Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections Bulletin: Prove Violence Claims, Says Government; ZEC Recount Moving Smoothly; SADC Still Wants Mbeki

Prove violence claims — Govt

By Mabasa Sasa
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

GOVERNMENT has challenged anyone with information demonstrating that acts of State-sponsored violence have characterised the post-election period to furnish the police with details to facilitate full investigations.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa yesterday said at a Press conference it was possible that the opposition MDC-T was behind the cases of politically motivated violence as part of a propaganda campaign to justify international intervention in the country.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena also dismissed claims that 10 people had been killed in post-election political violence, saying three of the four names given to the police yielded no results while one case was being investigated.

"It is being said that 10 people have been killed. Four names were given. I have personally investigated these cases. Of those four, three have no basis whatsoever while the fourth is still under investigation and will be concluded soon.

"It is unfortunate that these reports of violence are only surfacing on the Internet with no formal reports being made. We respond to information supplied to us by the public and we have nothing to hide," Asst Comm Bvudzijena said.

Cde Chinamasa said they could not put anything beyond the MDC-T because its officials were gallivanting all over the world lying through their teeth that there is genocide in Zimbabwe and that the country was in a state of war.

He said they were at the forefront of accusing Zanu-PF of rigging the elections and yet it was clear that they were the ones who had rigged.

"Now they are saying that we are sponsoring acts of politically motivated violence and anyone will be forgiven for thinking that they are the ones who are fomenting genocide in Zimbabwe," he said.

Cde Chinamasa also said the police were arresting and would continue to arrest anyone suspected of committing crimes and solid cases would be taken to the courts.

"If anyone has information they should approach the police and furnish them with the details so that full investigations are instituted. Why go to the media and splash unsubstantiated pictures and stories. For your own information, some of those pictures being carried by the media date back to 2000. At present we are not aware of any such violence," he said.

The police, Cde Chinamasa said, arrest people regardless of their political affiliation.

"When a crime is committed the police do not ask what party the perpetrator belongs to. They just make an arrest. So if you believe that political violence has taken place go to the police."

Cde Chinamasa, who also chairs Zanu-PF’s information sub-committee, said the MDC-T had a long history of claiming any dead people to be their supporters who had been murdered by the State.

"They have this macabre tendency to claim dead bodies. Even people who have died of natural causes are adopted by the MDC-T and the cause of death is subsequently attributed to State-sponsored violence. I refute completely that people are dying because of political violence," he said.

"People should ask the MDC to give the names, addresses and other details of those it says have been killed. This is a lie that has no basis whose only aim is to achieve international intervention. It is all part of a scheme to undermine the country, President Mugabe and our processes. But the rule of law is being observed and will continue to be observed," he said.

Cde Chinamasa said the MDC-T should desist from agitating for war because Zanu-PF does not want war but would use its resilience to weather any such outcome.

Last year Home Affairs Minister Cde Kembo Mohadi challenged the opposition and its civil society sympathisers to come forward with information on alleged State-sponsored political violence to facilitate investigations but they failed to do so.

On the issue of the vote recount in 23 constituencies, Cde Chinamasa said it was hypocritical for the MDC-T to oppose the process when they too had appealed against the results in two House of Assembly races.

He said Zanu-PF requested recounts in 21 constituencies while the MDC-T requested recounts in the other two constituencies. The electoral law, Cde Chinamasa said, made it clear that any stakeholder can ask for a recount within 48 hours of an election as was agreed by both Zanu-PF and the opposition during the Sadc-brokered dialogue.

"Now they are saying we should not exercise our legal rights and yet they can. Those are the surprises you find in politics. People aren’t honest and they prefer to play to the gallery. They want to lie through their teeth, but lying isn’t a crime so they do it with impunity."

Cde Chinamasa said they were happy with the manner in which recounts were being conducted and urged the nation to continue to be patient so that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission could do its work professionally and independently as it had been doing all along.

Vote recount proceeding smoothly: ZEC

Herald Reporters

RECOUNTING of votes in 23 constituencies entered the third day yesterday with the process continuing smoothly, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said.

In an interview, ZEC deputy chief elections officer responsible for operations Mr Utloile Silaigwana said the process was going on well.

"The recounting is progressing well and so far we have not received any complaints," he said.

However, Mr Silaigwana said he was not in a position to give finer details on the exercise as he was yet to receive the update from the commission’s officials in the various constituencies.

In Goromonzi West constituency, recounting progressed well with all political parties accepting the outcome.

By 4pm yesterday election officials had completed verifying and recounting results in 41 wards out of 43.

