ZIMBABWE: 59 protestors beaten up, 11 arrested

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
More than 50 protesting Zimbabweans were beaten up and 11 members of the activist organisation, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), were arrested in the country's second city, Bulawayo, on 5 May, according to a WOZA official.

"We demonstrated ahead of Mothers Day to call for an end to political violence," WOZA National Coordinator Jenni Williams told IRIN. "Riot police came upon us indiscriminately - the driver of the police vehicle just drove into the crowd," Williams alleged. "Others were injured by police, who beat them with batons."

Williams said the raid was extremely chaotic. She alleged that police beat her into a police vehicle, then demanded what she was doing in the vehicle and beat her out again. According to WOZA, the 59 injured people were receiving care at a private clinic, but the whereabouts of the 11 people who were arrested was yet to be established.

A police spokesman in Bulawayo said they were unable to confirm the arrests and referred IRIN to the national police headquarters in the capital, Harare. Despite repeated attempts, IRIN was unable to contact the police in Harare.

Election results

Williams said: "We are calling on the Chief Election Officer to declare [leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Morgan] Tsvangirai the winner. We believe the results [released last week] were rigged; we don't believe them."

According to the results declared by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), none of the presidential candidates managed to get the required majority of 50 percent plus one: Tsvangirai received 47.9 percent, while President Robert Mugabe polled 43.2 percent.

"No candidate received a majority of the total number of votes cast, which means a second election shall be held on a date to be advised by the ZEC," said Lovemore Sekeramayi, ZEC election officer for the presidential ballot.

"According to the Electoral Act, the two candidates who received the highest and next highest numbers of valid votes cast shall be eligible to contest in the second election. Accordingly, Tsvangirai and Mugabe are eligible to contest in the second election."

While the Electoral Act states that a presidential election re-run has to be held within 21 days of the results being announced, the ZEC has been vague about when the run-off will be held, keeping Zimbabweans on tenterhooks.

ZEC chairperson George Chiweshe told the media at the weekend that the ZEC board would meet "as soon as possible" to discuss the date for the run-off, and the logistical arrangements for holding another election - an expense the impoverished state can ill afford.

ZANU-PF, which lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, has announced that it is already preparing for a run-off. According to MDC vice-president Thokozani Khupe, the party's hand is being forced to participate in a second presidential election.

Late on 5 May, MDC officials were locked in a meeting to consider lodging an application in the High Court in Harare to get the ZEC to verify the results, which might yet make a presidential run-off unnecessary.

Luke Tamborinyoka, the MDC director of information, told IRIN: "One of the conditions that we would propose in the event of a run-off is that the election will have to be supervised by the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community."
Source: IRIN NEW http://irinnews.org