Zanu claims victory in Chiredzi-(22-02-07)

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party retained the Chiredzi South legislative seat after a weekend by-election, maintaining a contested technical two-thirds majority in the House of Assembly, after a comprehensive campaign of intimidation against opposition supporters, manipulati

on of voters’ rolls and bussing of large numbers of ruling party supporters into the constituency to vote for the governing party, opposition groups alleged this week.
The ruling party candidate Lt Col Kallisto Gwanetsa was duly elected the new Chiredzi South MP after garnering 10,401 votes last Saturday, beating the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC’s Emmaculate Makondo who polled 3,300 votes, while Maekani Chauke of the United People’s Party clinched 896 votes. Nehemiah Zenamwi of the Mutambara-led MDC polled the lowest number, with 674 ballots.
Information and Publicity Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, who is also Zanu (PF) deputy commissar, denied opposition allegations of electoral malpractice saying, “they must learn to lose with dignity.”
“This victory means the (ruling) party is growing stronger and stronger and that people now understand the policies of government,” Ndlovu told The Zimbabwean Tuesday. “The people have rejected the imperialist-sponsored party who campaigned for sanctions. This shows the ruling party has remained resolute.”
Ian Makone, the Tsvangirai-led MDC’s elections secretary said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) helped the ruling party to steal the ballot and that was the reason why government had dismissed outright, appeals by human rights organizations and opposition parties for an independent electoral commission to run the country’s elections.
Makone said MDC polling agents were denied access to polling stations. He further alleged intimidation saying the Zanu (PF) candidate was receiving logistical support from the army, and that the President of the Chiefs’ Council, Fortune Charumbira, had openly told chiefs to deny opposition supporters food. In Manicaland, said Makone, his party’s provincial spokesman, Pishai Muchauraya, was arrested for voicing his concern over the use of erasable markers’ ink instead of indelible ink.
“The MDC believes that the solution lies in creating impartial institutions that run elections,” Makone said.
Dr Daniel Shumba, the president of the “underdog” United People’s Party, which sprang a surprise by polling almost 900 votes, 200 ballots more than the Mutambara-led MDC candidate, said in a terse response: “These results shows how serious we are. The next one is the presidential election.”
Shumba said Zanu (PF) used food as a political weapon to win votes in the just-ended poll. He also lamented the massive voter apathy. According to official estimates issued by the ZEC, only 29 percent of the registered 50,000 voters cast their ballot. Shumba also alleged ballot stuffing.
“We know for a fact that less than 6,000 people voted. We don’t know where the extra votes came from.”
Abednigo Bhebhe, the deputy Information secretary in the Mutambara-led MDC said his party fared badly because Masvingo Province was not pro-senate faction’s stronghold. He said the party was “breaking new ground” as it had the task of setting up structures from scratch in a constituency that stretched from as far as Hippo Valley to the Mozambican border. Bhebhe further said the accident involving leader Arthur Mutambara and his deputies had also prevented the smooth flow of campaigning, adding Zanu (PF) also used food to buy votes.
But Ndlovu denied Zanu (PF) used food to leverage votes. “Should we let our people starve because there is an election?” According to an election synopsis by the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, the ruling party “use(d) undue influence to induce or compel (voters)…to vote or refrain from voting”

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