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

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The Right to Vote.

In 1949 I stood at the fence of my school and watched hundreds of people
march past with banners and making a great deal of noise. The Police and
Army were all over the place - I thought it was very exciting. It was the
start of the struggle in this country for the right to vote.

It started with Rhodes who said in a document that he wanted "every
civilized man to have the right to vote". Who was a "civilized man" - a "man
who had some education and owned some property". It was the first expression
of what became known as the qualified franchise. This was applied, more or
less, up to 1964 when it was finally abandoned for a racially defined right
to vote. This excluded the great majority of people from the voters roll.

The African Nationalist leaders had never been in favor of the qualified
franchise. They knew that when this threatened the hold on power of the
white minority, the standard would simply be raised and ambitions thwarted.
What they demanded was "one man, one vote." This was the strident demand of
the NDP, then Zapu and then Zanu. It was the rallying cry of the liberation
war; it defined the principal objectives of the struggle for power.

This past week, the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, sitting with a full bench of
the Supreme Court, said that the right to vote was not a fundamental right
of a citizen. This was in response to a Court challenge brought by people
living outside Zimbabwe who want to vote in the forthcoming election. The
Court reserved its judgment.

So now it is out in the open - the universal suffrage that tens of thousands
gave their lives for in 30 years of struggle was a sham. All they wanted was
power, the right to use the State to plunder the resources of the country
and to impoverish the people.

But while we may reel at such a statement, it is the lengths to which these
self-serving leaders will go to preserve their hold on power that astonishes
me. I was part of the transition team in 1980, helping with the changeover
from the Rhodesian era to the new Zimbabwean State. We ran the first
election and used the former Rhodesian administration to do so. Rhodesia was
many things - but the one thing that it had was a small but very competent
and dedicated civil service. The first election was conducted on the basis
of a genuine one person, one vote basis. All you had to do was go to the
nearest polling station and produce your ID and then vote.

And vote we did - over 85 per cent of the total population voted - many with
tears of joy. The result - almost every person in the country voted for the
men and women who had brought about this unique opportunity. The old regime
attracted less than 3 per cent of the vote. As a result, the transition was
peaceful, the planned Rhodesian army coup did not materialize and the four
armies that had fought each other gave up their weapons and went home. Not a
shot was fired in anger, it was an astonishing achievement.

A short while later I sat in the Stadium where we launched our new democracy
and watched as units of the different forces - the Rhodesians, Zanla and
Zipra, the Police all paraded and saluted the new leadership and the symbols
of our freedom.

In 2000, after 20 years of Independence a new generation of leadership
launched its own bid for power through the same ballot boxes that had been
used in 1980. How naļve we were then! We honestly believed that the regime,
which had fought for our independence and democratic rights, would let us
vote for change. We were mistaken and we paid a high price for our naivety.

The Mugabe led regime launched a programme of terror and deception that gave
rise to the total subversion of the democratic values that had been fought
for by successive generations of Zimbabweans. The State since then has done
everything in its power to ensure that less than half the eligible
population is allowed to vote, that the conditions under which they vote are
neither fair nor free and that the information reaching the average voter is
completely distorted by propaganda and lies.

And when we finally get to the actual day and go into the voting station,
there is hardly a person who does not think that "they will steal the
election" from us. It would now seem as if all the elections since 1980 have
been rigged to a greater or lesser degree. The specter of helicopters flying
full ballot boxes to polling stations in 2002 is still fresh in our minds.

It is no accident of judicial history that of the 38 electoral challenges
launched in June 2000, only 12 have been heard and 2 finalized. That the
challenge to the outcome of the presidential election result in 2002 has yet
to be heard. The plain truth is that no Bench, no matter how warped by
political appointees could be trusted to judicate on such matters without
seriously embarrassing the State and its regional defenders.

And now the Chief Justice has the audacity to say that the right to vote is
not a fundamental right worthy of protection under the laws of the country.
What a mockery of our history, what a disgraceful exhibition of judicial
appeasement with a corrupt and tyrannical regime.

The right to vote, in secrecy and safety, must be the most important single
political right a citizen can hold. It is by these means that they can
change their leaders and the policies they represent. Apart from the gun or
street violence there is no other way in which they can seek to improve
their lives and protect their interests.

MDC may have been naļve to think that the Mugabe regime would allow a
democratic transition - but rather naļve than we give up and go "back to the
bush" with the threat that we draw our country into the kind of morass that
has enveloped Somalia and the Sudan.

