- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai predicted victory in a weekend presidential election yesterday, saying his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would prevail in spite of mounting evidence that government will stop at nothing to steal the election.
Mr. Tsvangirai, who turns 50 on Sunday, spoke to reporters as time runs out on an campaign that has been marked by political violence, voter intimidation and changes in electoral law aimed at disenfranchising voters believed to be sympathetic to his party.
Mr. Tsvangirai charged that the government of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's leader since independence in 1980, has "crafted and implemented every imaginable trick" to win the election. But, he said, he has faith that the people of Zimbabwe will turn out in large numbers tomorrow and Sunday in support of the MDC.
"The people will vote for change," he said at a press conference that had to be moved to a new location when police said the gathering contravened the country's new Public Order and Security Act.
However, several developments over recent days have heightened concern about the fairness of the voting. Of greatest concern to the MDC and human rights groups are attempts to interfere with poll monitors and observers.
The MDC says at least 22 of its monitors have been abducted since their names and addresses were printed in an independent newspaper Wednesday in accordance with Zimbabwe electoral law. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has not yet printed the names of any of its poll monitors.
At least 54 other MDC monitors and trainers have been arrested. In one instance last week, 37 persons were arrested during a poll-monitoring training session at the MDC's Harare offices and held for four days in jail without charge. One arrested woman was imprisoned with her month-old baby.
"Since I was born, I have never been in such a place," said Cephas Ngera, who was arrested in Harare, of the conditions in the prison. "But I didn't change my mind. It is my political right" to be a monitor.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of 38 nongovernmental organizations, has also raised concerns about the ability of local and international observer teams to effectively monitor the voting.
The organization had 15,000 monitors, about five per polling station, accredited during the country's June 2000 parliamentary elections. This year, only about 300 of its members have received accreditation, and as observers rather than monitors who have the authority to intervene if they see election rules violated.
"While we value the presence of international observers," ZESN Chairman Reginald Matchaba Hove said, "no one other than domestic observers would be in a position to accurately and intimately observe the elections."
The ZESN and MDC also accuse the government of deliberately changing the location and number of polling stations to favor potential government supporters.
The number of urban polling stations, which are traditionally MDC strongholds, has been decreased, while the number of polling stations in rural areas where white-owned land has been redistributed to landless peasants under Mr. Mugabe's controversial land-redistribution program, has been increased. Rural areas will also have a significant number of mobile polling stations, which observers say are particularly difficult to monitor.
The Amani Trust, a human rights group that works with the victims of political violence, also says a significant number of polling stations are at the same locations as youth militia bases, which human rights groups say are used as torture camps and to train youths responsible for systematic violence against MDC supporters.
Dr. Francis Lovemore, Amani's medical director, said forcing people to vote at known torture camps is a kind of "psychological torture."



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