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  • Christine Chumbler
    Zimbabwe election being rigged Zimbabwe s opposition leader has accused the ruling party of trying to steal Thursday s elections. Morgan Tsvangirai said
    Message 1 of 83 , Apr 1, 2005
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      Zimbabwe election 'being rigged'

      Zimbabwe's opposition leader has accused the ruling party of trying to
      steal Thursday's elections.
      Morgan Tsvangirai said "disgusting, massive fraud" had been committed
      and said Zimbabweans should "defend their vote", without elaborating.

      His Movement for Democratic Change has won 31 of the 39 seats declared
      so far but these are mostly in urban areas, where it was expected to
      win.

      President Robert Mugabe has dismissed claims of rigging as "nonsense".


      'Ghost voters'

      The UK, the US and Germany have all condemned the election as "flawed".


      A total of 120 seats are being contested, with another 30 MPs appointed
      by the president.

      The early results show the MDC retaining seats in its urban
      strongholds, especially the capital, Harare and the second city,
      Bulawayo.

      Results are slower to come in from rural areas, where support for Mr
      Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is strongest.

      Average turnout was below 50%, chief elections officer Lovemore
      Sekeramai said.

      The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which has some 6,000 observers
      in the 8,000 polling stations, says that some 10% of would-be voters
      were turned away, either because their names were not on the electoral
      roll, they did not have the right identity papers, or they were in the
      wrong constituency.

      One man told the BBC News website that his name had been taken off the
      register since the last election and yet the name of his aunt was still
      there, although she had died six years ago.

      Human rights groups say that hundreds of thousands of "ghost voters"
      appear on the electoral roll of some 5.8m. They fear these entries could
      be used to record fraudulent votes.

      Arrests

      "We are deeply disturbed by the fraudulent activities we have
      unearthed," Mr Tsvangirai said.

      "We believe the people of Zimbabwe must defend their votes, their right
      to a free and a fair election - this is what has been denied," he said.


      The BBC's Themba Nkosi says the only surprise result so far is
      Zanu-PF's victory in Harare South.

      He says semi-rural areas were added to the constituency, which may
      explain why Zanu-PF took the seat from the MDC.

      ZESN head Reginald Matchaba-Hove told the BBC's Focus on Africa
      programme that Thursday's voting process had been "smooth".

      But he said the atmosphere had changed in the past few weeks, when
      foreign observers started arriving, because previously, the opposition
      had little access to state media and were not free to campaign.

      On Thursday, police arrested two UK journalists working for the Sunday
      Telegraph newspaper on charges of reporting on the country's election
      without state accreditation, police said.

      Mr Mugabe predicts that Zanu-PF will win a two-thirds majority in
      parliament, which would allow it to change the constitution.

      This could enable him to install a successor without immediately
      calling elections, as presently required.

      President Mugabe, 81, has led his party's campaign, although he has
      said he will not seek re-election in the 2008 presidential election.


      *****

      Voting across Zimbabwe

      As Zimbabweans go to the polls to elect a new parliament, local
      journalists report how the vote has gone around the country.
      Because of strict media laws, the journalists did not want their names
      to be used.


      Harare
      There were long queues of voters early in the morning, despite the
      light rain.

      But by mid-afternoon, they had all but disappeared, leaving many
      polling agents with very little to do.

      I went to several polling stations where I found just a handful of
      people casting their votes.

      At one polling station in central Harare, there wasn't a single voter
      in sight for about 10 minutes.

      But where turnout was high, security was tight with at least three
      police officers keeping an eye on proceedings at each polling station.

      There were polling agents from both major parties in all the polling
      stations I visited.

      There has been no reports of any violence.

      I have also seen lots of election observers from different countries.

      In the low density areas, which used to be exclusively white, I only
      saw a few white people waiting to queue.

      Many have left the country in recent years.

      Bulawayo
      Voting has been peaceful in Zimbabwe's second city, under the hot sun.


      There are many more polling stations than in recent elections, so the
      queues are not all that long, except in one or two areas.

