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Zimbabwe Supreme Court Upholds Mugabe's Election Laws - 2002-03-05

The Zimbabwe government has struck down a Supreme Court ruling that had declared new election laws unconstitutional. Also, a national trade union organization accused the ruling party of kidnapping of one of its senior officials.

The government issued a decree Tuesday by President Robert Mugabe restoring regulations on voting procedures that the Supreme Court had rejected last week.

Legal analysts said one of the main provisions of the Mugabe decree is that government-appointed supervisors at all polling stations will have the power to turn away anyone they object to.

Under the Supreme Court ruling, the supervisors would have had to allow everyone registered as a voter to cast their ballot.

Another provision of the Mugabe decree makes it a criminal offense for anyone other than the government to carry out voter education.

David Coltart is legal affairs specialist for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. He said the Mugabe order is more proof of "preparation for vote-rigging."

Mr. Mugabe is seeking re-election in the two-day presidential balloting that begins on Saturday.

In another development, National Congress of Trade Unions President Lovemore Matombo says a senior union official has been held for three weeks by a youth militia of the ruling party.

The union president told a news conference that Ephraim Tapa, president of the 100,000-member Civil Service Employees Association, is being held at a militia base at Mrewa, 100 kilometers north of Harare.

Human rights groups say there are dozens of such bases throughout the country, and they serve as torture centers for opponents of the government.

Mr. Matombo said Ephraim Tapa is still alive but no other details of his captivity are available because "that is a no-go area for most people."