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Officials Gear Up for Weekend By-Elections - 2003-03-26

The government appointed election supervisory commission (ESC) and the police say they are ready for the weekend by elections in two Harare constituencies.

With just two days left before the by-elections in Kuwadzana and Highfields the Election Supervisory Commission says that it has people on the ground to monitor events. The spokesperson of the ESC is Thomas Bvuma. He says despite scattered incidents of violence all candidates have managed to campaign without much difficulty.

“We have our men on the ground in High fields and Kuwadzana,” he says. “What they are doing is that they are monitoring the general political situation and they are seeing if there are any cases of violence and they try to be arbiters and peacemakers.”

The police spokesperson Assistant Police Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena say that they are also intensifying their security checks in the two constituencies.

“We have increased our patrols within High fields and Kuwadzana areas and we have maintained permanent roadblocks in those areas to ensure that they is no movement of people coming into those areas with offensive weapons and also to ensure that the political campaigning process within those areas is peaceful.”

However, there’s controversy over who should monitor the polls. A new law decreed by President Robert Mugabe in 2002 but yet to be passed by parliament says only civil servants can monitor elections.

The opposition has since criticized the arrangement arguing that state security agents are being used to rig elections. Critics also say that the police are partisan in applying the Public Order and Security Act or POSA. The police however say that they are only interested in maintaining law and order.

Mr Bvudzijena says that those criticizing them about how POSA is being applied are in fact wrong.

“We have had some incidences of clashes of venues and this is were have said that the Public Order and Security Act has to assists us so that we are aware of any campaigns that are taking place at any particular time."

In another development the spokesperson of the main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change, Paul Themba Nyathi, says that preliminary investigations show that at least ten thousand new names have been added to the voters roll in Kuwadzana.

The MDC only received the updated list on Friday last after the High court ordered the Register General to release it. Mr Nyathi could not say what action the party would take.