed from trade
unionist to potential president by overcoming internal MDC rivalries and a
government crackdown. His determined optimism has repeatedly boosted his
supporters' morale despite the pressure.

      His earthy style - focusing on basic economic problems - can make
Mugabe's lofty and combative oratory appear abstract and remote for ordinary

      Now 53, he has gained valuable experience over the last five years,
especially in handling diplomatic issues and in taking the fight to Mugabe.

      But, analysts say, the party remains poorly organised and riven by
rivalries, leaving it in a weak position to take over from Mugabe's Zanu-PF
either at the ballot box or in government. - Reuters

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All eyes on Zimbabwe
31/03/2005 07:15  - (SA)

Harare - Voters in Zimbabwe began casting ballots on Thursday as polls
opened in the Southern African country for landmark elections that President
Robert Mugabe hopes will tighten his ruling party's 25-year grip on power.

Under a drizzling rain, about 200 people stood in a queue at a polling
station in Harare's oldest township of Mbare to cast their ballots in the
parliamentary elections, Zimbabwe's sixth since independence.

"I wanted to be the first in the queue, to be served early," said Beauty
Chigutiare. "We need change."

"We want jobs, we want good houses," she said.

Some 5.7 million voters are eligible to vote in the elections that cap weeks
of campaigning which have been surprisingly free of the bloodshed that
marred previous votes in 2000 and 2002.

Africa's last independence leader, Mugabe is vying for a two-thirds majority
for his Zanu-PF party in the elections but civic groups and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say a shock may be in store for the
81-year-old veteran leader.

No violence

"What were the elections about? About who should govern and who should not,"
Mugabe told a final rally in Harare attended by 3 000 supporters of his
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai also predicted a big win for his party but
urged reconciliation at a final campaign stop in the village of Biriwiri,
near the border with Mozambique.

"We hope the outcome of the election will provide an opportunity for
national reconciliation and hopefully Zanu-PF will not be arrogant," said
Tsvangirai, 53, a former union leader.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, Zimbabweans have been relieved by the
lack of bloodshed in the campaign which analysts attribute to Mugabe's
desire to regain legitimacy as a statesman after presiding over what the
United States has dubbed one of the world's six "outposts of tyranny.'

The elections for 120 contested seats in parliament will be closely watched
to determine whether Mugabe will adhere to regional guidelines on holding a
free and fair vote that call for equal access to the media, freedom to hold
rallies and the presence of international observers.

The United States on Tuesday said the vote "could be a turning point for
Zimbabwe" due to the absence of violence.

But the European Union, whose election observers have also been taken off
the list of guests, called the vote "a sham" and a "pseudo-election", with
Luxembourg's junior foreign minister Nicolas Schmidt saying this week that
the Europeans were "worried and shocked" by the campaign.

Two groups of civic organisations - the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA) and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition - both released reports on the
eve of the vote to say that it would not be democratic, citing the ongoing
climate of fear and intimidation in Zimbabwe politics.
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Business Day

MDC flays SA, SADC poll observer missions


HARARE - Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accused
SA's government-aligned observers of wanting to "rubber-stamp" the outcome
of today's election, as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe ruled out the
possibility of a government of national unity after today's poll.

MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said yesterday that his party had lost
all faith in the impartiality of Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile
Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
observer mission.

"This follows her unqualified comments on Zimbabwe's electoral process and
environment over the past few days," Ncube said.

He said comments by the minister and by the African National Congress (ANC)
delegation had "revived our suspicions that South African observers allied
to the government, are not interested in the facts on the ground . They are
only interested in manipulating events so they can rubber-stamp another
fraudulent Zanu (PF) victory".

He said the mission had contemptuously dismissed MDC allegations of the use
of food aid as a political weapon, the role of chiefs in coercing the
electorate, and its concerns about the state of the voters' roll.

"We have supplied the observer missions with substantial evidence to
corroborate our allegations, yet they have failed to investigate them."

Ncube said the MDC had invited the South African and SADC observer missions
to many rallies in rural areas, but they "didn't bother to turn up,
preferring to hang around in the lobbies of five-star hotels in Harare and

In Bulawayo late yesterday, hundreds of the government's dreaded youth
militia deployed in the opposition stronghold of Bulawayo earlier this week
were allegedly threatening people, witnesses said.

Residents said the militia were visiting people's homes and telling them to
ensure the ruling party won in the city or face reprisals.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena would not comment on the reports. He
insisted the police were working out to ensure a fair poll.

Meanwhile, Mugabe's former propaganda supremo and now rival, Jonathan Moyo
approached Zimbabwe's Electoral Court for an interdict to stop today's
election, saying logistical problems tilted the election in Zanu (PF)'s
favour. The court dismissed the application.

