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Mugabe trying to rig elections - MDC

MDC claims to have proof the Zimbabwean authorities plan to slow down voting.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai pictured on March 15, 2013 talking to church leaders about upcoming elections. Picture: AFP/JEKESAI

HARARE - The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe says it has evidence that President Robert Mugabe is trying to rig Wednesday's national election in favour of his party, Zanu-PF.

The claims have coincided with a passionate protest by three Zimbabwean exiles in Johannesburg who have chained themselves to a statue of Nelson Mandela at Sandton City.

The trio have wrapped a thick silver chain around their necks at the base of the 2.7 metre bronze statue in Mandela Square, saying they are calling for freedom in their home country.

At a media conference on the eve of the vote, the MDC's Douglas Mwonzora listed steps he says are being taken to deny voters their electoral choice.

Mwonzora says he has proof the Zimbabwean authorities plan to slow down the voting process in the opposition stronghold cities of Harare and Bulawayo in particular.

He also claims there are plans to hand results to the military leadership first, which breaks the electoral law.

He says authorities also plan to limit mobile and internet traffic to block proper monitoring of the election.

He also believes that in the rural areas where Mugabe already has traditionally strong support, tribal leaders are being paid to pressure their subjects into voting for him.

Mwonzora inists his party will only accept the outcome of the election if it's judged to be free and fair and is urging its supports to protect their votes in the face of the alleged evidence.

He says the MDC has plans to deal with any eventuality after the election, but is not expecting to go into a run-off vote because it's confident of winning outright.

Mwonzora says if the party is beaten, it will accept the result, provided people have not been disenfranchised.

"We are not prepared to accept fraud, for obvious reasons - it's common-sense."

Meanwhile, the country's Herald newspaper has predicted an outright win for Mugabe.

The newspaper, which is the mouthpiece of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, is leaning extensively on reports by The Guardian and the Independent in Britain which are also forecasting victory for the 89-year-old president of 33 years.

It also reports that Washington has gagged a survey by the Freedom House think-tank that indicates what the newspaper calls a "crushing victory" for Zanu-PF.

Tsvangirai dismisses the paper's claims propaganda.

Harare residents, who are reluctant to speak to reporters, anonymously say that no one believes newspapers from either side of the political divide, particularly at election time.

State radio is reporting that thousands of officers have been sent to the central Midlands province while trucks carrying automatic rifles and grenade launchers are patrolling in Harare townships.

The run-down districts of the capital are hotbeds of support for Tsvangirai and were at the centre of several weeks of post-election violence in 2008.

RIOT POLICE DEPLOYED

The heated political battle between President Robert Mugabe, of Zanu-PF, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC continues while each tries to gain full control of the government after five years of coalition rule.

Tsvangirai's party reported on Sunday that top party official Morgan Komichi, its deputy national chairperson, was arrested in Harare, three days before this week's elections.

TECHNICAL GLITCHES

The county's Education Minister David Coltart said on Tuesday the country's electoral process has been riddled with problems in the run up to the polls.

Coltart admitted there have been problems.

"We haven't yet received the electronic voters' roll and there have been other signs of sheer chaos. For example, when we had the special votes for the armed forces they didn't deliver the right number of ballots."

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