Mashonaland East provincial elections officer Mr Noel Madziwa said the recounting had gone on well in the 41 wards without any incident and that polling agents from all the parties owned up to their signatures.

"The exercise has been progressing well with party agents accepting the outcome. Where there were problems the differences were resolved amicably."

Observers who witnessed the recounting expressed satisfaction with the process, saying it would help answer questions that arose from the initial vote.

Results of the recounts are expected to start trickling in tomorrow as ZEC proceeds to clear other constituencies.

In Zvimba North constituency, Mashonaland West provincial elections officer Mr Michael Guzha said ZEC officials had by yesterday cleared verification and recounting in four of the eight wards.

Mr Guzha, however, said ZEC would work late into the evening in order to go through their targeted ballot boxes.

"We would be working late, maybe up to 8pm, this evening (yesterday) so that we clear the ballot boxes.

"There are eight wards in the constituency and we have gone through half of the wards. We are happy that all interested groups are involved in the exercise and independent observers have also been here," he said.

Polling agents from the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC-T were taking part in the process while observers from the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network were closely monitoring the situation.

In Masvingo, ZEC district public relations officer Mrs Getrude Murumbi said recounting was going on well.

"The process has been going on very well so far and representatives of all political parties are taking part. But we cannot say when exactly this process is going to be completed or how much ground has been covered," said Mrs Murumbi.

ZEC ordered a recount after it had discovered some miscounts, which in its view might have affected the results.

Recounts were being carried out in Chimanimani West, Mutare West, Bikita West, Bikita South, Bulilima East, Zhombe, Zaka West, Zvimba North, Silobela, Chiredzi North, Mberengwa East, West, South and North, Gutu South, North, Central and Goromonzi West.

More poll officers arrested

Herald Reporters

TWO more Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials, including the provincial election officer have appeared before a Bindura magistrate charged with electoral fraud or alternatively breaching the Electoral Act.

This brings to nine the number of ZEC officials who have been arrested in the province on similar charges.

Thenjiwe Mnkandla (47), the Mashonaland Central provincial elections officer and Brian Rufu Munakira (62) the Bindura South constituency election officer, separately appeared before magistrate Mr Charles Murove who remanded them out of custody to Monday next week.

Prosecutor Mr Emmanuel Muchenga had opposed bail citing the serious nature of the allegations.

Allegations against Mnkandla are that during the March 29 elections, she received House of Assembly results for the Mazowe South constituency at the provincial command centre.

As part of her duties, the State alleged, she was supposed to transmit the results to the national command centre only after cross-checking and correcting errors or other anomalies before relaying them to the national command centre.

But Mnkandla, the State said, allegedly sent the results to the national command centre and had certified that they were correct. It was later discovered that the results sent reflected the opposite of what had occurred on the ground.

Thus the MDC-T candidate Modern Chitenga was declared the winner of the seat yet Cde Margaret Zinyemba of Zanu-PF party was the real winner. The anomaly was only discovered after the results were broadcast on national television and radio.

Members of the provincial elections committee had to revisit the election results only to discover that Zanu-PF candidate Cde Zinyemba had garnered 4 109 while MDC candidate got 4 052 instead of the initial figures of 3 086 and 3 599 respectively.

In Munakira’s case, the State alleged that he overstated results he sent to the provincial command centre for ward 21 with independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni said to have got 289 votes on the V23 form instead of 285.

In a related matter, another ZEC official facing allegations of negligence of duty which prejudiced candidates in the presidential election was yesterday granted bail by the High Court. Stephen Mukoko (63), the headmaster of Eastridge Primary School was arrested early this month on charges of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer or alternatively willfully failing to perform duty under the Electoral Act.

High Court Judge Joseph Musakwa yesterday granted Mukoko $500 million bail with reporting conditions after he was refused bail pending trial by the magistrates’ courts.

Harare Magistrate Ms Olivia Mariga dismissed his bail application to give the State time to complete investigations. Mukoko was the constituency election officer at the District Development Fund in Manyame in Harare South House of Assembly constituency.

It is the State’s case that Mukoko negligently and wrongfully completed a V23 form, which was then forwarded to ZEC with errors. The form indicated that President Mugabe polled 6 030 votes instead of 6 035, Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T had 5 407 instead of 5 467 while Makoni had 860 votes instead of 865.

The State is alleging that as a direct result of the abuse of duty by the accused the presidential candidates did not get the correct and true reflection of their votes.

According to the State, this had a serious impact on the final results of the presidential poll.

However, Mukoko’s lawyers in papers submitted to the court appealed for bail on the grounds that he was a family man of an advanced age with property in Zimbabwe which made it unlikely for him to abscond.