We remain committed to fighting this cause in democratic ways, believing
that ordinary people have extraordinary wisdom and intelligence and will
know what to do when they get the chance to vote on the 31st March 2005. But
as I have said before such activity takes an awful lot of money and effort -
just getting the tens of thousands of polling agents out to the polling
stations and seeing to it that they are trained and have the resources to
supervise the poll will cost billions.

Billions we do not have. All we have is our courage and commitment to the
country and our democratic values. If you want to help, but cannot vote or
join us in the struggle on the ground on the day - then help us find the
money we need to win.

The campaign is intensifying by the day. MDC still has no access to the
State controlled media, our people are still being arrested on a daily basis
for all sorts of things - image a three year sentence for three young people
caught putting posters up in a small town - right next to the posters of the
ruling Party! We still have to have Police approval for every kind of
gathering and cannot even conduct training sessions or closed strategy
sessions with activists without CIO observers present. But as Dave Coltart
said - perhaps this is the only time they will be able to hear the truth!

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 26th February 2005.

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Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2005 9:41 PM
Subject: Billion dollar birthday party

Dear Family and Friends,
I am writing this letter on a grey, overcast and very sticky and humid
Marondera day. According to the state television, 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. As I write this
letter the birthday celebrations are underway and 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 and with shaven heads started the
day off with displays of karate kicks and punches and were later 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 VIP's and even
local Marondera government officials, drinking bottled water. I guess they
must have heard that our water has been very off for the last couple of
weeks, often being distinctly discoloured and almost every day smelling
and tasting foul.

When the party had been going on for four hours and after all the speeches
had been made, 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 whilst I am still hungry but it looks very delicious."
The words of the commentator would undoubtedly have been echoed by many of
the thousands of people in the tent. There had been no sign of any
refreshments being available for the spectators or children during the
long hot morning and by this time it was obviously very hot as scores of
people were fanning themselves with their little Zimbabwean flags.

According to the government media, donations to the value of one billion
dollars 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 twelve year old son to show me how to use the calculator in my computer
as a normal calculator cannot accommodate all those zeroes. We worked out
that the money spent on the Presidential birthday party could have bought
285 thousand loaves of bread which would have been enough to give 6 slices
of bread to every man, woman and child in Marondera. Oh well I guess we'll
just have to dream of delicious birthday cake. Until next week, love cathy
Copyright cathy buckle  26th February 2005
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Yahoo News

Mugabe Turns to Military to Ensure Victory

      Sat Feb 26, 7:37 AM ET

By TERRY LEONARD, Associated Press Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has
increasingly turned to hard-line military commanders to cow his factious
country and now is relying on them to ensure a ruling party triumph in March
31 parliamentary elections.

He appointed a former colonel to run the new Election Commission last month
and passed laws that placed the army in charge of polling stations and
allows military officers to serve as election officials.

Analysts said it follows a trend in recent years of militarizing Zimbabwean
society. Mugabe clings to power, they said, by placing men who unflinchingly
follow orders in charge of strategic industries and ministries, the secret
police, justice system, youth militias and food and fuel distribution.

"The strategy is to get people in key positions that share the hard-line
attitudes of the government," Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the National
Constitutional Assembly, an opposition coalition of churches and unions,
said in a telephone interview.

"You appoint the military because they follow orders. They will do what is
required," Madhuku said.

Senior military officers are closely aligned politically to Mugabe, a
strongman who has led this country since independence in 1980s, and many
have lucrative business ties to ruling party stalwarts.

"Mugabe has never been comfortable with people not in the military. As his
popularity has progressively declined, he has run back to the military for
his own protection," said University of Zimbabwe political scientist John
Makumbe. This proclivity became more pronounced this winter as the ruling
party fractured in December from political infighting.

"He is a frightened man," said Makumbe, speaking by telephone from the
United States, where he is a guest lecturer at Michigan State University.
"The infighting shook him greatly. His party is weaker than ever before,
more vulnerable. It has enemies without and now seemingly enemies within."

To shore up military support, troops recently received raises of up to 1,400
percent, said Makumbe.

He said Mugabe has also given large commercial farms confiscated by the
government from white farmers to top officers. The army and police services
also purged and punished thousands in junior ranks suspected of supporting
Mugabe's opponents.

The upcoming elections "will take place under the most repressive laws in
our history. Not a single electoral body is impartial," said David Coltart,
a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition

In a troubling sign for the opposition, members of the Green Bombers, the
government youth militia, are being incorporated into security forces and
will run polling stations, said Makumbe. The State Department has accused
the group of beating and torturing opposition supporters into submission
under direction of state officials.

Also, prosecutors around the country, directed by former colonel and new
Attorney General Sobuza Gula-Ndebele, are seeking to reinstate charges
dropped against opposition activists for lack of evidence.

