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Zimbabwe Excludes 100,000 from Voting

  • Peta Thornycroft

With time running out before Zimbabwe's parliamentary election on Thursday, there have been many last minute problems. One of the biggest so far is the exclusion of up to 100,000 government workers from voting.

Close to 100,000 government workers have recently been commissioned by the Zimbabwe government to work at the country's 8,000 polling stations on election day, making it impossible for many of them to cast ballots in their own election districts. The one option they did have to vote was by absentee ballot, but the deadline for casting ballots by mail was March 21 and many of the government workers did not learn of their poll monitoring duties until after the deadline had passed.

Though their political allegiances are seldom talked about, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change says many of those working for the government in urban areas do not support the ruling ZANU-PF.

Another issue of concern is the government's move to increase the number of polling stations in rural areas.

Bryant Elliott, an expert on Zimbabwe's elections, says the new measures to increase the number of voting stations means that a maximum of 600 votes will be cast in each ballot box. This, he said, would undermine the secrecy of the ballot because it makes it easier to identify how people voted village by village.

Bishop Sebastian Bakare, head of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe's eastern Manicaland province, says rural people are worried that if they are suspected of voting for the opposition, they will be denied food. Only the government is allowed to hold any stocks of the staple food, maize.

The opposition also has concerns about what happens after the voting. The results at the polling stations may only be announced by a central electoral authority, the National Logistics Committee. The committee is staffed by the Commissioner of Police Augustine Chihuri and other leading government officials. No independent observers or opposition members are allowed to monitor the committee.

The opposition went to court two weeks ago asking that the committee not be allowed to be the sole announcers of the votes. So far, the court has not heard the case.

In addition, an opposition group, Justice for Agriculture, claims ZANU-PF has warned several of the few remaining white farmers that if people vote for the opposition at polling stations on their farms, they will be evicted.

ZANU-PF held a major rally in a rural area 50 kilometers north of Harare Tuesday. The main speaker, Elliott Manyika, called for a free and fair poll without violence.

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