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Zimbabwe police bar opposition from court

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) — Police have blocked opposition lawyers and journalists from entering the court where the party was trying for force the publication of delayed election results, the head of a legal advocacy group told CNN Saturday.

The court was scheduled to meet at noon (1000 GMT) to hear an application from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which asks the court to force Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission to release the results of the March 29 vote.

The move was likely to intensify frustration and deep suspicion over the election, which sees President Robert Mugabe facing a fierce challenge from MDC candidate. The lack of election results so far has raised fears that Mugabe is working on ways to cling to power.

Mubabe’s Zanu-PF party has already said President Robert Mugabe is willing to enter a runoff. A runoff, if required, would have to be held within 21 days of the commission releasing the results.

The MDC launched its application in an effort to speed the process. It was unclear how the police action outside the court — reported to CNN by the head of the National Constitutional Assembly — would affect the scheduled hearing. What do you think about the situation in Zimbabwe?

Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said he hoped for a decision on its court application by the end of Saturday.

Deputy information minister Bright Matonga called the court application very improper.

Matonga said the delay in announcing results was because four elections were held simultaneously and the electoral commission has a huge task in releasing the results from every race.

In addition to the presidential race in which Mugabe is seeking a sixth consecutive term, voters also decided races for parliament, senate, and local councils. The commission is close to announcing the senate results, after which it will announce the presidential results, Matonga said.

Amid indications of a tight race with MDC challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, the ruling party said Friday that Mugabe was willing to enter a runoff.

Asked by CNN when he would release the presidential results, the chairman of the electoral commission, George Chiweshe, said he was prevented from talking about it because of the pending court decision.

The opposition has asked the United Nations to intervene to avoid bloodshed ahead of a possible presidential runoff, a party spokesman told CNN.

Chamisa said the party feared Mugabe would use violence against opposition members in the days leading up to the runoff.

We will have to appeal to all the international community organizations, including the United Nations, in order to stop Mugabe, Chamisa said from the city of Bulawayo.

There is likely to be violence in the 21 days to come, Chamisa added.

He said the party feared Mugabe would use violence because we know him. He has done this in the past. He said war veterans and militias were already starting to be deployed around the country to intimidate voters ahead of a runoff.

But executive members of Zanu-PF met Friday and promised to respect the outcome of the election, said Matonga, who is also the government’s deputy information minister and said he attended the meeting.

We don’t think there will be violence. There’s no need for violence, and we are going to show the rest of the world that Zimbabwe can hold peaceful elections, Matonga said.

Voters are tired of the dire economic situation in the country and the international sanctions on Zimbabwe, Matonga said, and don’t want to make things any worse by engaging in violence.

There is no time to fight. It’s not about fighting. It’s about addressing the issues, Matonga said.

Mugabe’s party is in disarray, split between those who think Mugabe should gracefully step down and those who say he should fight to stay in office, a party member said. Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe became independent 28 years ago.

The MDC barely beat Mugabe’s party in parliamentary elections, according to official results. The state-run newspaper, The Herald, reported that it was a photo finish, with MDC taking 99 seats and Zanu-PF 97. A look at the candidates

With no presidential results, Zimbabweans were nervous, said Dzikamai Machingura, the national director of ZimRights, a human rights group.

Asked how the situation is affecting residents, he said, Well, with regard to the election results … I will tell you that, typically, people are driving to work. They get to work and they sit at their desks. They do no productive work because all their minds are elsewhere.

Another Zimbabwean said, People are just anxious because they’re wondering whether the results are actually, really going to come out for the presidential race. I think because it’s taken such a long time, there’s a lot of anxiety, he said.

There were more reports of violence Friday, and police continued to hold two Americans, including a New York Times journalist, Casey said. The Zimbabwean government has denied cracking down on journalists and the opposition. Watch as journalist describes her arrest

Members of the Zimbabwe Peace Project said Friday that they had received reports that two homes had been burned in the Mudzi District of Mashonaland East Province, and they blamed the incidents on government retribution for those who backed opposition candidates. See photos from the country’s elections

Peace Project Executive Director Jestina Mukoko said the homes belonged to people who campaigned for an MDC candidate in the parliamentary election.

As the delay for the release of the election results prolong, we expect to get more reports of this retribution, the director said.

Once revered as the breadbasket of southern Africa with good education and healthcare, Zimbabwe now has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, schooling is a luxury and it is difficult to get even basic food supplies.

Inflation has skyrocketed to more than 100,000 percent; food production and agricultural exports have dropped drastically.
Zimbabwe police bar opposition from court – found here.

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April 5, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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