Nearly all the charges stem from alleged violations of the draconian Public
Order and Security Act, a law prohibiting political meetings or discussions
without prior police approval that is rarely granted to the opposition.

Meanwhile, George Chiweshe, a former colonel and veteran of the independence
war, was picked to run the new Electoral Commission.

Opposition party spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the party has serious
reservations about Chiweshe's impartiality and independence.

That's not surprising.

During the last presidential election in 2002, Mugabe was declared the
narrow winner in voting independent observers called deeply flawed by
intimidation, violence and massive vote rigging.

Just before that vote, another military man, Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe, said
in a statement widely condemned both in Africa and abroad that the country's
military and secret police would not accept an opposition victory. Some
junior officers later acknowledged to human rights investigators that they
had been forced to stuff ballot boxes for the ruling party and the
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The Australian

Mugabe woos states to avoid poll scrutiny
The Times, AFP
February 22, 2005
HARARE: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has begun a diplomatic offensive
to persuade neighbouring African states to allow him to bend the rules
during parliamentary elections next month.

Mr Mugabe is also erecting more obstacles to outside scrutiny of the polls
and is clamping down on any sign of internal dissent. On Saturday, he
dismissed Jonathan Moyo, his controversial Information Minister and the
architect of the country's repressive media laws, after he defected from the
ruling Zanu-PF party to run as an independent.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, added
its weight to the election build-up with a rally on Sunday at which it
struck out at what it called the "battering" Mr Mugabe's rule had imposed on
the country.

"Our families are desperate for food and jobs, with a worthless currency, a
huge budget deficit, a shocking external debt, a runaway unemployment rate
and a devastating HIV pandemic," opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told
the rally.

Mr Mugabe, who celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday, has sent envoys to
Namibia and Botswana, key members of the Southern African Development
Community, to seek their acquiescence in his failure to follow SADC's own
rules governing elections in the region. Zimbabwe has refused to allow a
legal delegation into the country to inspect electoral reforms, so it would
not be possible for the SADC to have election monitors in the country.

Diplomats said that to avoid a backlash Mr Mugabe had sent two of his most
loyal followers -- Anti-Corruption Minister Didymus Mutasa and Social
Affairs Minister John Nkomo -- to meet President Sam Nujoma of Namibia and
President Festus Mogae of Botswana, old allies from his "freedom struggle"
days and sympathetic to his argument that he is a victim of racist

In an interview on state television on Sunday, Mr Mugabe said: "You can
never ever convince an Englishman that you are equal to him, never, never.
He is always superior."

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Star-Telegram, Forth Worth

      Posted on Sat, Feb. 26, 2005

      From breadbasket to basket case


      Not much news has come out of Zimbabwe lately. But the old saw that
"no news is good news" doesn't apply to that particular corner of hell in
southern Africa.

      News from Zimbabwe has been scarce because its aging tyrant, Robert
Mugabe, has been engaged in a systematic campaign to suppress any remnants
of an independent media in that lovely and once-so-promising country between
the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers.

      In recent days, three reporters for major international news
organizations -- Angus Shaw of The Associated Press, Brian Latham of the
Bloomberg financial news service and Jan Raath of The Times of London -- 
fled the country separately after agents of Mugabe's regime searched their
office and threatened to arrest them for "running a spy ring" and defaming
the state.

      The office that the three shared at No. 20 Birdcage Walk in Harare,
Zimbabwe's capital, was affectionately dubbed "the Old Gentlemen's News
Co-operative," Raath wrote in The Times on Feb. 19 after he fled to South
Africa from "the sad, wrecked country that I love."

      A fourth journalist, Cornelius Nduna, who has done free-lance work for
foreign news organizations, was reportedly in hiding in Zimbabwe.

      All four men are Zimbabwean citizens. A media law passed by a
compliant parliament in March 2002 prohibits foreign journalists from living
in Zimbabwe. Accreditation for visiting foreign reporters is rarely granted.
Any story deemed "prejudicial to the state" is punishable by up to two years
in prison.

      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called Zimbabwe one of six
"outposts of tyranny" in the world -- along with Cuba, Burma, North Korea,
Iran and Belarus.

      State Department spokesman Richard Boucher spoke Tuesday about "a
pattern of intimidation of journalists." He noted that Mugabe's government
has shut down newspapers, squelched free speech and created "a climate where
the opposition . fears for its safety."

      Since coming to power in April 1980, along with black-majority rule in
what was once Rhodesia, Mugabe has ruthlessly tightened his grip on a nation
that, with wise leadership, could have become a great African success story.

