Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: 5 ZEC Officials Arrested; Veterans Ordered Off Farms in Masvingo; Mbeki Rebuffs West, etc.

ZEC officials arrested

Herald Reporter

FIVE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials have been arrested on allegations of tampering with election results and prejudicing Zanu-PF presidential candidate President Mugabe of 4 993 votes cast in four constituencies in the just-ended harmonised elections.

Police chief spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the arrests yesterday.

One of the ZEC officials, Asst Comm Bvudzijena said, was arrested in Manicaland, two in Masvingo and another two in Mashonaland Central.

He could, however, not give details of the constituencies where the crimes were allegedly committed for fear of prejudicing ongoing investigations.

The five are being charged with either fraud or criminal abuse of duty as public officers.

"The suspects are currently being prosecuted through the courts in their respective areas.

"We are still carrying out investigations. The arrests arose from inconsistencies between figures recorded at polling centres, constituency centres and those which were forwarded to the National Command Centre," said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said police were carrying out investigations in two other constituencies in Manicaland where the Zanu-PF presidential candidate was also allegedly prejudiced of 1 392 votes.

In Mashonaland Central, it is alleged, the same candidate was prejudiced of 773 votes while investigations also revealed that the same candidate lost 1 000 votes in two Matabeleland North constituencies and 1 828 votes in Masvingo.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said police were also investigating similar cases in Zvimba North and other constituencies with a view to prosecuting officials who tampered with the figures.

The arrests come barely a week after the announcement by Zanu-PF that it would take its case to the Electoral Court contesting results in 16 House of Assembly constituencies alleging that some ZEC officials were bribed to doctor results during the counting process to prejudice the ruling party.

The anomalies were detected following a close scrutiny of V11 and V23 forms.

A V11 form is an original document carrying results at polling stations and is signed by all agents of contesting parties.

After the signing of the V11 form, information is then recorded on the V23 forms that collate polling station results within a ward.

These forms also show the results of the council elections.

The Sunday Mail reported at the weekend that at Rimbi Primary School in Manicaland Province, the V11 form showed that President Mugabe got 612 votes but the V23 form that was forwarded to the National Command Centre shows that the President received 187 votes.

This anomaly was detected in a number of constituencies.

Meanwhile, Zanu-PF legal committee member Cde Patrick Chinamasa yesterday said the party was still waiting for a response from ZEC on its request for a recount of the presidential results in some constituencies.

The ruling party’s secretary for administration, Cde Didymus Mutasa, told journalists after the party’s politburo meeting last Friday that some ZEC officials connived with the opposition to manipulate results in favour of the MDC.

In some case, he said, some voters were influenced to vote for the opposition.

Zanu-PF — which garnered 97 House of Assembly seats — lost its parliamentary majority to the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC faction, which amassed 99 seats with the Mutambara faction weighing in with 10 seats.

Police order war veterans off farms

Masvingo Bureau

POLICE in Masvingo have ordered war veterans to leave white-owned farms which they had invaded over the past three days.

The move by war veterans came in the wake of reports that some white farmers whose land was spared during the land reform process were hosting their fellow white ex-farmers planning to repossess their previous land in the aftermath of an "anticipated" MDC victory in the polls.

However, police yesterday said they had managed to convince the war veterans not to take the law into their own hands and impressed upon them the force’s zero tolerance on violence.

Acting Officer Commanding Police in Masvingo Assistant Commissioner Mekia Tanyanyiwa also warned white farmers who lost their land through the land reform programme to respect the law.

"We want, however, to warn some of the white former farmers who have been reportedly threatening to repossess acquired farms that they will be definitely arrested and face the full wrath of the law," said Asst Comm Tanyanyiwa.

He said those farmers who harboured their fellows risked facing prosecution if they attempted to reverse the land reform process.

There have been widespread reports of hordes of white ex-farmers trooping back into Zimbabwe of late threatening to repossess farms they lost during the land reform programme in the event that MDC ascends to power.

The whites were reportedly camped at residual farmers’ houses or in secretive and secluded conservancies dotted around the country in anticipation of "the big day".

High Court can hear election case: Judge

Court Reporter

THE High Court has ruled that it has jurisdiction to preside over the case in which the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC faction is seeking an order compelling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release results of the just-ended presidential poll.

But before the court can hear the case, it has to rule whether or not the application is urgent.

Justice Tendayi Uchena handed down the ruling yesterday morning sitting in his chambers.

He rejected a ZEC argument that he did not have legal power to hear the case.

Both ZEC and MDC lawyers confirmed that the court held that it has jurisdiction to hear the urgent chamber application filed over the weekend by the opposition party.

"The judge has ruled that it has the jurisdiction to hear the case," Mr Alec Muchadehama of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners — who is appearing for the MDC-Tsvangirai faction — told scores of local and foreign journalists who thronged the High Court as early as 9am.

ZEC lawyer Mr George Chikumbirike of Chikumbirike and Associates also confirmed the latest development, saying the issue of jurisdiction was not really in dispute.

"I am not going to announce anything. The matter has not yet been determined in respect of the preliminary points we raised," said Mr Chikumbirike without elaborating.

