‘Mugabe trying to rig’

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MDC-T yesterday said thousands of dead people were still on the electoral roll only four weeks before a presidential election, accusing allies of President Robert Mugabe of trying to rig the outcome.

TATENDA CHITAGU

The July 31 contest is MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s third attempt to unseat Mugabe, the 89-year-old veteran who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.

The two were forced into a power-sharing deal after the last, disputed polls in 2008.

Another contested result could interrupt impoverished Zimbabwe’s recovery from a decade of economic decline that has prompted hundreds of thousands to flee the country.

“Clearly the voters’ roll is a shambles. The registration is often chaotic and frustrating in urban areas and we see this as an attempt to rig the elections before voting has even started,” MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said yesterday.

Tsvangirai’s MDC wants to delay the election until mid-August to allow more time to prepare a smooth vote free of the deadly violence that marred the 2008 polls.

But a court ruling is expected tomorrow and there is no guarantee that judges will change the date, so the MDC-T and Mugabe’s Zanu PF party have swung into campaign mode.

The State-owned The Herald newspaper, tightly controlled by Zanu PF, said the MDC-T had failed to substantiate its allegations, calling them a “frivolous and spurious” attempt to discredit the elections.

MDC-T wants equal access to Zimbabwe’s only broadcaster, which is owned by the government and is in the grip of Zanu PF.

It wants the military, which openly campaigns for Mugabe, to stay out of politics and sign an agreement to accept the result if Mugabe loses. Army commanders often say they would not salute Tsvangirai if he won an election.

Zimbabwe Election Commission chair Justice Rita Makarau told reporters the body had received grievances from the MDC-T but expected to have the problems fixed before the polls.

“(These are) issues that we are going to iron out,” Justice Makarau said.

Tsvangirai has asked Sadc to pressure Mugabe to delay the election until there is a chance it will be fair and credible.
But analysts say the court may take a dim view of any outside interference given long-standing criticism of Mugabe and his allies for failing to respect the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Tsvangirai yesterday urged Zimbabweans to vote for his party if the country is to avoid despair, saying voting for Zanu PF would mean the nation would slide back to an era worse than the 2007-2008 period.

Addressing members of the business community, civil society, non-governmental organisations and Masvingo residents at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union offices yesterday, Tsvangirai said Zanu PF and its ageing leader Mugabe had nothing new to offer to the nation which they could not do in the past 33 years.

“It is like a son-in-law who has been childless for the past five years and when his father-in-law wants to recall his daughter, he says, ‘give me one more night’,” he said, drawing hearty laughter from the gallery.

“What can you do in one night which you failed to do in the past years? Can you impregnate the wife then?

“Check the records of those who come soliciting for your vote.”

While maintaining that Zimbabweans are free to vote for any party of their choice, the MDC-T leader said they have to make the right choices, as voting for Zanu PF would lead to despair.

“Are you going to vote for hope or despair? That is a stark choice you need to make, but do not make the wrong choices,” he said.

“Look back at the 2008 era. This country will slide back to a worse scenario if you don’t vote wisely. That will be a vote of no-confidence for Zimbabwe.

“We need to start afresh as a country (rather) than slide back to the 2008 era.”

Asked on the prospects of a peaceful election, Tsvangirai said the issue of a violent free poll is not negotiable, saying he hoped the polls would be incident free.

Tsvangirai said as leaders of political parties, they had committed themselves to zero-tolerance of violence, although the message may fail to cascade down to grassroots activists across the country.