      At independence, the nation had an abundance of mineral resources,
good roads and flourishing farms that helped feed its neighbors. It also
possessed dazzling tourist draws, such as Victoria Falls on the Zambezi
River along the northwestern border with Zambia as well as the ruins of
Great Zimbabwe, a stone city believed to have been built between the 12th
and 15th centuries.

      But at age 81, after a quarter-century of chaotic, Marxist-flavored
misrule, Mugabe presides over a country that has been transformed from
breadbasket to basket case.

      Zimbabwe now relies on huge amounts of foreign food aid to avert mass
starvation because, in the midst of a drought, Mugabe confiscated the land
of the white farmers who built the commercial farming sector and turned much
of it over to political cronies.

      Zimbabwe's 12 million people have a life expectancy of about 37 years,
among the world's lowest, partly because of the prevalence of AIDS. About 70
percent of its people are unemployed, and its inflation rate, according to
the CIA's World Factbook, was estimated at 700 percent for 2004.

      It's difficult to imagine what additional punishment Mugabe might
inflict on his long-suffering people. But with parliamentary elections
scheduled for March 31, we can expect a further tightening of the screws.

      In advance of previous elections, the government dispatched gangs of
thugs to terrorize political opponents. We can expect more of the same.

      Nduna, the journalist in hiding, is accused of possessing two
videotapes shot at a training camp for a government-sponsored youth militia
called the Green Bombers. Mugabe critics say that about 2,000 Green Bombers
have been sent to opposition strongholds in advance of the elections.

      But don't expect much news from Zimbabwe about these events. Nobody
may be there to collect and dispatch it to the outside world.

      And if there is news, expect it to be bad.

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Mugabe aims to bury Blair
From correspondents in Marondera, Zimbabwe
February 27, 2005
From: Agence France-Presse

ZIMBABWE'S long-serving President Robert Mugabe has celebrated his 81st
birthday vowing to crush the main opposition party in next month's

He also accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair of seeking to recolonise
the country.

Mr Mugabe said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was a
front for Mr Blair.

"Only 33 days are left for us to demonstrate that we are united," Mr Mugabe
told about 30,000 people gathered at a stadium in Marondera town, 74km east
of Harare.

"That vote should also kill once and for all the machinations of that man in
Number 10 Downing Street (Mr Blair) who for some reason thinks he has the
divine power to rule Zimbabwe and Britain."

Mr Mugabe said he would return to haunt his supporters if his ruling party
lost the March 31 parliamentary elections, which the party has termed "the
anti-Blair election".

Waving a miniature Zimbabwe flag at cheering supporters, he said: "Mr Blair
can never lower this flag again... never ever. On March 31 we must dig a
grave not just six feet, but 12 feet, and bury Mr Blair and the Union Jack
and write on top 'here lies the latter-day British imperialist and the Union
Jack, never again to arise'."

Zimbabwe's parliamentary election will be closely watched as a test of the
country's adherence to the principles of the 14-nation Southern African
Development Community (SADC) on democratic elections.

Mugabe's 81st birthday was on Monday, but the celebrations were moved to the
weekend to allow the participation of schoolchildren. They were held under
the theme: Investing in Discipline Youth for Sustainable Development.

Members of Zimbabwe's ruling party, chiefs, schoolchildren, government
ministers, diplomats and members of youth movements from Indonesia,
Malaysia, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo
took part.

A banner across Marondera's main street read "Congratulations: Happy 81st
Birthday President Mugabe".

Flag-waving party supporters and schoolchildren greeted Mr Mugabe with loud
cheers when he arrived at the venue accompanied by his wife Grace, their
three children and Mr Mugabe's stepson.
Mr Mugabe who has been at the helm of the southern African country for
nearly 25 years since independence from Britain in 1980, was born on
February 21 at Kutama Catholic Hospital, 80km west of Harare.

A teacher by profession, he attained his first degree at the University of
South Africa.
He returned to Zimbabwe and taught briefly before going on to Ghana where he
also took a teaching post and married his first wife.

He abandoned his four-year teaching contract in Ghana in 1960 to join the
nationalist movement in Zimbabwe.

Mr Mugabe was arrested and detained for 10 years before he left for
Mozambique in 1975 to take up arms in a liberation struggle that brought
independence to Zimbabwe.

In the early 1980s he became an international icon for his reconciliation
policy with whites, including Rhodesian former prime minister Ian Smith,
whom he had fought during the protracted liberation struggle in the 1970s.

His reputation as an African statemanship started fading after the country -
once the region's breadbasket - slid into economic decline. Land reforms,
which had been left unresolved for years, were jump-started with the violent
occupation of white-owned farms.

