Friday, March 28, 2008

Election time in Zimbabwe

Opponents of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe accused the longtime leader of planning to steal Saturday's election in the troubled African nation. Simba Makoni, the former finance minister who abandoned the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party to run against Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change and Arthur Mutambara, who leads a small MDC faction, told reporters in Harare on Thursday that they had evidence of planned ballot rigging. "We believe there is a very well thought out, sophisticated and premeditated plan to steal this election from us," Makoni said after a meeting between the three opposition leaders, according to the Reuters international news service. "We are satisfied that the integrity and credibility of this election is gravely in doubt." Critics say the 84-year-old Mugabe had held onto power in Zimbabwe for 28 years through patronage and a security force, and blame him for ruining the country's economy, once considered Africa's most promising. Mugabe blames Zimbabwe's troubles on sanctions imposed by Western nations to punish him for seizing property owned by white landowners. Mugabe says the measures had harmed health care in Zimbabwe, which is one of the countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS. "Our health sector (once) operated in a regional and international context that was free of the illegal sanctions which weigh us down today," Mugabe said during a ceremony to present new automobiles to senior and middle-level doctors at government hospitals. Mugabe promised the doctors houses and said he had used his own money to buy flat screen televisions for hospitals. Zimbabwe's inflation rate is more than 100,000 percent. U.S. President George W. Bush called Mugabe a "discredited dictator" in a speech last month.

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