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Document Shows Army Ran Disputed Zimbabwe Presidential Election - 2003-05-02


Documents prepared by the opposition for submission to the Zimbabwe High Court indicate that the country's army ran the nerve center of last year's disputed presidential election, in violation of the constitution.

The letter from General Constantine Chiwenga to the head of the defense force, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, is explicit. It asks for permission for assignment of three officers to control the national command center in Harare, before during and after the presidential election.

The national command center was the headquarters for election logistics, providing ballot boxes, working with party representatives, providing information for the media and reporting results. It is normally run by the Election Supervisory Commission, and the Zimbabwe constitution specifically forbids military personnel from any involvement, except to provide security.

The first letter is dated March 4, 2002, five days before Zimbabweans went to the polls. In his reply, the leader of the defense force gives his permission, and says the arrangement should be speedily concluded.

The letters were this week read to General Chiwenga's assistant, who said the contents were routine, as the army always provides security for elections.

But the matter discussed in the two letters is not security. General Chiwenga specifically asks for permission to appoint the officers to actually operate the election center, with their staff to be drawn from the armed forces, the police and the national intelligence organization. The letter says the commanding general should be allowed to determine the election center's exact functions and procedures.

The two letters form part of a dossier to be presented to the High Court, in which the losing presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, says the winner, President Robert Mugabe, won fraudulently.

The dossier also contains the names of more than 40 members of the security services who were allegedly assigned to the election command center.

It is public record that many of the results of the election were reported from the command center, rather than from counting centers around the country.

It is also public record that only government journalists were allowed into the national command center and that election agents working for Mr. Tsvangirai were denied entry.

While many Zimbabweans suspected the army had played a role in the elections, the extent of its involvement was not known.

Public records show that several of those members of the security forces who allegedly played key roles in the election have since acquired formerly white-owned farms under the government's controversial land reform program.

The opposition leader, Mr. Tsvangirai, has been ready to go to court to challenge Mr. Mugabe's victory for nearly six months. His legal team said this week that it still has not been given a court date by the High Court. The legal team also says it still has not been provided with a copy of the voters roll for the presidential elections, which it claims was massively inflated.

The state says it will defend itself against the action brought by Mr. Tsvangirai.

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