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Sunday, 31 August 2008

A new by-election - and the terror begins again

Zanu-PF gear up for another fearsome campaign

Units of Mugabe's shock troops are moving into the Matobo constituency in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland South this week, threatening a new wave of intimidation, beating and death. The reason - the by-election caused by the election of the sitting MDC member as Speaker in parliament.

Last week when parliament was recalled, the Movement for Democratic Change MP Lovemore Moyo was surprisingly elected to the Speaker's chair. This meant his legislative seat became vacant, and while no date has yet been set for a new poll, and no new candidates named, Zanu-PF are wasting no time.

Party youth groups and so-called "war veterans" began moving into the area only 24 hours after the parliament vote, and by yesterday, Sunday, the area, which is some 50km from our second city of Bulawayo, was virtually sealed off.

Sources within Zanu-PF confirmed that two army commanders from Mbalabala Barracks have been despatched to oversee the new terror campaign, and some residents have reported that the harassment of MDC members has already begun.

Moyo's election has left Zanu-PF and the main MDC faction delicately poised in parliament, each with 99 seats. So the result of the by-election will be crucial.

An MDC spokeswoman in Matabeleland South said: "The situation here is suddenly very tense. War veterans and youth groups have set up camps, just as they did during the elections earlier this year. It is obvious that Zanu-PF intends to unleash its dogs of war again."

Moyo himself commented that the MDC would not give up the seat easily. "We will defend it at all costs," he said.

The constituency is where the grave of Cecil Rhodes, the man who engineered the colonisation of what became Rhodesia, is to be found. The MDC are determined it will not also become the grave of its hopes for the future.

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