Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: China Clears Air on Arms Shipment; More Election Results; Unity Government Not Feasible

China clears air on arms shipment

Herald Reporter

CHINA has poured cold water on opposition and Western claims that an arms shipment to Zimbabwe was to be used in a clampdown against MDC-T supporters, pointing out that Harare placed the order last year.

A spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Jiang Yu, has stated the arms contract was signed last year contrary to claims that it was related to the current election situation in Zimbabwe.

"This is normal trade in military products between the two countries," Jiang told a Press briefing in Beijing.

She added that the shipment was "irrelevant" to what was taking place in Zimbabwe at the moment.

Jiang also reiterated China’s long-held foreign policy that its economic dealings with other countries, including the sale of arms, adhered to a strict policy of non-interference in their sovereign affairs — a stance that has boosted the emerging power’s ties with Africa, much to the chagrin of the West.

This is contrary to claims in some quarters that the Government intends to use the arms in a clampdown on opposition MDC-T supporters.

On Monday, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa pointed out that Zimbabwe had a right to arm itself to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity while dismissing suggestions that the military would want to use the arms against civilians.

The European Union, the United States and their allies slapped an arms ban on Zimbabwe in 2002 and observers have said in such a situation, it was only natural that the country would increase such trade with traditional partners such as China.

Zimbabwe and China’s military co-operation dates back to the Second Chimurenga.

China’s Xinhua news agency has also criticised the attention the West has given the transaction, citing data provided by Sweden’s Stockholm International Peace Research Institute showing that Beijing contributes just 2 percent of the global arms trade compared to the United States’ 30 percent.

Interestingly, in recent years Kenya, which experienced election-related violence that accounted for over a thousand deaths, has been the biggest official purchaser of US arms in Africa though there has never been a corresponding outcry there.

Poll recount: MDC-T retains Zaka West

Herald Reporters

MDC-T has retained Zaka West House of Assembly and Zaka Senate seats as results of poll recounts continue trickling in.

Results for Zvimba North are expected today.

In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy chief elections officer responsible for operations Mr Utloile Silaigwana said the recounting in the remaining 21 constituencies was expected to be complete by the weekend.

"The recounting in all the remaining constituencies is about 75 percent complete except in Silobela and Masvingo Central. As for Zaka West, the recounting process is done and the candidates who had previously won have retained their seats," he said.

However, Mr Silaigwana said he was still to receive figures from the recounting in Zaka West.

In the initial results announced soon after the March 29 harmonised elections, Festus Dumbu of MDC-T won the Zaka West seat with 4 734 votes while Cde Faith Makonese of Zanu-PF polled 4 030 and Wellington Muzenda — an independent — got 307 votes.

In the Zaka Senate seat, Mr Misheck Marava of MDC-T won with 24 202 votes while Zanu-PF’s Cde Amoth Chingombe polled 18 578 and an independent, Moffat Mufuka, got 1 296.

Mr Silaigwana said the recounting was going on smoothly in the remaining constituencies.

"We hope we will be through by the weekend," he said.

In Zvimba North, recounting was completed late yesterday and ZEC officers were collating the results before announcing them today.

Zanu-PF retained the Goromonzi West House of Assembly and Goromonzi Senate seats in the first results of

the recount released on Tuesday night.

According to officials, recounting had been completed in five of the 10 wards in Bikita South and a similar number of wards had been completed in Bikita West, which also has 10 wards.

The recounting process has been slow because of the meticulous verification process involved.

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

More ZEC officials arrested for electoral fraud

Herald Reporter

A POLICE constable and a presiding officer in the March elections were arrested on Tuesday in Masvingo for electoral fraud.

Police also arrested a former MDC councillor and one other person for voting twice in Gutu.

Police chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said several other officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission were also arrested for discrepancies noted at polling stations where they were working.

The arrests follow the ongoing recounts being held in Bikita South, Gutu North, Zaka West and Masvingo Central constituencies.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said Sheila Masvaure (43) the presiding officer at Matsvange Business Centre and Constable Kachasu were arrested for electoral fraud.

It is alleged that Masvaure and Kachasu were on duty on March 29 2008 at the same polling station when they were approached by nine people intending to vote whose names did not appear on the voters’ roll.

