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  • Christine Chumbler
    Zimbabwe crackdown: 52 released Harare 21 November 2003 08:47 A magistrate freed 52 people, including 14 labour leaders, two days after their arrest during
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 21, 2003
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      Zimbabwe crackdown: 52 released

      Harare

      21 November 2003 08:47


      A magistrate freed 52 people, including 14 labour leaders, two days
      after their arrest during nationwide demonstrations against President
      Robert Mugabe's autocratic rule and the country's economic hardships.

      Nearly 90 people were arrested on Tuesday, including 52 people arrested
      in the capital -- among them the four top leaders of the Zimbabwe
      Congress of Trade Unions. The 52 detainees made their first appearance
      on Thursday before Magistrate Sukai Tongogara.

      Tongogara released them on the condition that they return on Friday to
      face charges of violating the nation's strict security laws by
      organising an illegal political demonstration, said their attorney, Alec
      Muchadehama. The offence is punishable by up to six months in jail.

      Union officials said the group's release was delayed by confusion among
      police and state attorneys about what charges to bring against them.
      Some members of the group were told on Wednesday they would be charged
      with the lesser offence of obstructing traffic in downtown Harare.

      Labour leaders called for a nationwide strike to protest Tuesday's
      arrests, but it failed to take hold on Thursday.

      Mlamleli Sibanda, a federation spokesperson, said there was
      insufficient time to mobilise workers.

      Zimbabwe is in the throes of economic and political crisis with
      official inflation running at 526%, one of the highest levels in the
      world.

      Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa gave an even bleaker forecast on
      Thursday as he announced the annual budget, warning inflation could rise
      to a high of 700% in the first quarter of next year before starting to
      dissipate.

      Murerwa said government services like health and education declined
      sharply this year; industry was running at below 50% capacity, and most
      of the country's infrastructure was crumbling. The country also faces a
      record 13,2% decline in the gross domestic product.

      Opponents blame Mugabe's authoritarian rule, including the
      often-violent seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for
      redistribution to impoverished blacks.

      Murerwa said the government aims to introduce a series of fiscal
      measures, including government belt-tightening.

      "The challenges are surmountable," Murerwa said. "It is ... imperative
      we avoid aborting painful measures" toward recovery. - Sapa-AP

      *****

      Frelimo Claims 'Resounding Victory'

      Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)

      November 20, 2003
      Posted to the web November 20, 2003

      Maputo

      Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party has won "a resounding victory" in the
      municipal elections held on Wednesday, according to Manuel Tome,
      spokesman for the Frelimo election office.

      Addressing a Maputo press conference on Thursday, Tome said "we set out
      to win in all 33 municipalities, and we are certainly going to have a
      smashing victory".

      He did not have detailed figures yet from all of Frelimo's polling
      station monitors, but enough information was available for him to
      declare victory in most of the smaller municipalities - such as
      Catandica and Manica in Manica province; Marromeu and Dondo in Sofala;
      Metangula and Cuamba in Niassa; Milange in Zambezia and Montepuez in
      Cabo Delgado.

      Although it is clear that the Frelimo mayoral candidates in Maputo and
      Matola, respectively Eneas Comiche and Carlos Tembe, have massive leads,
      Tome declined to speak about any of the major cities, on the grounds
      that not enough polling stations had reported back.

      Asked about the second largest city, Beira, which the opposition
      certainly hopes to take, Tome said "we have good results from some
      polling stations, bad ones from others".

      Initially, Frelimo's hopes of winning Beira were raised - but only
      because the initial results reported came from the centre of the city.
      As results come in from strongholds of the former rebel movement Renamo
      in the Beira suburbs, so the difference between the two parties has
      narrowed sharply in Renamo's favour.

      Tome declined to admit defeat in any of the municipalities - though it
      seems clear that Renamo is winning all down the coast of the northern
      province of Nampula - in the municipalities of Nacala, Angoche and
      Mozambique Island.

      Frelimo was quite prepared to accept defeat in these towns.

      "If we lose here or there, that's part of the democratic process", he
      said.

      Tome accused Renamo of "flagrant breaches of the law", notably by
      campaigning illegally at the polling stations. He said that such
      incidents had happened "all over the country".

      The election campaign ended 48 hours before polling day: this period is
      supposed to give the voters a chance to reflect on the promises of the
      candidates and make their minds up. At the polling stations nobody is
      allowed to campaign, or even wear political party T-shirts, badges or
      other items identified with any of the candidates.

      Yet Renamo members were seen urging voters in the polling station
      queues to cast their ballots for Renamo. Tome said that some of those
      campaigning illegally were Renamo parliamentary deputies - including
      Ossufo Quitine, head of the Renamo parliamentary group, and Angelina
      Enoque, a member of the parliament's standing commission.

      Tome said that in several places Renamo appointed polling station
      monitors who live outside the municipal area. "We were very tolerant and
      overlooked this", he added.

      He claimed there had also been disinformation in parts of the country,
      where the rumour was spread that the election would be held not on
      Wednesday, but Thursday, or that it would last for two days rather than
      one.

      Asked about the high rate of abstention, Tome pointed out that, while
      the turnout was lower than hoped, it was still considerably higher than
      in the country's first local elections in 1998, when less than 15 per
      cent of the registered electorate voted.

      Among the factors that might have contributed to abstention, he
      suggested, were the rain that fell on Wednesday in four of the country's
      11 provinces, the disinformation campaign, and intimidation by Renamo.
      But he also admitted that many Mozambicans "still don't understand the
      importance of their participation in these elections".
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