Food stockpiling as people fear the ‘Kenya syndrome’

HARARE - Post-election violence in Kenya is creating pre-election nervousness among Zimbabwe's voters ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in March, and people are beginning to stockpile food in the event of any possible unrest.

Donald Dombo, a government employee, said he saw most of his “colleagues in the civil service starting to hoard food and firewood in their homes in case the Kenyan syndrome of violence spreads to Zimbabwe after the elections”.

“I am planning to take my family to the countryside because I fear that if there are to be any violent demonstrations, then they would be held in urban areas,” he said. The scheduled elections will take place at a time when international donor agencies have predicted more than a third of Zimbabwe’s population, or 4.1 million people, would require emergency food assistance, so food hoarding would likely add pressure to the country’s already acute food shortages.

Police commissioner Augustine Chihuri warned against any political violence, before, during and after the elections at a recent function for Zimbabwean police officers seconded to UN duties during the electoral period. “Let those who want to cause violence be warned that a chaotic situation will not be allowed. Let Zimbabwe not emulate what we see elsewhere, getting power through violent means. I am saying this because we are approaching elections,” he said.

“It is disturbing to read about the huge number of lives being lost not only in Africa but in other countries around the world,” Chihuri said, apparently referring to Kenya, where more than 500 people have been killed since the disputed 27 December election.

Talks between Mugabe’s Zanu PF and opposition parties, sponsored by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), were in danger of being derailed after the MDC’s founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, accused the government of reneging on an agreed transitional constitution to be implemented before elections. In return, opposition parties did not oppose a constitutional amendment increasing the number of elected legislators from 120 to 210 and reducing the presidential term from six to five years, or a clause stipulating that should the newly elected president be unable to complete his term in office, parliament would sit as an electoral college to elect a new head of state.

Tsvangirai said the concessions were made in the spirit of the talks and with the expectation that this would be reciprocated in the reconstitution of the ZEC, and that elections would be held under a new transitional constitution, agreed to by both the ruling party and the MDC’s two factions. Such an eventuality would have delayed the elections.

Tsvangirai said despite agreement that an independent electoral commission would delineate new constituency boundaries, register voters and prevent military, police and intelligence personnel from occupying key electoral positions, the government had appointed senior officials to head the ZEC and had ordered them to mark new constituency boundaries without consulting opposition parties.

“Mugabe and Zanu (PF) want a false election and if we become part of it we will become a danger to ourselves,” Tsvangirai said. Retired army officer and chairman of the ZEC, George Chiweshe, told the state-controlled newspaper, the Sunday Mail, that the electoral commission had completed the delimitation of ward and constituency boundaries throughout the country.  “What is left is to polish up the preliminary report, which we will soon present to the president,” he said. “The focus is on the elections being held in March, as this is when the presidential election will be held.” – IRIN

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