An affirmative ruling could have thrown the election, already dogged by
administrative and logistical hitches, into chaos.

Moyo's attorney Cossam Ncube said Justice Nicholas Ndou had dismissed the
application, which sought to have the number of polling agents increased.

Polling agents will represent candidates at polling stations.

"The judge dismissed the application, saying the urgency in it was
self-created," Ncube said.

Moyo said last night the dispute over polling agents could turn the election
into a washout. "For candidates to accept that the election was free and
fair, they must be satisfied with the electoral, administrative and
logistics arrangements.

Moyo, who decided to contest as an independent candidate after he was
expelled from the ruling Zanu (PF) in February, said the preparations were a

There was also a serious concern over ballot papers being sent to the wrong
constituencies and tens of thousands of "ghost voters" appearing on the
voters' electoral roll.

The police and army were put on high alert yesterday, with the police
saying it had deployed more than 30000 officers and reservists. Sapa-AFP,
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MDC supporter optimistic of a win

March 31, 2005, 08:15

By Antoinette Lazarus
At least 5.7 million register voters are expected to go to the polls today
in Zimbabwe's sixth parliamentary election since independence in 1980. They
will have the chance to vote for the candidate of their choice between 7am
this morning and 7pm this evening. The two main parties are the ruling Zanu
(PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). spoke to Hatfield resident Elvis Chare on whether he will be
casting his vote. Chare is a wood sculptor and says most of his business
comes from foreigners.

Chare says he will definitely vote because "we need a change". He says there's
no doubt that he will be voting for the MDC. He says the current Zanu(PF)
government has made empty promises. "They promised foreign investment and
tourism that will help locals and nothing has happened so far," says Chare.

"The MDC will definitely bring change for the better," says Chare. He's
optimistic the MDC will win the election hands down. "Today is the day for
people to do something great," says Chare.

Chare says he's encouraging his family, who live in a strong Zanu(PF) area
of Chendambuya in the Headlands area east of Harare to "do the right thing
by voting for the MDC".
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On eve of vote in Zimbabwe, Mugabe foes call for courage
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Associated Press
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Opposition leaders urged supporters yesterday to defy
violence and intimidation and vote in parliamentary elections to help end
President Robert Mugabe's increasingly isolated and repressive regime after
25 years in power.

"The end is near. Five years of your efforts in fighting against this
illegitimate regime may be ending tomorrow," Movement for Democratic Change
leader Morgan Tsvangirai told some 4,500 supporters in the eastern
Chimanimani region.

Meanwhile, Mugabe -- widely accused of rigging previous elections -- 
promised a huge win and said the election will prove once and for all that
Zimbabweans reject interference from the rest of the world.

The ballot pits Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
party against the MDC, which won nearly half the seats in the legislature
five years ago in a stinging rebuke to the 81-year-old leader.

At stake are 120 elected seats. Mugabe appoints 30 other seats, virtually
guaranteeing his ZANU-PF party a majority.

Some 5.8 million of Zimbabwe's nearly 12 million people are registered to
vote today. But up to 3.4 million Zimbabweans living overseas -- many
believed to be opposition supporters -- have been barred from casting

Mugabe, pumping his arm while addressing more than 10,000 wildly cheering
supporters at an opposition stronghold in the capital, promised a free vote
and predicted a "huge, mountainous victory."

Mugabe accuses British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other Western leaders
of backing the 6-year-old MDC, the first party to seriously challenge his
rule. He dubbed today's vote the "anti-Blair election."

Tsvangirai has said Mugabe, not Blair, is to blame for Zimbabwe's condition.

Zimbabwe's economy has shrunk 50 percent during the past five years, and the
unemployment rate is at least 70 percent. Agriculture, the economic base of
Zimbabwe, has collapsed, and at least 70 percent of the population lives in

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.

Mugabe defends the program as a way of righting racial imbalances in land
ownership inherited from British colonial rule and blames food shortages on
years of crippling drought.

"The land is ours. It is not European," Mugabe told reporters after a rally
Tuesday. "We have given it to the right people."

In Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo, Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius
Ncube accused the government yesterday of refusing to sell food in parts of
southern Zimbabwe to people believed to be opposition supporters.

Ncube, who was branded a half-wit by Mugabe on Tuesday after the cleric
called for a nonviolent uprising against the ruling party, said villagers
had been told they could not buy food if they were on a list of people
considered opposition supporters.

Mugabe denied at a campaign rally in Harare that food was being used as a
political weapon, saying: "Aid is given to all deserving cases without

A year ago Mugabe stopped accepting most food aid from the U.N. World Food
Program, insisting Zimbabwe could feed itself. But the country continues to
import food from South Africa and other countries to offset the devastating
effects of land redistribution.

