MDC Press Release

Just read this press release from the MDC this afternoon. This whole election process is developing into an absolute farce! We are expected to contest an election in 45 days. We do not have the voters roll (the one sold to us last week is out of date), we cannot advertise in the State controlled media, we are subjected to propaganda 24 hours a day on radio and TV. Our meetings are being banned or disrupted, campaigners cannot distribute flyers on the street, we have to have permission to put up posters! Our vehicles are being confiscated and held at Police Stations. We have over 400 court cases pending against MDC candidates and activists and there are more arrests every day. Returning officers have still not been appointed and we have no idea of where polling stations will be. Zanu is handing out food at its rallies and forcing people to attend rallies. No observer missions have been invited and there are arrests of remaining international journalists working as "stringers".

Yesterday the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs said that "good progress was being made towards a free and fair election in Zimbabwe". That is simply nonsense. The Government here has clamped down even more on the electoral process. The decision on the Daily News - which we know is in its favour, was supposed to be out on the 7th - the Judge still has to release his judgement.

The police today disrupted a training session of the MDC's 120 candidates which was being held at the Sheraton Hotel in Harare. They arrested MDC Director of Elections Ian Makone who is currently being held at Harare Central Police Station.

At the time of writing the police have yet to inform Mr Makone of the charges he is facing. The meeting, which started at 10.30 am, was attended by all 120 of the party's candidates for the 2005 elections. It was a strategic planning and training session ahead of the nomination court on Friday 18 February and the launch of the MDC campaign in Masvingo on Sunday, 20 February.

Three plain clothes police details arrived and demanded to sit through the meeting. They then told the gathering that the meeting was illegal under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and that all those present should leave immediately or face arrest.

The MDC notes with concern the continued disruption of its campaign programme and the continued harassment of its candidates and leaders. The disruption of MDC meetings is a clear violation of the SADC guidelines on the conduct of free and fair elections.

In addition to the disruption of the party's public meetings, our advertisements and editorials continue to be rejected by the public media in clear violation of the same SADC principles.

We reiterate our position that we are participating in this election with a heavy heart and under protest. We have only agreed to participate because our supporters on the ground wish to exercise their inalienable right to vote and continue the struggle for democracy at all levels.

The people of Zimbabwe want a new beginning. We have a manifesto which provides policy solutions to the key issues of the day: food and jobs. We know that this Manifesto will resonate with the people of Zimbabwe and this is why we are confident of victory on 31 March, even though the elections will not be free and fair.

Today's events make a mockery of statements claiming that Zimbabwe is on course to hold free and fair elections. Such statements only serve to encourage the Mugabe regime to further breach the SADC principles on democratic elections.

Paul Themba Nyathi
Secretary for Information and Publicity