Zimbabwe: By-election marred by allegations of foul play

JOHANNESBURG, 28 October (IRIN) - Elections in Zimbabwe were once again marred by allegations of intimidation and misappropriation of relief food - this time in the weekend parliamentary by-election in Insiza in Matabeleland South.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) alleged that its candidate Siyabonga Ncube was stopped at a police roadblock on Sunday and barred from entering the constituency. He and ZANU-PF's Andrew Langa were vying for the seat which became vacant when MDC legislator George Ndlovu died in August.

The party also alleged that maize was distributed by ZANU-PF officials at Sidzibe and Pentagon polling stations and that campaigning was taking place within 100 metres of the polling station, in contravention of electoral regulations.

Responding to the allegations, Edward Mamutse, senior press secretary in the Department of Information said: "That's news to us. We observe the regulations and the rules of polling stations are applied rigorously by the registrar-general's office and by the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC)."

He said the ESC would be the appropriate body to investigate the allegations. An ESC official based in Harare said he was unable to comment as people "on the ground" were counting the ballots and were difficult to contact.

Earlier this month the World Food Programme (WFP) suspended delivery of food aid in two wards in Insiza after ZANU-PF officials allegedly intimidated its implementing partner, the Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress, and took a consignment of 3 mt and distributed it as part of its by-election campaign.

WFP spokesman in Zimbabwe Luis Clemmens told IRIN on Monday that the delivery of monthly rations to over 6,000 people in the wards remained suspended "until further notice".

On Monday evening it appeared that ZANU-PF were winners by a wide margin.

"It wasn't an election, it was a circus," said Maxwell Zimuto, MDC spokesman for the election. "One player was both the referee and the player. Our candidates were monitored and arrested and we still don't have a copy of the voter's roll. How can we win an election like that?"

The US government confirmed that it had an unofficial observer monitoring the polls, but spokesman Bruce Wharton said he was not sure whether their observations would be released.

According to the state-controlled Herald newspaper, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom also had unofficial observers at Insiza.


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