Mugabe has been at pains to show he has genuine support, which analysts say
would help pave the way for a handover to a successor of his choice when his
term expires in 2008.

The opposition MDC was declared winner of 57 seats in the last parliamentary
election in 2000, despite what Western observers called widespread violence,
intimidation and vote rigging. But it has lost six seats in subsequent

In 2002, Tsvangirai was declared the narrow loser of a flawed presidential

While there has been much less violence during this campaign, a coalition of
local aid and rights groups said yesterday the poll would not be free, fair
or legitimate.

"Covert intimidation is still rife, as is the culture of fear," said Brian
Kogoro, chairman of Crisis in Zimbabwe.

A series of repressive laws introduced since 2000 has drastically curtailed
the opposition's ability to meet, express its views and access the media,
rights groups say.

Security forces and the ruling party's youth militia have maintained a
menacing presence at opposition rallies. Mugabe's government has hand-picked
election observers, barring groups that criticized previous polls.

Rights groups have also raised concerns about the voters' roll. Based on an
audit of 10 percent of the list, the FreeZim rights group concluded it
contains up to 1 million dead people, more than 300,000 duplicate names and
1 million people who no longer reside at their registered address.

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Cosatu hails night vigil as a success

March 31, 2005, 08:45

Willie Madisha, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)
president, says last night's vigil at the Beit Bridge border post with
Zimbabwe was a success. Madisha says they managed to make the whole world
aware of the Zimbabwean government's violation of workers' and human rights.

Members of Cosatu, the Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad organisation and
Swaziland's trade union federation took part in the overnight vigil. At
least 300 protesters lit candles and chanted anti-Mugabe slogans late into
the night. They have now dispersed.

Yesterday's march to the border post and last night's vigil went off without
any disruption to traffic or official activities at the border.
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Voting in central Harare gets off to smooth start

March 31, 2005, 08:45

By Antoinette Lazarus
The voting process has begun without any problems in central Harare. People
began queuing outside polling stations at 6am this morning to vote in
Zimbabwe's 6th parliamentary elections. Polling started at 7am.

Armed with umbrellas, residents of Avondale, an upmarket suburb of Harare,
are waiting eagerly in the rain to cast their votes. The election process is
being explained to voters as they approach the voting stations.

Morgan Tsvangarai, the MDC leader, lives in Avondale and is expected to vote
at a local primary school in the suburb later this morning.

Voters first have to check the voters' roll for their names, and then their
index finger is dipped into the invisible, indelible ink before going into
the booth to make their mark on the ballot paper. It is then folded and put
into translucent ballot boxes.

All going well, so far
According to the presiding officers at voting stations visited this morning
everything is progressing well.

Voters interviewed by are upbeat about the election. They say
it feels good to have voted as they think it should be illegal not to vote
because that is what defines one as a citizen.

They say the voting process in this election has been very quick and smooth.
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Mugabe expected to vote at Harare school

March 31, 2005, 08:30

Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, is expected to cast his vote at the
Chengu government school in Harare. Yesterday, Mugabe yet again accused the
MDC of being a puppet of Tony Blair, the British prime minister. He told
supporters at a rally that Blair is obsessed with Zimbabwe's affairs.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Republican Police say the country's election has
kicked off without any politically motivated violence or intimidation being
reported. At least 33 000 police officers have been deployed at 8 000
polling stations around the country.

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Washington Times

Blind eyes on Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe's repressive leader, Robert Mugabe, is poised to harness his
country's desperation with today's parliamentary elections. Mr. Mugabe has
withheld food aid from persons supporting the opposition and has threatened
to continue withholding the aid from districts that do not back him. Under
Mr. Mugabe's thumb, Zimbabwe has gone from breadbasket to basket case, and
the ruler's threat carries real impact: Almost half of Zimbabwe's 13 million
people will likely need food aid in coming months.
    Mr. Mugabe has apparently padded voter registration and gutted freedom
of the press, and opposition members have been unfairly tried and otherwise
harassed. Late last year, the parliament, which is dominated by the ruling
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, approved legislation that
would effectively bar foreign or foreign-supported nongovernmental
organizations from speaking out about the government's violations.
    Mr. Mugabe's transgressions are occurring as key African leaders are
asking for comprehensive aid for the continent and have pledged their
support for democratic reform. But Mr. Mugabe's assaults on democracy mean
it is unlikely that the United States will find reason to lift its targeted
sanctions after today's elections.
    Mr. Mugabe has gotten an undeserved pass from influential leaders, most
conspicuously South African President Thabo Mbeki and the African Union,
despite the ruinous collapse that confronts Zimbabwe. Since Mr. Mugabe
remains in office until 2008, the silence of African leaders can only aid
and abet the continued suffering of Zimbabweans at the hands of the Mugabe
government -- including the land grab he launched five years ago.
    Mugabe apologists cloak their support of him in terms like "liberator"
during Zimbabwe's apartheid era. That support, however, is unjustified given
Mr. Mugabe's moves to oppress the very people he purports to have liberated.
    Although South Africa has election monitors in Zimbabwe, Mr. Mbeki has
already made the mistake of pre-validating the election -- a move that puts
his credibility irrevocably on the line. If his observers certify a
fraudulent election, Mr. Mbeki's credibility will come into question, as
will any pan-African plans he envisions and lobbies for.
    Much of Africa could benefit from a strong and credible leader pushing
for reform and democracy. Mr. Mbeki must decide whether he will stand for
democracy or fall for Mr. Mugabe's transgressions. A true democratically
elected leader loses trust and credibility if he tries to have it both ways.

