|Police ban rallies ahead of Zaka East by-election|
From Owen Chikari in Masvingo
MASVINGO, June 6, 2007- The government has banned all political gatherings in Zaka East constituency ahead of the June 9 by-election, after the opposition lined up rallies to explain their reasons for boycotting the election.
The ban came into effect on Monday this week. The officer commanding Masvingo East district Chief superintendent Letwin Matapura has written a letter to all the opposition parties advising them that all rallies have been banned until after the by-election.
The ban means all participating opposition political parties are no longer able to campaign for their candidates. The main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has boycotted the by-election but had organised rallies in the constituency to explain its decision not to participate.
Interestingly, the ruling ZANU PF party still has several rallies lined up in the area to campaign for its candidate Retired Brigadier-General Livingstone Chineka. It was unclear if the ban would also affect the ruling party.
But minority parties participating in the polls yesterday cried foul over the ban.
A spokesman for the Daniel Shumba-led United People's Party Mr Antony Kundishora said: "How can we win the poll if the situation is like this. All rallies have been banned and we can not campaign. The situation is unbelievable"
The MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirayi, had organised t six rallies in the constituency to explain to its supporters why it had boycotted the by-election.
An MDC rally scheduled to take place at Gumbo township on Sunday had to be called off after heavily-armed police officers stormed the business centre and forcibly dispersed the opposition supporters.
Chief superintendent Matapura, in her letter announcing the ban, said:
"I here by declare that all political gatherings have been banned in Zaka East until after the June 9 by-election because we do not have the required manpower to monitor the gatherings," said Chief superintendent Matapura in a letter to the opposition.
"As the regulating authority the carrying of dangerous weapons such as axes, machetes, knobkerries and guns has also been banned in the constituency.
All those found in their possession the mentioned weapons would be arrested and prosecuted."
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa yesterday confirmed to The Zimbabwe Times that all their rallies had been banned .
"We had lined up about six rallies in the constituency to explain to our supporters why we boycotted the poll," said Chamisa.
"Of the six rallies, we only managed to hold three before we were advised that all our rallies have been banned in the constituency until the by-election is over.
Police have written a letter to us advising us of the development but what worries us is that the ruling party is campaigning freely in the area."
Residents of Zaka East will on Saturday this week go to the polls to elect a member of the House of Assembly following the death of ZANU PF 's Tinos Rusere in February this year.
The by-election was, however, boycotted by the country's main opposition the MDC arguing that it was a sheer waste of resources to elect a member who would only serve for eight months in Parliament.
The opposition is also arguing that the playing field is uneven, saying the current electoral laws did not allow for free and fair elections.
The ruling party's Chineka will lock horns with Lameck Batsirai of the little known Zimbabwe People's Democratic Party and Nicholas Sheila Zanga of the United People's Party, led by Shumba.
At least two rallies organised by the ruling party in the constituency flopped last week after supporters boycotted the gatherings arguing that Chineka was imposed on them.
However, despite the boycott the ruling party is tipped to retain the seat since it is pitted against minority parties.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 June 2007 )|