Mr Mugabe was re-elected in March 2002 presidential polls, which were
branded fraudulent by his opponents and outsiders and marked with violence.

Following the disputed polls the United States and European Union imposed
travel bans on Mr Mugabe and members of his inner circle.
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Zimbabwe Bans Another Newspaper
By Tendai Maphosa
      26 February 2005

Zimbabwean authorities have banned a fourth newspaper for flouting the
country's tough media law.

The head of the government's Media and Information Commission late Friday
announced that the license for The Weekly Times had been canceled for a

In a report in the state-controlled daily, The Herald, the commission
chairman, Tafataona Mahoso said the weekly tabloid was being punished
because, its "core values, convictions and overall thrust were narrowly
political, clearly partisan and even separatist."

Mr. Mahoso says the paper had misled his commission in its license
application by saying it would focus on development journalism. He says this
had turned out to be what he called "a hoax."

The Weekly Times  joins The Daily News, The Daily News on Sunday and The
Tribune in being closed under the country's tough Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act. Journalists and opposition politicians have
condemned the act, which President Robert Mugabe signed into law in 2002, as
stifling freedom of expression.

The act requires publishing houses and journalists to register with the
commission to operate in Zimbabwe. Dozens of journalists have been arrested
for flouting the act though none has been convicted as yet.

An employee of The Weekly Times says the publisher of the paper has filed an
urgent court application questioning the ban. He says this suspends the
cancellation of the license and the staff is working on the next issue.

The paper's publishers or their lawyers could not be reached for comment.
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Union T-shirts a no-no in Zim
26/02/2005 13:11  - (SA)

Pretoria - Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Lovemore
Matombo told of how different the streets of Pretoria are to those of

"I saw someone walking along, wearing a SA Communist Party T-shirt," he told
the third Zimbabwe Solidarity conference on Friday.

"You cannot wear a ZCTU T-shirt (in Zimbabwe) and think you are OK before
you get home."

In this climate, he said, the ZCTU was still trying to promote dialogue and
debate to help pave a way forward for the country.

Recently it met with the Congress of SA Trade Unions on the South African
side of the border after Cosatu were prohibited from entering Zimbabwe at
Harare international airport.

Matombo told the conference the ZCTU was in favour of a new constitution in
Zimbabwe that was "people-driven".

"A change in the Zimbabwe constitution should not be between (the ruling)
Zanu-PF and the (opposition) Movement for Democratic Change (should the
government change power) but a people-driven constitution."

He said that even if the MDC came to power, the ZCTU would fight it in the
same way it presently fights the Zanu-PF government.
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Madhuku criticises MDC manifesto

Nkululeko Sibanda
issue date :2005-Feb-26

NATIONAL Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku, has
reiterated his accusation that the MDC's election manifesto is a big yawn
without tangible benefits to the populace.
Addressing delegates from Southern Africa during a four-day Centre for Peace
Initiative Africa (CPLA) regional workshop that ended in Bulawayo on
Thursday, Madhuku launched another broadside at the opposition for allegedly
hoodwinking the electorate in the party manifesto, launched by party leader
Morgan Tsvangirai in Masvingo recently.
"The MDC is currently taking its manifesto to the party supporters and
others that are not supporters of the party.  They are saying that if voted
into power, they will tackle issues that have to do with the economy, the
HIV and Aids pandemic, children's education and so forth.
"I for one, believe that these promises are practically impossible and not
achievable.  They are just promises and nothing else," Madhuku told the
Bulawayo gathering.
This is the umpteenth time the NCA leader has attacked the opposition party,
raising questions concerning the relationship between the NCA and the MDC
once perceived bedfellows.
Acknowledging that his pressure group at one time worked closely with the
MDC to agitate for a new constitution, Madhuku, however, dismissed the MDC
manifesto for the general polls as "practically impossible."
He said people were sick and tired of promises that were an insult to the
intelligence of the people of Zimbabwe. Even if the MDC attained the
two-thirds majority in Parliament, Madhuku said, the opposition party would
still not be able to deliver since they were not the government.
 "I also believe it is not fair for the MDC to claim that it will deliver
all those things when they get the two-thirds majority because they have to
have their own leader as the President of this country if they are to put
their promises into action.
"President Mugabe is the country's President until 2008 and it will be
grossly unfair for the MDC to believe that they will deliver their promises
under this kind of environment. This is basically taking people for a ride
and I believe that political parties should be honest in their manifestoes
and make promises that are going to be easy for them to deliver," Madhuku
He warned that misleading statements by political parties create an enabling
environment for voter apathy, as the electorate was conscious enough to
distinguish between serious promises and fantasies.
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