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1 Dead, Dozens Injured in Violent Zimbabwe Election - 2004-03-28

A crucial parliamentary by-election in Zimbabwe became increasingly violent when at least one opposition supporter was shot dead, and others were injured by gunfire.

Doctors at a city center private clinic confirmed that a young man, believed to be a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Two more men, in the same ambulance, were treated, and one was admitted for further treatment for gunshot wounds.

Members of the medical staff at the clinic, who asked not to be identified, said they had treated about 75 people for injuries since Friday, with the largest number on the first day of voting, Saturday.

All claimed to be opposition supporters, and say they were attacked by ruling party supporters.

The non-governmental organization, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said it had observed the by-election in the Zengeza constituency, about 15 kilometers south of Harare.

The organization's director Reginald Matchaba-Hove said there was violence before and during the voting. He cited several key violations of the Electoral Act, and said initial reports indicated that most of the violence was committed by young members of the ruling Zanu PF party.

He also said he was surprised at how many young people needed assistance with casting their votes, claiming to be illiterate.

He also said voter turnout was low compared to the last election in June of 2000.

Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Welshman Ncube deplored the death of the party supporter and the injuries of the other party loyalists. He blamed Zanu PF.

Campaign staff and the Zanu PF candidate were not available for comment.

The seat became vacant when the former member of parliament fled to London, saying he feared for his life. He is a member of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Zanu PF, which was the only party given any airtime on the national electronic media, said it would show in this by-election that it has begun its campaign to win back urban seats which were won by the opposition in 2000.