‘Govt to continue acquiring land’

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT will continue to acquire more land for resettlement as long as the need for land by indigenous Zimbabweans exists, the Zanu-PF Secretary for Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, Cde Ignatius Chombo, has said.

He said Zanu-PF would also continue to review and rationalise the land tenure systems to encourage productivity on the land and ensure an agro-based economic recovery and food security.

"We are going to acquire more land for resettlement. Having established the justice and legitimacy of land acquisition and reform and having resettled hundreds of thousands of formerly landless families on both A1 and A2 farms, Zanu-PF will continue to acquire more land to resettle those who still need it," said Cde Chombo.

He encouraged all those who were not catered for in the earlier phases of the resettlement programme to approach the relevant Government offices with their application letters for land.

Cde Chombo said Zanu-PF had also resolved to continue with the farm mechanisation programme and encourage productivity.

Buoyed by the improvement in production by the new farmers since 2000, Cde Chombo said Zanu-PF would always support the land reform exercise with inputs.

"Since 2000 there has been evidence that production on the farms is improving and that even those who did not have farming experience are learning fast and producing very well," he said.

He made the remarks to clarify Zanu-PF’s position on land following what the party deemed as distortions about the agrarian reform programme in the run-up to the March 29 harmonised elections by the MDC-T.

Cde Chombo said Zimbabwe’s land reform faces a massive threat from white former farmers who in anticipation of an MDC-T win had returned into the country and the Sadc region from self-imposed exile.

"In response to the gross lies told by the opposition, more than 750 white former settler farmers returned from self-imposed exile in anticipation of an MDC-T electoral victory which had promised a reversal of the Third Chimurenga by allowing them to repossess the now indigenised farms," Cde Chombo said.

He said pre-election utterances by the opposition that they would re-organise resettled farmers was a polite way of saying the resettled farmers would pave way for white former farmers.

"We want it categorically and emphatically stated that white former farmers will never be tolerated on farms legally acquired. Allowing such to happen would be a negation of the liberation struggle and tantamount to surrendering our sovereignty," he said.

He said the mentality of the white former farmers and that of the MDC-T clearly shows their skewed ideas on land ownership in the country.

"Having the audacity to come on the eve of an election and thinking they will go back to former farms is preposterous. For us in Zanu-PF, the land reform exercise is irreversible," he said.

Cde Chombo questioned whether black people "should become drawers of water and hewers of wood once more for their white masters".

He said Zimbabwe is a country in which people of all colours and creeds must live together and interact without anyone feeling downtrodden.

"There can be no equity among the people of Zimbabwe if land is inequitably distributed with an ethnic and racial minority occupying all the rich land. The MDC-T and its sponsors have sought to subvert the land reform programme," he said.

Cde Chombo added that Zanu-PF had liberated the masses from exploitation by white former farmers through denial of land rights.

Cde Chombo said Zimbabweans should realise that the MDC-T has no voice of their own hence the party’s position on land is always shifting and it contains clear messages to betray Zimbabweans.

He said calls for more support to new farmers by the MDC-T was a mockery to the land reform exercise because it is the same MDC-T that campaigned for economic sanctions that hurt the same farmers.

"If the MDC had really wanted all resettled farmers to receive sufficient support, it would not have campaigned for a global war against the very farmers whose welfare it now purports to champion.

"It would have not collaborated with foreign companies in Zimbabwe to stage stayaways and factory shutdowns whose purpose was and still is to weaken the financial base and paralyse the industrial sector so as to frustrate the very same resettled farmers who need financial support and inputs," he said.

President to officially open ZITF on Friday

Bulawayo Bureau

PRESIDENT Mugabe will for the second year running officially open this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair on Friday, the Minister of Industry and International Trade, Cde Obert Mpofu, said yesterday.

President Mugabe officially opened last year’s trade fair.

The 49th edition of the ZITF begins today and ends on Saturday. Today and tomorrow will be business days while the fair will open to the public from Thursday until Saturday.

"The official opening is scheduled to be held on Friday 25 April, 2008. His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde R. G. Mugabe, will be the guest of honour," said Cde Mpofu.

He said this year’s fair would be special, as it comes just before the country hosts the 13th Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Heads of State and Government Summit in Victoria Falls from May 1 to 15.

Cde Mpofu said 565 exhibitors would be taking part at this year’s event.

"Of these exhibitors, 544 are local and 21 (4 percent) are foreign. Of the 544 local exhibitors, 468 are direct and 76 are indirect. Of the 21 foreign exhibitors, nine are direct and 12 are indirect," he said.

He said seven foreign nations —Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia — will participate while three nations — Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Pakistan — had cancelled their bookings.

