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Zimbabwe Government Limits Army in Census Process

People walk down a street in the capital city of Zimbabwe, Harare, July, 12, 2012.
HARARE — Zimbabwe’s government has announced that the nationwide census - due to begin next week - will take place as planned. Preparations were suspended earlier this week after the military became involved in what some analysts said was an attempt to intimidate voters ahead of elections.

When Zimbabwe's security forces became involved in preparations for the census the country’s acting finance minister, Gorden Moyo, called off the process. But late Friday, after a meeting that lasted several hours between security ministers, the acting finance minister and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the impasse was resolved. Mutambara said the headcount process which will result would be “credible.”

“In the last few days there has been a lot of discord and disharmony," he said. "Why do we stick to the formula that works? That formula has a role for the security sector. The question is the quantum and the form of the participation and that has been harmonized among ourselves."

Traditionally the census in Zimbabwe is done by teachers but more than 10,000 security forces had found their way onto the list of enumerators. And in Zimbabwe, many people associate the army with intimidating civilians. In the 1980s, President Robert Mugabe’s government used soldiers to intimidate and to commit violence against perceived dissidents in the southern part of Zimbabwe. In the disputed elections of 2008, the army was said to be involved in violence against supporters of the then-opposition MDC party.

Zimbabwe's last census was held in 2002. That census showed Zimbabwe had about 11.6 million people.

Zimbabwe has just finished drafting a new constitution that limits presidential powers while strengthening those of parliament, an important but much-delayed step ahead of elections scheduled next year. The elections, plagued by violence in the past, are going to be held under a power-sharing deal between the parties of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

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