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Washington Times

Zimbabwe's election cited as test of freedom

By Geoff Hill

BEIT BRIDGE BORDER POST, South Africa -- Trade unionists in South Africa and
Zimbabwean exiles rallied at this border crossing last night to denounce the
government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and support the opposition
on the eve of parliamentary elections today.
    Residents of Zimbabwe "are living in grinding poverty, with more than 80
percent unemployment," said South African union leader Zwelinzima Vavi, who
described today's vote as a test of whether freedom had come to Zimbabwe.
    "And this is all because of government policies. The economy had broken
down completely and we must stand together with Zimbabwean workers who are
bearing the brunt of this," he shouted into a loudspeaker system that
carried his voice across the border.
    Hundreds of protesters, most bused in by the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU) , marched toward a bridge across the Limpopo River but
did not defy a court order blocking their original plan to shut down the
    The march was to show solidarity with unions in Zimbabwe that form the
main support base of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main
opposition to Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
Front (ZANU-PF).
    COSATU President Willie Madisha blasted Zimbabwe's long-serving Mr.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, who has been
accused of turning the once-model country into a mess.
    "He is no longer a freedom fighter -- he is an animal killing the
people," Mr. Madisha said. "We are dealing with a hero of yesterday and an
enemy of the people of today."
    The opposition has been able to assemble large crowds for its rallies in
spite of intimidation and threats from Mr. Mugabe, who has labeled anyone
who votes for the MDC as a traitor.
    MDC campaigner Nkathazo Ncube, who crossed Beit Bridge last night for
the vigil, spoke of "a mood of defiance" in nearby Matabeleland, a key
province in which he had spent the past two weeks.
    "In 2002 and for the past three years, we have been so afraid," he said.
"Thousands have been tortured and beaten by the state militia for supporting
the opposition or even for not attending ZANU-PF rallies.
    "Now people walk around openly in MDC T-shirts and they say that the
time has come for a final showdown."
    Mr. Mugabe, for his part, promised a "huge, mountainous victory" at a
rally attended by some 10,000 enthusiastic supporters last night in
Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.
    He rejected any suggestion of bringing the opposition into a unity
government, saying, "Once we have fought in an election, a party has lost
and we have won. We expect that party to respect the results."
    Most analysts predicted the MDC would be lucky to match the 57 seats it
won in the 2000 election compared with 63 for ZANU-PF, which was accused of
widespread fraud and intimidation. The president appoints another 30
parliament members, making the prospects of an MDC majority remote.
    The opposition also charges that the government has padded the voter
rolls with as many as 1 million names of persons who are either dead or have
been driven into exile by economic collapse and state-sponsored violence.
    Nevertheless, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai predicted victory at a rally
in the eastern Chimanimani region, saying, "Five years of your efforts in
fighting against this illegitimate regime may be ending tomorrow."
    Party supporters at the Beit Bridge Border Post said they expected to do
well in a majority of provinces and were pinning their hopes on the 22 seats
in Matabeleland, a region in which Mr. Mugabe has been accused of ordering
genocidal attacks between 1984 and 1987.
    Some people think Mr. Mugabe, 81, would rather die in office than step
down for fear of being prosecuted over the Matabeleland charges.
    The president's campaign has been based on criticism of Britain and the
U.S., which, he says, are trying to drive him from power.
    Mr. Mugabe last was re-elected three years ago in a presidential ballot
that was so marred by violence and intimidation that many Western countries,
including the U.S., refused to recognize the result.
    But the few observers Mr. Mugabe has allowed into the country this year
have spoken of a peaceful atmosphere despite widespread irregularities.
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