August 27, 2003

Rights Forum concerned by barred MDC candidates

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has expressed concern about the barring of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidates from contesting this weekend's urban council elections. The forum, a coalition of civic organisations, said the prevention of MDC candidates from nomination for the polls scheduled for August 30-31 was "unlawful, undemocratic and barbaric".

The MDC said a number of its candidates had been blocked by ruling Zanu (PF) militants from nomination for the council elections. Zanu (PF) mayoral candidate for Bindura, Martin Dinha, last month declared himself the winner after his MDC rival, Fred Chinembiri, was physically stopped from being nominated by ruling party supporters.

"In Makoni, Chegutu, Bindura and Hurungwe West several MDC candidates from the towns were victimised and prevented from registration hence several Zanu (PF) candidates won uncontested seats," the group said in a report. "There were also reports of assaults on candidates. Albert Ndlovu of Chegutu suffered a broken neck after he was reportedly attacked by Zanu (PF) youths. As a result, he failed to submit his nomination papers.

"We urge all candidates to report the incidents of violence surrounding elections to the police and the Electoral Supervisory Commission," the group said. "We further implore the police to investigate such reports promptly, in a nonpartisan manner, and to deal with those responsible accordingly, to ensure a peaceful and impartial electoral process," the forum said.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network said it was worried that there were "scenarios where candidates had been declared winners in violence- ridden wards and constituencies, meaning that the electorate has been denied a chance to participate freely in elections". (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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