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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ZIMBABWE: Opposition complains of continued harassment

JOHANNESBURG, 22 July 2003 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Tuesday said it would contest the results of local elections due later this month, following reports that a number of its candidates had been prevented from registering for municipal and mayoral polls in some constituencies.

The MDC alleged that 11 of its candidates who arrived on Monday at the nomination court in Chegutu, about 100 km southwest of the capital, Harare, were attacked by around 400 youths from the ruling ZANU-PF party.

"The intimidation started on Sunday evening when a number of ZANU-PF supporters went from home to home in Chegutu inquiring after MDC supporters. In one instance they ransacked the home of a prospective MDC candidate and confiscated his nomination papers, national identity document and birth certificate. They knew that without these documents it would impossible for the candidate to register," MDC information officer, Maxwell Zimuto, told IRIN.

Despite police assurances that security would be provided for the MDC candidates on Monday, they were prevented from entering the nomination court.

"Two of the men were severely beaten, and suffered facial cuts and head injuries. We have received reports that some of our candidates in other towns across the country have faced the same intimidation. In Marondera (70 km east of Harare) a prospective candidate has been hospitalised and his x-rays show several broken ribs," Zimuto reported.

Meanwhile, as a gesture of goodwill, the MDC on Tuesday attended the official opening of parliament. Opposition MPs last year boycotted the occassion, saying they did not recognise the legitimacy of President Robert Mugabe as the head of state.

"Our action is calculated to reduce political tensions in the country so that an atmosphere conducive to dialogue can be created, with a view to amicable negotiations for a dignified exit for Mr Robert Mugabe from the political scene," MDC secretary for information and publicity, Paul Themba Nyathi, said in a statement.

In a related development, the High Court has set 3 November as the date for a presidential election petition, in which the opposition is challenging the legitimacy of Mugabe's victory. The MDC said the polls held in March 2002 were marred by violence, intimidation and vote-rigging.

Meanwhile, the United States has 'blacklisted' Zimbabwe, along with five other countries accused of oppression and human rights abuses. President George W. Bush accused the Harare government of "violence, corruption, and mismanagement", Associated Press reported on Friday.

Zimbabwe's ruling party reacted angrily to a call by US Secretary of State Colin Powell last month for the urgent removal of Mugabe and his "cronies".

Minister of State for Information Jonathan Moyo called Powell's statements false, and linked the US call for a regime change in Zimbabwe to its invasion of Iraq.


Themes: (IRIN) Governance



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