      Many of those in the queues were women and some of them told me they
      were eager to have more women in parliament, as they were tired of being
      ruled by men.

      Police officers tell me there have been no arrests for political
      violence.

      However, an opposition MDC polling agent in the Insiza constituency
      90km to the south, was abducted from his home village on Wednesday
      night, as he prepared to go to his polling station.


      There has been a lot of trouble in this area in recent years, after the
      MDC won the seat in 2000.

      Last week, ruling party activists told people that a vote for the MDC
      would be a "Vote for starvation".

      Some teachers, who are serving as polling officers have also complained
      that they have been deployed away from the constituencies where they
      have registered, so they will not be able to vote.

      From Tsholotsho, north of Bulawayo, where controversial former
      Information Minister Jonathan Moyo is running as an independent, there
      have been no reports of any trouble.


      Mutare
      Voting has been going on peacefully since 0700 local time (0500 GMT).

      But there has been some confusion over new rules, under which voters
      have to queue in different lines, according to their surnames.

      Those who surnames start with A-L are in queue, those whose names start
      with M are in another and those whose surnames begin with L-Z in a third
      queue.

      This has led to some disorderly scenes, with voters trying to find the
      right queue.

      Many Zimbabweans have surnames starting with M and so this queue is the
      longest, with people waiting for several hours to vote.

      Some people have been going to different polling stations to find a
      shorter M queue.

      It looks as though voting may have to be extended until after 1900
      local time (1700 GMT) to let those already in the queues cast their
      ballots.


      Masvingo
      Hundreds of people thronged outside polling stations two hours before
      they opened, heeding a call from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)
      to vote early.

      People were anxious to vote. The queues were divided alphabetically and
      there were many more polling stations so by 1000 local time (0800GMT),
      most people had voted and the polling stations were largely empty.

      No incidents of violence have been reported.

      But some local election observers, who had official accreditation, were
      denied access to some polling stations.

      The ZEC has not commented.

      In the afternoon I visited rural areas and there was just a trickle of
      voters.

      Soldiers are patrolling the streets of Masvingo in army trucks.

      Polling agents from both major parties were represented at all of the
      30 polling stations I visited.

      Now people are keen to know the results.
    • Christine Chumbler
      Zim police raid churches, round up displaced Harare, Zimbabwe 21 July 2005 04:25 Police raided church halls in Zimbabwe s second city of Bulawayo, rounding up
      Message 83 of 83 , Jul 22 5:46 AM
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        Zim police raid churches, round up displaced

        Harare, Zimbabwe



        21 July 2005 04:25

        Police raided church halls in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo, rounding up people who had been sheltering there since their homes were destroyed in a so-called urban renewal drive, a human rights lawyer said on Thursday.

        Wednesday's raids came just days before the release of a United Nations report on Zimbabwe's controversial Operation Murambatsvina.

        On Thursday, some of the hundreds of thousands left homeless were allowed to return to the demolished township of Hatcliffe, on the northern outskirts of the capital, Harare, state media reported.

        Police have torched and bulldozed townships, informal markets and other structures deemed illegal since launching the demolition campaign on May 19. Vendors accused of black-market dealing have also been arrested or had their goods confiscated.

        Independent estimates of the number affected range from 300 000 to more than a million.

        Only a small number of people were removed in the church raids, said attorney Jenny Coltart.

        "Many of the churches have already moved the people last week on to a farm they had negotiated for, but there were some who had not moved," she said. "The police came in late last night, loaded them on to trucks and drove off."

        Church leaders were trying to locate them on Thursday.

        An estimated 20 000 people had their homes destroyed in Hatcliffe, on the northern outskirts of the capital, in May. Many of them were given just 30 minutes to pack their belongings and were forced at gunpoint to tear down their own houses.

        Late on Wednesday, Deputy Housing Minister Morris Sakabuya told Parliament about 3 100 plots have been demarcated in the township and are being allocated to "vetted" families, the national broadcaster and state-run Herald newspaper reported.

        "Only those with lease agreements were allowed back, while those with receipts showing they had paid for their stands were also given lease agreements," Sakabuya was quoted as saying.

        Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo told Parliament the government will help the displaced rebuild but warned that any returnees who fail to meet state building standards will be evicted again.

        Trudy Stevenson, an opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmaker who represents the area, was not impressed.

        "How will they all find out about this when some have gone to Mozambique, Malawi or [been] chased back to their 'rural areas' by police?" she asked. "What about the seven weeks schoolchildren have missed, the people on anti-retrovirals and other medication who have been without it? How many have died? Who is going to find the orphans and tell them?"

        Many of the displaced also lost their livelihoods and do not have the means to rebuild, she added.

        President Robert Mugabe's government has promised Z$3-trillion (R2,1-billion) for the reconstruction effort, but economists question whether the funds are available at a time of economic crisis.

        The government defends the campaign as a clean-up drive in overcrowded, crime-ridden slums.

        But the opposition says it is aimed at breaking up its strongholds among the urban poor and forcing them into rural areas where they can be more easily controlled by chiefs sympathetic to the government.

        Last month, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent an envoy to assess the humanitarian impact of the campaign.

        Anna Tibaijuka, the Tanzanian head of UN Habitat, submitted her report earlier this week. A copy was also sent to Mugabe for review before it is made public, expected on Friday or Monday. -- Sapa-AP

        *****

        Zim defiant over loan conditions

        Nic Dawes and Rapule Tabane



        21 July 2005 11:59


        If South Africa agrees to a loan request from Zimbabwe, one of its conditions would be an end to the Murambatsvina campaign to demolish illegal structures in urban areas. (Photograph: AP)
        Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may well choke on the tough conditions attached to any loan package offered to him by the South African government -- despite Zimbabwe's worsening foreign currency crunch.

        Mugabe's spokesperson, George Charamba, told the Mail & Guardian that Zimbabwe would not accept financial help tied to conditions, adding that South Africa was one of numerous countries Zimbabwe had approached.

        "I don't understand why the South African media is treating the loan request as unique to South Africa. We have also made representations to the Indian government," Charamba said.

        Mugabe is due to visit China this weekend and diplomatic observers believe China is the country most likely to step into the breach.

        Beijing is anxious to secure access to minerals such as platinum and chrome, which Zimbabwe has in abundance, and may provide a way for Mugabe to acquire hard currency without making political concessions.

        In the first clear sign that South Africa is prepared to use its economic leverage to break Zimbabwe's political logjam, President Thabo Mbeki's Cabinet was expected this week to discuss Mugabe's request for a $1-billion loan facility. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), meanwhile, is taking final steps in preparation to expel Zimbabwe for its persistent failure to pay a $295-million debt.

        Government officials stress that no decision has yet been taken to extend a credit line, but that any help will be based on a South African assessment of what is appropriate for Zimbabwe's needs and will entail stringent terms.

        These are understood to include the resumption of talks on constitutional reform between Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an end to the Murambatsvina, or "drive out filth" campaign to demolish illegal structures in urban areas, and economic reforms.

        Charamba, was adamant that Zimbabwe would reject conditions, particularly a call for new talks with the MDC. "We meet the MDC on a daily basis and dialogue with them in parliament," he said.

        "Should the MDC request talks outside Parliament, it will be considered. But firstly, they would have to clarify their call for sanctions, which are now causing untold suffering to ordinary Zimbabweans. That would be our precondition."

        He added: "I don't understand why South Africans will put a condition that we end Operation Clean Up when it has already ended. We are now at the next stage, Operation Hlalani Kahle (stay and live well), which will focus on housing delivery that goes beyond people affected by Operation Clean Up."

        Nevertheless, the IMF's threatened withdrawal appears to have created a window of opportunity for the South African government to push ahead with plans for a "carrot-and-stick" package, which Finance Minister Trevor Manuel has been quietly punting for some time.

        Zimbabwe needs hard currency to buy fuel, electricity and basic commodities. With its reserves exhausted, the government has been reduced to buying dollars on the black market to fund imports.

