Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party retained a parliamentary seat up for grabs in a by-election in the Zaka East constituency of Masvingo Province marred by low turnout and charges that opposition supporters were intimidated by authorities.
ZANU-PF's Livingstone Chineka, a retired brigadier general, won with 11,152 votes to 1,117 for Nicholas Shanga of the United Peoples Party and 622 for Lameck Batirai of the Zimbabwe People’s Democratic Party. Police and election observers said the vote was generally peaceful, but UPP officials said Central Intelligence Organization agents threatened its supporters and representatives at a number of polling places.
Correspondent Irwin Chifera reported on the contest for the seat which fell vacant in March when the ZANU-PF incumbent, Tinos Rusere, died.
Though the Zaka East by-election did not feature significant political violence, some observers said the intimidation of non-ZANU-PF activists fit into an emerging pattern as the ruling party steps up its campaign for elections in early 2008. Local elections will be held in January, and presidential and general elections follow in March.
Economist and political advisor Eddie Cross of the Movement for Democratic Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai said intimidation is on the rise in rural areas where his party’s organizers are increasingly banned from holding rallies and local chiefs and headmen have received orders from above to block MDC political activities.
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe has also received credible reports that in opposition strongholds like Binga, Matabeleland North, non-governmental organizations have been accused of campaigning for the MDC and forced to shut down operations.
Programs Manager Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, recently in Zaka East, told reporter Patience Rusere he sees more violence ahead.