Masvaure instructed Kachasu to verify the status of the nine voters with the command centre where he was advised that all the nine did not appear on the voters’ roll.

"Masvaure and Kachasu connived and allowed the nine unregistered voters to vote.

"The voters’ register is indicating that 272 voters cast their votes but the total vote slips are 281," said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

In related matter, former MDC councillor Benard Gono had his name cancelled twice in ward 18 of Masvingo Central constituency, showing he allegedly voted twice.

His name was cancelled in the voters’ roll at Chamakondo Clinic polling station as well as at Chekayi Secondary School.

"Gracious Mutimozho’s name was cancelled twice in ward 13 of the Gutu North voters’ roll at two polling centres namely Gutu Chiefs’ Hall and Gutu United Primary School.

"Mutimozho has since been arrested for contravening Section 87 of Electoral Act Chapter 2:13 for double voting," said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

"In the same constituency, police are interested in interviewing Danmore Naiti (24) whose name was cancelled at Gutu Chiefs’ Hall and Mupandawana High School."

It has also been discovered in Gutu North constituency that five ballot papers could not be accounted for at Gutu Chiefs’ Hall as 239 cancellations were made in the voters’ roll with one voter’s slip recorded in the protocol register giving a total of 240 voters.

A physical recount showed 245 votes giving rise to suspicion that the extra five were ghost voters, said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

At Mvimvi polling station, a polling officer was allowed to vote with a voter’s slip but this was not recorded in the protocol register. Follow-ups are being made to verify the report.

At Makumbe School, two council ballot papers with serial numbers 0000481 and 0000568 were found unmarked and had been credited to Toperesu E of MDC.

"At Senate level, an unmarked ballot paper 00100312 was credited to Zvinavashe V M G of Zanu-PF and another unmarked ballot paper 00100215 was credited to Makamure K E of MDC. The presiding officer is being investigated under the Electoral Act," said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

"At Njiva Primary School two votes had been switched from Zanu-F to MDC for the parliamentary seat. The presiding officer is being charged for contravening Section 174 of the Criminal Code and Reform Act Chapter 9:23 for fraud."

Police are investigating a number of ZEC officials following some discrepancies.

Innocent Chumunhu is being investigated for failing to account for four votes cast in ward 23 at Muchechetere Primary School in Zaka.

Tasunungurwa Munumbi is also being investigated for fraud after the register had been found with an excess of 94 votes.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said 345 people had been cancelled in the voters’ roll while 25 had been registered in the protocol register.

"Tobias Changara was arrested for switching two Zanu-PF presidential ballot papers to MDC while three ballot papers could not be accounted for. Emmanuel Chezhara was arrested for switching two Senate ballot papers and one presidential vote from Zanu-PF to MDC.

"Two others, Alexander Jaya and Saviour Mapfumo are being investigated for inconsistencies in the number of voters cancelled in the register against the votes cast," he said.

Unity govt not feasible

By Mabasa Sasa

THE buzzword in opposition parlance, locally and internationally, these days is "government of national unity".

And perhaps it is no great coincidence that the prime drivers of the "government of national unity" discourse particularly in the context of Zimbabwe’s recent elections are primarily opposition-aligned elements.

Western media have been titillated, maybe even physically aroused, by the idea of Zimbabwe going the Kenya way in both the violence and "national unity" phenomena and the MDC-T waltzing into Munhumutapa Building on the back of negotiations rather than votes.

The "government of national unity" debate should be approached from a critical perspective that seeks to denude the agendas behind those advocating it, its semantics and legalistic implications.

From the word go, one can be forgiven for thinking that the supporters of this option are in a way trying to side-step the electoral legal reality of a potential run-off between President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.

It appears March 29 failed to produce an outright winner in the presidential race and the requirement as agreed by both Zanu-PF and the opposition during the Sadc-brokered talks is that there should be a run-off.

Questions naturally arise: Why are some people willing to pervert the country’s democratic electoral processes by calling for a "government of national unity" that has no constitutional basis? What are they afraid will happen in a run-off that ensures both candidates cannot hide from minute scrutiny?

Why should people ensconced in some foreign isles far from the practicalities of our politics tell Zimbabweans to form a "government of national unity"? Surely, that should be a discourse originated, developed and concluded by Zimbabweans.

