Eight opposition supporters arrested during senate election
Nov 26, 2005, 20:26 GMT
Harare - Eight opposition supporters have been arrested in Zimbabwe during Saturday's polls for a controversial new 66-seat senate, state radio reported.
Four members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were arrested in Silobela in the central midlands province for 'obstructing people who wanted to vote', the radio report said.
Late Friday, two MDC activists were arrested in the capital Harare after a demonstration against the poll, it added.
Another two opposition supporters were arrested in Harare's satellite town of Chitungwiza. Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka said the two 'were being charged under the electoral Act for their conduct at a polling station', according to the report.
There have been no reports of violence during voting which got off to a slow start Saturday in Harare, although turnout in the southern Masvingo province was reported to be higher.
Many people appeared to have decided not to take part in elections that President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) looks almost certain to win.
Around 100 people lined up outside a polling station on open ground in Harare's oldest suburb of Mbare, shortly after the start of polling at 7:00 am (05:00 GMT). Mbare is usually a hotbed of opposition support but this time the MD is divided over whether it should be taking part in the polls.
Nearby, around 40 voters stood outside Mai Musodzi Hall, waiting to cast their ballots.
Analysts are predicting a record low turnout for these elections, which come just eight months after parliamentary polls won by ZANU- PF.
Polling tents in eastern and northern suburbs like Kamfinsa, Mandara and Rhodesville appeared deserted mid-morning.
'It's very quiet. We're not going to vote. We are tired and hungry - there's no point in voting,' said a man selling peaches and avocado pears at the Chisipite shopping centre in northern Harare.
In the second city of Bulawayo, rain showers dampened the enthusiasm of voters at most polling stations.
'There's serious voter apathy,' an observer for the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) told Deutsche Presse- Agentur, dpa in a telephone interview.
Out of 13 polling stations he had so far visited, only a few in the Bulawayo-Makokoba constituency had recorded much activity. 'In other areas it's very low,' he said.
ZANU-PF is already guaranteed more than half of the 66 seats in the controversial new senate and appears to be looking forward to a massive victory.
'Today's election, the ninth over the past 25 years gives us reasons to celebrate our rich democratic tradition that gives people the chance to choose their leaders regularly,' the state-controlled Herald newspaper said in a Saturday editorial.
Zimbabwe had a senate that was abolished in the late 1980s. In August this year Mugabe's party used its parliamentary majority to reintroduce the senate, despite strong resistance from MDC parliamentarians.
Still smarting from his party's defeat in three elections in the past five years, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai ordered his party's members not to stand in the senate race, saying Zimbabwe's electoral laws breed 'illegitimate outcomes'.
But a pro-senate faction in the MDC defied their leader and fielded candidates in 26 constituencies.
One rebel opposition official, deputy secretary general Gift Chimanikire, said it was important for the MDC to defend its political turf.
'We have no intention of sitting back and allowing ZANU-PF back into areas to undermine our progress towards a better future,' wrote Chimanikire in the Herald.
ZANU-PF already has 35 seats: 19 in constituencies where the opposition did not field candidates, ten others who will be traditional chiefs usually loyal to Mugabe and six personally appointed by the president.
The independently-run Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says many people are confused about the purpose of a senate.
'There is general lack of interest in the pending election, as indicated by the widespread ignorance and lack of understanding on the role of a senate in a democracy and will most likely result in massive voter apathy,' ZESN said in a statement Friday.
State radio Saturday said there was also a low turnout in Harare's satellite town of Chitungwiza.© dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur