THE ruling Zanu PF party last night postponed the official launch of its election campaign that was expected to kick off tomorrow as the opposition mulled a legal challenge to
the upcoming general election on behalf of people excluded from the voters’ roll.
Ruling party sources said there was heated debate at a politburo meeting held at the party’s headquarters late yesterday over the conduct of primary elections held last week.
Meanwhile, a regional group of election observers is expected to begin its mission early next month amid rising domestic tension and international concerns about transparency.
Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe, hoping to extend his 25 years in power by beating the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the legislative election on March 31, had been due to kick off his party’s campaign at the Harare International Conference Centre in Harare tomorrow.
The opposition party is charging that the voters’ roll is a shambles and will ask the High Court to adjudicate on exclusions from it before the legislative poll at the end of March.
Inspection of the voters’ roll closes today with many people in various parts of Harare complaining that their names were no longer on the roll, MDC MP Tendai Biti said.
“Many people have reported to the MDC that they discovered they had been transferred to other districts, far from their homes,” Biti said. “Others say their names do not appear anywhere on the voters’ rolls. We are going to court using one well-documented example of exclusion to prove his point about the voters’ roll.”
Government this week set March 31 as the date for the general election that will be closely watched to gauge whether Zimbabwe can live up to its pledge to hold free and fair polls. The opposition MDC yesterday resolved to take part in the election for the 120 contested seats.
President Robert Mugabe announced through a Government Gazette that elections will be held on March 31. The move was immediately blasted by the opposition party, which maintains that Zimbabwe was not ready to hold a free and fair vote.
“This date will have the effect of disabling the institutions that needed more time to establish themselves,” MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube, said.
The Zimbabwe Independent understands that a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) observer mission to the election is finalising plans to begin its work in earnest on March 14. The Sadc election mission was invited to send its delegation in December, 90 days before the polling date. It was not immediately clear if the European Union was also invited although it is understood that accreditation is still in progress. Observers and human rights organisations have said a wave of political violence threatens chances for a free and fair vote.
A Sadc delegation of lawyers from South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia — countries which form a troika of the regional organ on politics, defence and security — had been due in Harare last Saturday to assess the country’s compliance with the Grande Baie protocol on free and fair elections, ratified by President Mugabe in Mauritius in August.
Mugabe, who accuses British premier Tony Blair’s government of bankrolling the MDC, says the March poll would be an “anti-Blair campaign” for his Zanu PF party to “bury” the MDC.
The MDC says conditions for holding the election are flawed, citing police harassment of their supporters and new election laws that give Mugabe the power to appoint members to a commission supervising the vote. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the poll would help end 25 years of “tyranny”.
“For the first time in 25 years, it is clear to the tormentor and the tormented that the end is in sight,” he said.