Furthermore, why is it that the majority of those driving this discourse assert that "the establishment of a government of national unity should begin with a transitional government, maybe with President Mugabe at the helm, while a new constitution is drafted?’’

The language of this whole discourse indicates an overwhelming desire by some politicians, academicians and media practitioners to fast-track the opposition into office without going through the democratic rigours of a fool-proof electoral process that fully gauges and reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

The inescapable interpretation is that a government of national unity should ultimately push President Mugabe out and ease Tsvangirai into power on the back of a constitution that does not threaten the economic and political interests of the West in Zimbabwe.

But why should there be talk of transitional governments that will birth "national unity" as if the majority of Zimbabweans did not vote for Zanu-PF to lead them for the next five years?

It seems that those behind this discourse would like to place more weight on what opposition sympathisers want than on the wishes of Zanu-PF’s supporters as if our system is not based on one-man/woman-one-vote.

And this is precisely where the whole discourse breaks down and any self-respecting Zimbabwean should feel outraged that anyone should seek to short-circuit a democratic electoral system and deny him/her the right to choose who should be President of Zimbabwe.

Apart from this, the people who are talking about a "government of national unity" should explain exactly what they mean by "national unity".

Is such a government one where an opposition party is allowed to become a part of the executive without satisfying the electoral requirements? Whose unity is being talked about — that of politicians or of Zimbabweans?

After all, at the ideological and practical level there certainly cannot be much unity between Zanu-PF and the MDC as led by Tsvangirai.

Zanu-PF’s central ideology, more concisely, President Mugabe’s philosophy is diametrically opposed to that of Tsvangirai.

The differences between the two are too vast to even start contemplating the establishment of a government — even a transitional one — that is headed by President Mugabe and Tsvangirai would draw chuckles were the matter not so serious.

Zanu-PF has over the decades been built on an ideology that has resonance with a vast majority of land-hungry Zimbabweans who realise that Land Reform Programme was a giant leap forward in the total liberation of this country.

This ideology has firm roots in President Mugabe’s unwavering philosophy that the people own this land and as such they should be masters of their own destiny.

In the mother tongue, it can be said Cde Mugabe is about gutsaruzhinji. His principled stand on this matter, which is premised on an appreciation and respect of human rights, has set Zimbabwe firmly on the path of true independence.

On the other hand, what Tsvangirai offers is the obverse of what Cde Mugabe has put on the table.

MDC-T’s central ideology has its roots in the first attempts to block Land Reform and economic empowerment.

MDC was created to frustrate land reforms and protect the interests of the minority landed classes and today this has not changed.

There can be no denying that Tsvangirai has considerable support among young Zimbabweans and the proponents of the "government of national unity" discourse argue that the democratic rights of these supporters must be respected through giving the MDC executive power.

But would it not be more sensible then to ask for a parliamentary system of proportional representation implemented through due constitutional procedure than to try and foist an executive on this country that is out to protect the interests of Western capital at the expense of ordinary Zimbabweans?

We cannot therefore begin to talk of a government of national unity when one party stands for genuine empowerment while the other is comfortably reposed at the opposite end of the nation-building spectrum.

There can be no talk of a government of national unity as long as the Beatties and Kays of this world threaten new farmers with eviction if MDC is granted executive power.

There can be no talk of a government of national unity as long as Tsvangirai supports sanctions against his fellow man while he sleeps restfully in Botswana or wherever it is he is spending his 30 pieces of silver.

There can be no talk of a government of national unity as long as the opposition continues to throw veiled threats of Iraq-like scenarios and Afghanistan-style invasions.

There can be no talk of a government of national unity for as long as MDC-T does not recognise that Zimbabweans and Zimbabweans alone have the final say on who should constitute the national leadership.

The world should leave Zimbabwe alone to complete its democratic electoral processes and elect a political leadership of its choice.

1 comment:

tommythin said...

Just wondered:-

Why we do not hear anything from Zimbabwe about them handing the country back to whom they took it from - the Hottentots? It's an error for anyone to assume that 'we own the land'. In this case it would be the Hottentots.

Why this article sites wonder at the reaction to the arms shipment. Zimbabweans on the ground do not need any more arms used against them - ordered a year ago or a day ago. (If it was a year ago - is that how long it normally takes for an order to be filled by boat? - it seems an unusually lenghty wait)