COSATU Demands Democratic Polls in Zimbabwe

COSATU Demands Democratic Polls in Zimbabwe
PRETORIA - South Africa's powerful COSATU trade union movement on Friday led marches in Pretoria to demand free and fair elections in Zimbabwe and Swaziland, the two trouble spots of southern Africa.

Swaziland – Africa’s last absolute monarchy – holds parliamentary polls in October, while Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe is accused of stealing elections, votes for a new president, parliament and local councils on March 29. In a petition to the government of Zimbabwe, the marchers who included Zimbabweans and Swazis based in South Africa accused Mugabe’s government of rigging elections and of disregarding efforts by regional leaders to mediate a democratic solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis. We strongly condemn your predetermination of harmonised elections of Zimbabwe planned for March 29, the petition said. Your government has demonstrated blatant disregard of agreements reached through dialogue and made a mockery of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) mediation process, it said. Officials at the Zimbabwe embassy in Pretoria refused to accept the petition and police had to disperse the about 500 marchers who had gathered outside the embassy premises. Zimbabwe’s ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo, who has frequently insisted the country’s polls will be free and fair, was unavailable for comment on the matter while officials at the embassy would not say whether he was in the building. Among other key issues the marchers demanded were the issue of a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe and an independent electoral commission that would ensure free and fair polls. They said Mugabe’s government should also allow international observers to witness the month-end polls. Harare has invited 23 African countries and several Asian nations to observe elections but barred Western countries saying they are biased against Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party. The Friday marches were held under the banner of the International Solidarity Forum that includes COSATU and several non-governmental organizations from South Africa, Zimbabwe and other African countries. In addition to demanding free polls in Zimbabwe and Swaziland, the marchers also presented petitions to the Kenyan High Commission and embassy of Burma demanding an end to post-election violence in the east African country and tyranny in the Asian nation.

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