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Pre-election violence mars Zim poll credibility

This week, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) submitted a dossier to the Southern African Development Community that chronicles recent incidents of political violence and intimidation of citizens. The incidents include the killing of 12-year-old Christpower Maisiri in an arson attack on February 23. The MDC-T blames the attack on Zanu-PF members.

The MDC-T said in a statement that Maisiri's father, Shepherd, intended challenging Didymus Mutasa, who is Zanu-PF's secretary for administration in Headlands in Manicaland, in the forthcoming elections, which are expected in June or July. Mutasa is the MP for that area and has denied any involvement in the arson attack.

The European Union and the United States have also expressed concern over a credible election, citing the increasing reports of politically motivated violence.

Tendai Biti, the MDC-T secretary general who is also the finance minister, told journalists on February 26 that his party feared a repeat of the 2008 election violence. His party claims that more than 200 of its supporters died in "state-sponsored violence".

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC-T national organising secretary, also told the Mail & Guardian that the credibility of the polls is threatened by the killing of Maisiri's son and other recent incidents.

"This is how it began in 2008," said Chamisa. "We are going to see a winter of suffering. The credibility of the elections will be called into question."

Nhlanhla Dube, spokesperson for the smaller faction of the MDC, led by Welshman Ncube, said: "Every time there is an election, Zanu-PF turns to violence."

Zanu-PF denies accusations
But Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo scoffed at the accusations. He said his party had clean hands and that the MDC was trying to discredit the elections.

"That is their [the MDC's] strategy – to paint an ugly picture so that they discredit the elections. Who says the unfortunate death of the boy was politically motivated?

"The MDC should let the police do their job. The MDC knows it is losing this election," said Gumbo.

Political analyst Blessing Vava  said what is happening now is "just a tip of the iceberg" and added that there would be more violence after the constitutional referendum, which will take place on March 16.

Meanwhile police deputy commissioner general Innocent Matibiri, who is in charge of operations, told parliament that "99% of non-governmental organisations operating in Zimbabwe are "Western-sponsored" and are pushing for a "regime change agenda".

Media reports this week said the police have banned villagers in various parts of the country from using radio and mobile receivers that enable them to listen to international broadcasts, especially from the Voice of America and SW Radio.

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