When asked to clarify, Mr Chikumbirike refused to be drawn into further comments, saying he had elaborated his argument in the papers he filed in the High Court.

He said the judge would today decide whether the MDC application should be treated as urgent or not.

The MDC-Tsvangirai faction petitioned the High Court seeking an order to compel ZEC to release results of the March 29 presidential poll.

ZEC, which released results of parliamentary and senate elections in batches last week, is yet to announce the presidential results.

The delay by the electoral commission to make public the presidential election outcome prompted the MDC to approach the High Court for intervention.

The MDC-Tsvangirai faction said there was no reason why ZEC should delay the release of the poll results when only an estimated figure of two million voters was involved.

However, ZEC is arguing that the commission was a constitutional body, which should use its discretion to release the results.

ZEC further argued that the High Court could only intervene if ZEC acted unlawfully, adding that so far everything was still above board.

The commission is further saying the MDC-Tsvangirai faction and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, were "interfering" with ZEC’s work by pushing the commission to release the results in their own time and dragging the matter to court.

Mbeki rebuffs West over Zim


SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki has stood his ground in resisting Western pressure to criticise Zimbabwe’s just-ended elections.

At the Progressive Governance Conference of centre-left leaders in Watford on Saturday, President Mbeki refused to criticise Zimbabwe’s conduct of the elections and rejected a call by the MDC for international intervention in the Harare polls.

At the closing Press conference, he became increasingly exasperated at the repeated questions on the issue, declaring: "Zimbabwe is not a South African province. Can we agree about that?"

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spent more than two hours closeted in talks with President Mbeki in an attempt to persuade him to use his influence on the elections in Zimbabwe.

Afterwards, both sides said little about the talks.

Asked by reporters as he left 10 Downing Street whether there had been any progress, President Mbeki replied with a terse: "I don’t know, we will see."

A Number 10 spokesman said only that it had been a private meeting with "in-depth discussions" on the situation in Zimbabwe as well as other regional and African issues.

The tight-lipped response appeared to reflect President Mbeki’s acute sensitivity on the issue of Zimbabwe.

Britain wants him to persuade President Mugabe to accept the still-to-be-announced results of the presidential elections.

But Cde Mugabe has already said he will accept the outcome of the elections while Zanu-PF last week accepted results of the House of Assembly elections — won by the MDC — though it has requested recounting in 16 constituencies.

As Zimbabwe’s most important neighbour and a fellow veteran of Africa’s liberation struggles, President Mbeki is seen as one of the few world leaders capable of influencing Cde Mugabe.

He is, however, highly sensitive to any suggestion that he is following an agenda dictated by Western states such as America or Britain — the old colonial power. — AP-Herald Reporter.

Foreign election observers complete task, return home

Herald Reporter

MOST foreign election observers for the just-ended harmonised elections have left the country after successfully completing their task.

Foreign observers who were in the country included those from Sadc, Pan African Parliament, African Union and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, among others.

Angolan Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Mr Marcos Baroque led the Sadc team.

All the missions released their preliminary reports about the elections where they commended Zimbabwe for the peaceful and orderly manner in which the polls were conducted.

This was after meeting various stakeholders, among them political parties, civic society, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and ambassadors accredited to Zimbabwe.

Speaking before his departure last week, PAP chairperson Mr Marwick Khumalo said the continental parliamentary body was impressed by the way the elections were conducted.

Commenting on allegations of vote rigging made by the MDC and independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni on the eve of polling, Mr Khumalo said they had taken up the issue with ZEC and were satisfied with what they were told.

"The elections were conducted in a free and fair manner.

"On the allegations of vote rigging, we took the case to ZEC who gave us a satisfactory explanation and it is our view that the elections were above board," said Mr Khumalo in an interview.

He, however, urged ZEC to expeditiously collate and release the presidential results to avoid the anxiety gripping the country.

Head of the AU mission, former Sierra Leone president Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, also commended the polls, saying the continent had a lot to learn from Zimbabwe.

Dr Kabbah met President Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai before he left the country last week.

The mission is expected to produce its final report which it said would be submitted to the AU chairperson at the continental body’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Remain peaceful, nation urged

Crime Reporter

POLICE have appealed to the nation to continue upholding peace and tranquility as the country waits for the announcement of the presidential poll results.

Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said although the situation was calm the nation has to be reminded to continue upholding the prevailing peace.

"The situation is calm and we commend Zimbabweans for maintaining peace before, during and after the elections," he said.

While the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has already announced the House of Assembly, local government and senate results, the commission is still verifying the results of the presidential poll but once completed, the results will be announced soon after.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the police would, however remain on the ground to guard against any attempts of violence.

"We are still on the ground and as per our mandate we will continue with our patrols to ensure there is peace," he said.

A local NGO, the Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa has also appealed to the nation and all stakeholders to remain calm.

"CPIA appeals to the people of Zimbabwe to remain calm.

"It further appeals to the Government of Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF, MDC–Tsvangirai, the other MDC, independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni and his supporters and all other stakeholders to do the right thing for the sake of Zimbabwe," the organisation’s executive director Dr Leonard Kapungu said.

He also appealed to the African Union, Sadc, United Nations, European Union and the entire International Community to support Zimbabwe.

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