Zimbabwe polls further discredited by footage of vote-rigging

Other News Materials 5 July 2008 14:50 (UTC +04:00)

Further damning evidence of the undemocratic nature of last week's election in Zimbabwe that returned longtime leader Robert Mugabe as president emerged Saturday in the form of video footage of blatant vote-rigging, dpa reported.

In the footage produced secretly by a prison guard in Zimbabwe for Guardian Films and shown by the BBC, prison officers are shown being intimidated into voting for Mugabe by their superior officers.

The superior officers watch over the junior officers as they cast their votes in a postal ballot to ensure they mark an X against Mugabe and not opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai's name remained on the ballot paper, after he withdrew from the run-off election at the eleventh hour, citing fears for the safety of his supporters.

The officer who filmed the scenes said he felt compelled to expose the climate of fear that gripped Zimbabwe in the run-up to the June 27 vote after his uncle, an opposition activist, was murdered.

Mugabe, 84, was inaugurated as president for another five years on June 29, two days after an election that three African observer missions said failed to meet standards for democratic elections.

The MDC, the West and a handful of African states, including Botswana and Nigeria, have denounced the vote as illegitimate.

But an African Union heads of state summit in Egypt earlier this week stopped short of discrediting the vote, instead calling on Mugabe to form a government of national unity with Tsvangirai.

Mugabe has made MDC recognition of his election victory a precondition for talks.

The MDC has said it wants the first-round presidential elections in March to be the starting point for the talks. Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in that election but failed to take an outright majority.

The MDC's March victory triggered a violent campaign of retribution against its supporters by state-backed youth militia. Over 90 people have been killed so far in these attacks.