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It's fact that like so many other African countries have been suffering at some stage or another under the rule of some dragonian ruler. Nothing's more true with Zimbabwe. Election time is here with officials trying their utmost to extend the voting period. At least here the courts seem to be on their side and not Mugabes.

South African politicians insist that it will be and so far is a fair election. This in spite of intimidation and violence all over the place. Not even mentioning the slow progress experienced at most voting stations.

Mugabe made sure to pass a couple of bills before the elections. These include outlawing "false statements prejidicial to the state or that incite public disorder, violence, affect defence and economic interestsof the country or undermine confidence in security forces."

Other include government sanctioning of foreign news services which will require licenses with only locals allowed to work as journalists. Journalists also face jail for "spreading malicious rumors or publishing information likely to cause alarm and despondency". Independant election monitors were banned and voters must provide proof of residence and have a local bank account. And the poor suckers who's been out of the country for longer than a year can't vote. Trade unions can get banned if taking part in "illegal" strikes.

Now these are all obviously for the benefit of the ruling party. It's up to them to decide when someone is breaking the law. We've seen Mugabe using the police, the army and war veterans to wage war on the various "forces" both inside and outside the country, but especially on the opposition. His paranoia is clear. Is it surprising then that he acknowledges MDC support from Britain, the U.S. and the old Rhodesians in Zimbabwe, especially the white commercial farmers? With anarchy and lawlessness having a tight grip on the country, is it surprising that the people of Zimbabwe wants change? With the currency totally down the drain, the economy at a standstill it is no wonder these people want international support.

Mobilising the police, with war veterans getting promotion within the police force, Mugabe clamped down on white farmers. His "fast-track" land reform saw 4.8 million hectares of commercial farms being ex-propriated. These 3 000 farmers were given 30 days notice, with a promise of payment for "improvements" but none for the land itself. And as we saw, this land ended up in the hands of party officials, war veterans and card carrying members and not with the homeless. The Commercial Farmers' Union estimated that agricultural production will slump by 25% within four years. Farm workers , some 400 000 suffered with the farmers. They constitute a sixth of the whole population with close on a million people left destitute. And wether a farm was listed for "resettlement" or not, farmers were harrased and threatened until leaving their farms. Illegal occupations were the order of the day with Mugabe's sister Sabina driving around accompanied by the police, inciting war veterans and party supporters to seixe white farms at random.

In spite of a court order ruling that these land invasions were illegal and instructing police to remove illegal war veterans and party members, the chaos continued. Mugabe got really upset when the courts once again interfered by invalidating the June election results. The MDC challanged 38 constituencies on the grounds of violence and irregularities such as bribery. Mugabe declared the MDC petitions invalid. The courts declared this action unconstitutional. Mugabe striked back by appointing a new Minister of Justice. Jonathan Moyo launched an attack on the courts, singling out a white judge, appointed by Mugabe in 1990. He claimed the courts were biased in favour of the white farmers at the expense of the landless majority. The judges were eventually faced with a rampaging black group who threatened to remove them from office and even attacking them at their homes.

The press was next on Mugabes agenda. Moyo threatened that the independent press will be "silenced", referring specifically to the Daily News. Shortly after this threat the Daily News presses were destroyed by bombs. Foreign journalists got expelled. More and more open attacks on the judiciary followed by Zanu-PF ministers. After a meeting with Mugabe's vice, Judge Gubbay threatened to resign. Government accepted his "resignation" and Gubbay went on early retirement. The remaining two white judges were told to retire "or anything could happen". They declined. Gubbay got accused of being "British intellegence to overthrow the government" and described him as "a Manchester man with links to very powerful Jewish financial interests". Mugabe appointed three more judges, all of whom are staunch Zanu-PF supporters with the new chief justice the same Chidyausiku who got Gubbay out of office. And his first action was to rule that seizure of white-wned farms are within governments' rights.

For more on this extract from the book The Third Chimurenga by Martin Meredith, follow this link.