Presidential campaigns begin on Sat

Zimbabwe's main presidential rivals kick off their presidential election campaigns this Saturday at major rallies in three key battlegrounds around Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, whose ruling Zanu (PF) party lost Matabeleland South to the opposition in the 2005 parliamentary elections, will address supporters in Beitbridge on Saturday in a campaign rally launch that will double as his 84th birthday party.

In Mutare, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main MDC and one of Mugabe’s strongest challengers, will speak at Sakubva Stadium.

And dark horse Simba Makoni launches his presidential campaign in the capital Harare on Saturday.

An independent poll monitoring group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, reported this week that in the town of Chinhoyi, northwest of Harare, observers witnessed Makoni’s supporters being threatened by ruling party militants as “traitors” in tense scenes at the town’s nomination court last Friday.

The international community outside Africa has accused Mugabe and his followers of instigating a wave of violence against opposition supporters ahead of what are expected to be the hardest fought elections since independence in 1980.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced this week that 730 candidates had been nominated to contest the 210 House of Assembly constituencies, with 196 candidates vying for the 60 Senate seats.

The highest tally of candidates is in Harare where 134 aspirants are seeking election in the province’s 29 constituencies.

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