In terms of bookings, Cde Mpofu said most of the space had been taken with all external sites and leases having been fully booked while percentage bookings in halls ranged from 70 percent to 100 percent.

Cde Mpofu said the livestock section was more or less the same as last year in terms of numbers. "A total of 115 fat-stock cattle, 45 display cattle, 30 pedigree cattle, 65 sheep, 70 goats and poultry will be at the show."

He said the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises this year has a special arrangement with its Namibia counterpart that will see Namibian women participating in both ordinary exhibition and commercial halls.

This year’s International Business Conference, he said, would provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to make contributions that are envisaged to enhance the chances of exploiting the business opportunities that will unfold from the 2010 Soccer World Cup finals to be held in South Africa.

Cde Mpofu said the A’Sambeni Africa Tour and Travel Expo had been growing over the years and more than 33 exhibitors from within and outside the country would be taking part.

This year’s ZITF will be held under the theme "Made in Zimbabwe, For Africa and The World".

Sadc wants Mbeki to continue as mediator

Herald Reporter

Sadc rejected opposition MDC-T calls to replace South African President Thabo Mbeki as mediator in the Zimbabwean issue and also resisted attempts by the opposition and its European backers to discuss Zimbabwe’s elections at a regional summit on poverty in Mauritius at the weekend.

AFP reported yesterday that Sadc leaders want President Mbeki to continue mediating in the Zimbabwe issue despite opposition calls for him to be replaced.

It quoted Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam as confirming that a Sadc poverty summit had asked President Mbeki to carry on mediating.

"We have complete faith in President Mbeki," said Mr Ramgoolam.

"We have renewed our confidence in him by asking him to continue the work of mediation and find a solution to the situation in Zimbabwe."

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai last Thursday called for President Mbeki to be relieved of his duties as mediator after the South African leader had said he saw no crisis in Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai wanted Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, the current Sadc chairman, to replace the South African leader.

But Sadc executive secretary Mr Tomaz Salomao said late on Sunday the summit of the 14-nation regional grouping had heard a report by President Mbeki, mandated to the mediation task by the Sadc, and "asked him to continue his efforts to find a solution to the situation in Zimbabwe".

Sadc’s position on Zimbabwe was discussed on Sunday on the sidelines of the summit on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius on the theme of poverty.

However, no mention was made of Zimbabwe in a final communiqué.

Mr Mbeki has been criticised for his "quiet diplomacy" approach on Zimbabwe, but last week defended it saying "loud diplomacy" was no diplomacy and that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should be allowed to do its work without undue pressure.

In a related matter, the MDC-T’s attempts to have the country’s elections placed on the agenda at the Mauritius meeting were rejected.

Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who is expected back in the country today or tomorrow, represented Zimbabwe atthe conference attended by heads of state and government.

Though the meeting between Southern African leaders, civil society and the international donor community was convened to discuss poverty and development, there were attempts by some of the MDC-T’s Western sponsors to condemn Zimbabwe’s electoral processes.

Norway’s Prime Minister, Mr Jens Stoltenberg, who was at the meeting, claimed that the Zimbabwe Government had refused to accept the results of the

March 29 harmonised elections and urged Sadc to slam the country.

Mr Stoltenberg tacitly admitted that the European Union had placed sanctions on the country while indicating that aid to Zimbabwe would only resume after a change of government.

However, Cde Mumbengegwi criticised the Norwegian premier for being "ill-informed" about Zimbabwe.

"The vote counting is going fine. We will announce the results as soon we finish the count. (The Norwegian prime minister) is clearly ill-informed. He is ignorant, totally ignorant . . . Zimbabwe is a democracy."

Cde Mumbengegwi is understood to have held a private meeting with Mr Stoltenberg, but details of what transpired could not be ascertained at the time of going to print.

Other Sadc leaders ignored the attempts to discuss Zimbabwe, pointing out that they were more concerned with poverty and development issues in the face of rising global food prices.

This is the second time in a space of a week that the regional bloc has resisted European-led manoeuvres to condemn Zimbabwe’s elections following the extraordinary Sadc summit in Zambia over weekend April 12-13.

The Mauritius meeting was held under the theme "Regional Economic Integration: A Strategy for Poverty Eradication Towards Sustainable Development".

Regional leaders, civic bodies and donors examined the establishment of a free trade area, infrastructural support for regional integration, skills retention and food security.

The establishment of a free trade area was discussed against the background of creating a simplified trade regime encompassing the introduction of one-stop border posts, a cross-border licence and the implementation of a database of cross-border traders.

Also up for discussion was the economic impact of HIV and Aids and how this could be mitigated as well as various gender-related matters.

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