Sept 1, 2003

MDC wins Harare by-election

An opposition candidate has won a by-election in the Zimbabwe capital Harare, retaining his party's dominance in the city after a weekend poll marred by voter apathy. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate won by 2 707 votes to 1 304 for that of the ruling Zanu-PF in Harare central, state radio reported. The Harare by-election coincided with municipal elections in 222 council wards in 21 towns and cities. Seven mayoral positions were also up for grabs.

Results so far show that President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party has retained many seats in traditional strongholds. But MDC information official Maxwell Zimuto said his party had won five out of seven ward seats being contested in the western coal-mining town of Hwange, and six out of nine seats in the southern town of Gwanda, where an MDC candidate also won the mayoral post. The spokesperson for the official Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) was not immediately available to confirm the figures.

The MDC official added that Zanu-PF had won all five council seats contested in the northern farming town of Karoi, and all 12 in the central town of Shurugwi. MDC elections director Remus Makuwaza confirmed those figures and said that the opposition had won nine out of the 11 wards counted so far in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza, an opposition stronghold.

The weekend elections were marred by voter apathy and reported incidents of violence and intimidation in parts of the Southern African country. The opposition and an independent elections support group reported attacks on MDC members at one polling station in the central city of Kwekwe.

"Violence and intimidation resurfaced in this weekend's elections with the MDC candidates and polling agents being assaulted by suspected (ruling) Zanu-PF supporters ... in Kwekwe and some voters being denied access to some polling stations," said Reginald Matchaba-Hove, head of the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (ZESN).

The MDC said the reports it received from polling stations "pointed to a systematic approach to violence, intimidation... obstruction and denial of access to MDC members and activists". Both the MDC and ZESN also cited cases of vote-buying, with the latter saying its observers had seen maize being sold near polling stations. "The sale of maize near polling stations amounts to vote-buying and is therefore unacceptable," Matchaba-Hove said. (Mail&Guardian)

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