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Post-Election Unrest Predicted

ZANU PF seems set for victory, but opposition unlikely to accept result.
By IWPR Srdan

As the ruling ZANU PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, wrapped up their campaigns ahead of the March 31 election, supporters of both parties were jubilantly predicting victory.

More sober analysts said yet another victory for ZANU PF, which has ruled for a quarter century, seemed certain to be followed by serious unrest as the MDC and other organisations make allegations of wholesale vote rigging by the government.

Supporters at the MDC headquarters in Harvest House in Harare, the Zimbabwe capital, told IWPR they expected to win 80 of the 120 parliamentary seats compared with 57 at the last election in 2000. They refused even to contemplate a ZANU PF victory.

Michael Madzimure, an MDC organiser who has been attending MDC rallies in rural Mashonaland areas considered traditional ZANU PF strongholds, compared the atmosphere in the country in March 2005 with that in 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence from colonial rule.

“The mood in rural areas is the same as that of the 1980s when people were voting for independence,” said Madzimure. “The rural folk are saying they are going to punish ZANU PF in this election.” He identified five ZANU PF-held seats in one province alone, Masvingo, which would go to the MDC – Gutu South, Bikita East and West, and Zaka East and West.

“There is no doubt, MDC will win,” said volunteer campaigner Manhla Thebe. “I can’t even imagine another five years of ZANU PF. If people think things have been bad, the situation will get worse if ZANU PF wins.”

But across town at ZANU PF’s headquarters on Samora Machel Avenue, named after the late Mozambican president who gave Robert Mugabe shelter when he fled white-ruled Rhodesia in 1975, senior party official and Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa dismissed any possibility of an MDC victory. Predicting that the ruling party would win a minimum of 65 to 80 of the 120 directly elected seats, Murerwa added, “ZANU PF has the most credible turnaround plan that will create jobs in agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism sectors. This will restore confidence and Zimbabwe will be a formidable player in the region.”

In an eve-of-election giveaway, President Mugabe issued a decree increasing tenfold the minimum salaries of domestic servants and gardeners. The minimum monthly wage for a housemaid and a gardener is now 900,000 and 800,000 Zimbabwean dollars [148 and 131 US dollars] respectively.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions dismissed the decree as a gimmick which, if implemented in Zimbabwe’s current state of rapid economic decline, would lead to massive unemployment as domestic servants were laid off.

ZANU PF and their supportive observer teams from the South African government and parliament are saying the election campaign has been free of violence and intimidation.

But at least one MDC campaigner has been killed by ZANU PF militants in the town of Marondera, 70 kilometres southeast of Harare, and there are many other reports of violence in rural areas. One white farmer still on his land told IWPR, “Look, the way ZANU PF has treated the people for the last five years has been like someone beating a dog badly and constantly.

“After that you don’t have to beat him further. You just show him the stick.”

Marceline Ndoro is the pseudonym for an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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