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Zimbabwe: A Tale of Two Campaigns


As the March 30 deadline approaches for Zimbabwe's parliamentary election campaigns, the country's political parties are still drawing election battle lines.

President Robert Mugabe, who heads the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front, is charging that the opposition Movement for a Democratic Change is a front for the British governments maneuvers to re-colonize Zimbabwe.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has consistently dismissed Mr. Mugabe's allegations, saying he is using the British prime minister as a decoy for the economic and political crises facing the country. He says President Mugabe and his party created Zimbabwe's problems and are now unable to solve them.

"No one can tell me that I am less a patriot than Robert Mugabe," he said. "Tony Blair has nothing to do with Zimbabwe. If Mugabe wants to contest Tony Blair he should go to Britain."

Mr. Tsvangirai says it is Mr. Mugabe who is beholden to the British, noting that the government has not changed the independence constitution negotiated with the British, 25 years ago.

Mr. Mugabe has doled out hundreds of computers for schools at every campaign stop. He has been quick to tell the recipients of the computers that the donations are a personal, rather than a political initiative.

Critics of Mr. Mugabe say the school children need books, rather than computers. They say some of the schools receiving the computers do not have the electricity needed to run them.

It was during this campaign that Mr. Mugabe admitted that Zimbabwe will harvest less than enough to feed its 12.5 million citizens. However, he says the government will import enough food to feed everyone.

Exhorting the electorate to vote for change, Mr. Tsvangirai says his party is the antidote to the ills facing Zimbabwe.

"You have a right to choose your own leadership, you have a right to choose your own government. Go and vote for food. Go and vote for hope," he said. "Go and vote for MDC. Go and vote for your future."

Unlike the 2000 general and 2002 presidential elections, this campaign has been largely peaceful. Mr. Tsvangirai has taken his campaign to what had been "no-go" areas for his party and - according to media reports - has attracted sizable audiences there.

The results of both the 2000 and 2002 polls revealed a rural-versus-urban divide, with the ruling ZANU-PF party doing well in most rural areas and the MDC getting the majority of urban seats. At stake Thursday are 120 seats in parliament.