        After a visit to Harare by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi, Manuel and Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni met officials, led by Zimbabwe Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, last Friday.

        South African sources said that while the Zimbabwean delegation "painted a picture" of their currency crisis, any funding would be shaped by their own assessment of the situation. The credit facility was unlikely to amount to the reported $1-billion.

        "It is far from a done deal," one official said. "The conditionalities will be tough and Mugabe isn't going to like them at all."

        China is seen as Zimbabwe's most likely benefactor, as it makes no pretence of using aid to promote democracy and good governance.

        Western and African diplomats are worried that the link between economic assistance and good governance, established by initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), may be undermined in China's drive for resource security.

        In 2004 it agreed to a $2-billion line of credit for Angola after an IMF loan fell through when the MPLA government would not agree to anti- corruption conditions. The loan is backed by oil guarantees and commitments to employ Chinese construction firms in the rebuilding of infrastructure.

        Mugabe has already concluded agreements to buy fighter jets and riot control gear from the Chinese government. Despite these concerns, observers in Harare are buoyed by what they see as a marked difference in pace and tone from South Africa and the African Union. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangarai embarked on a hectic round of African diplomacy ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles, meeting, among others, current AU chairperson and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to insist on the importance of linking democratic reforms and economic recovery.

        Obasanjo and Mbeki, who split in 2003 over Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth, appear to have gone to Gleneagles united on that issue, even as Zimbabwe's urban demolition campaign refocused international attention on the crisis.

        Chief government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe was reluctant to give details of the Cabinet discussions or the recent meetings with Zimbabwean officials. "The discussions have been about how we can assist in the Zimbabwean economic recovery programme as well as the normalisation of the political situation," he said.

        "There is no agreement on a loan, but if the issue arises, it would be referred to Cabinet and a loan facility would have to be confirmed by Parliament."

        Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon, meanwhile, questioned whether South Africa could afford the loan, saying taxpayer funds should not be used to bail out a dictator.

        In a speech in Cradock on Thursday, he said: "South Africa should not provide any assistance beyond emergency relief until the Zimbabwean government meets strict conditions, including, but not limited to: ending Operation Murambatsvina; opening formal, public negotiations with opposition parties under the supervision of the African Union and the United Nations; allowing international aid agencies to operate freely within Zimbabwe; and providing proof of all purchases made with money donated or loaned by South Africa."

        *****

        UN condemns Zimbabwe slum blitz

        A major UN report has called for an immediate end to Zimbabwe's slum clearance programme, declaring it to be in violation of international law.
        Hundreds of thousands of homes in the country's shanty towns have been torched and bulldozed in recent months.

        Zimbabwe says the demolitions aim to clean up urban areas and ensure building regulations are followed.

        But the UN report, to be released in full later on Friday, says the policy is disastrous and inhumane.

        The BBC's Susannah Price at UN headquarters in New York says the UK and US are likely to use the hard-hitting document to renew their calls for the UN to take immediate action.

        To date, the Security Council has refused to call a meeting on the clearances.

        Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe usually rejects any criticism, as coming from racists, or their stooges, opposed to his nationalist stance but correspondents say this will be more difficult with this report.

        It was compiled by Kofi Annan's special envoy Anna Tibaijuka, a respected international diplomat from Tanzania, a country with close political links to Zimbabwe.

        'Indifference'

        The report calls for an immediate halt to the slum clearances which it says have affected a total of two million people.

        "While purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures [the operation] was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering," it says, according to an excerpt cited by the Associated Press news agency.

        Zimbabwe says the policy - known as Operation Murambatsvina [Drive Out Rubbish] - is intended to crack down on black-market trading and other criminal activity in the slum areas.

        But the report says, whatever the motive, the result is ill-conceived and inhumane.

        Hundreds of thousands have been forced to seek shelter elsewhere as their homes are destroyed.

        The opposition says the evictions are meant to punish urban residents, who have rejected President Robert Mugabe in favour of the opposition in recent elections.

        The report has already been presented to Zimbabwe's government and will be presented to all UN members on Friday.
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