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Zim slams election smear campaign

A ”virulent and vicious” smear campaign is being waged against Zimbabwe over the list of observers invited to witness the country’s elections on March 29, the country’s ambassador to South Africa, Simon Moyo, said on Monday.

The campaign is being driven by the West and certain sections of the South African media, he said in a statement.

”Much of the recent criticism is certainly not out of ignorance of the facts, but out of sheer malice,” Moyo said.

The country’s detractors are ”trumpeting British falsehoods” about the election process.

”It is therefore disheartening, but not surprising, that certain sections of the media, unfortunately including the South African Broadcasting Corporation, have chosen to ignore the facts … on the ground.

”We are now [aware] that whatever good and positive happens in Zimbabwe can never pass as newsworthy as long as such stories do not fit into the well-known and publicly acknowledged broad agenda of ‘regime change’,” Moyo said.

He said election observers are invited on basis of reciprocity as well as their objectivity and impartiality.

”Our list of invitees excludes those countries with preconceived ideas who believe that the only free and fair election is where the opposition wins,” he said.

Moyo said that among organisations invited to send observers are the African Union, the Southern African Development Community and the Non-Aligned Movement.

The only country in Europe to be invited is the Russian Federation.

All diplomats, including those from the West, accredited to Zimbabwe on a full-time basis can observe the polls.

‘The voice of the people needs to be heard’

The European Union raised concerns on Monday about the fairness of the elections in Zimbabwe, noting that European observers had not been invited to monitor the vote.

”The [EU] Council remains very concerned about the humanitarian, political and economic situation in Zimbabwe and conditions on the ground,” it said in a statement agreed by foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels.

”[It] may endanger the holding of free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections,” the statement said, urging veteran President Robert Mugabe to ensure the elections respect international standards.

The March 29 election presents Mugabe with one of the biggest challenges to his rule since taking office in 1980.

Millions of Zimbabweans hoping for an end to a decade-long economic crisis are due to vote in presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections described by Mugabe and his opponents as a landmark poll in the post-independence period.

EU relations with Zimbabwe have been tense for years, and have been a thorn in EU-Africa relations.

The 27-nation bloc slapped visa bans and asset freezes on Mugabe and over a hundred top officials after a controversial distribution of white-owned commercial farms to mainly landless black Zimbabweans, and Mugabe’s disputed re-election in 2002.

”We want to see elections that are properly free and fair in Zimbabwe,” said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. ”The voice of the people of Zimbabwe needs to be heard in free and fair elections.”

‘Extremely apprehensive’

Meanwhile, the JSE in South African is not interested in working with its Zimbabwean counterpart while Mugabe’s ”moronic government” is in power, its chief executive said on Monday.

While the JSE has courted other African stock exchanges to forge a closer working relationship, CEO Russell Loubser effectively ruled out any tie-up with Zimbabwe unless Mugabe’s 28-year rule is ended at this month’s elections.

”The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange would like to work much closer with us yesterday,” Loubser said at a press conference for the announcement of the JSE’s annual results.

”We are just extremely apprehensive while you’ve got that type of government in power because anything is possible … We are very careful about doing something there while that type of moronic government is in place,” he added.

Loubser’s comments come after Mugabe last week passed a new law that will ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans will own at least 51% of companies operating in the troubled Southern African nation.

Analysts have warned that the new legislation will scare off foreign investment in a country that has been in economic meltdown for the last eight years and has an inflation rate of more than 100 000% — the highest in the world.

— Sapa, Reuters, AFP

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