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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 10:34 GMT
Police to resist Zimbabwe change
Police chief Augustine Chihuri
Augustine Chihuri said he had benefited from land redistribution
Zimbabwe's police chief has warned he will not let opposition "puppets" take power in elections later this month, state media reports.

Augustine Chihuri said President Robert Mugabe's redistribution of white-owned land would never be reversed.

Mr Mugabe says the opposition are "puppets" of Western powers who want to block land reform - which they deny.

Mr Chihuri is the third senior security chief to intervene in the 29 March elections on behalf of Mr Mugabe.

We are highly patriotic and this must not be construed to be partisan
Augustine Chihuri

The campaign so far has seen little of the violence which marred previous elections but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says the state machinery, such as the media, security forces and the electoral commission, are being used against it.

'At all costs'

"We will not allow any puppets to take charge," Mr Chihuri told Zimbabwean police officers going to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia and other senior police chiefs, according to the state-owned Herald newspaper.

"Most of us in here are truly owners of the land," he said.

Robert Mugabe addresses party supporters in Mahusekwa, Zimbabwe, 5 March, 2008
Mr Mugabe blames foreign enemies for destroying Zimbabwe's economy

"This is the sovereignty we should defend at all costs because for us to get at this point others had to lose their lives. At this point our gains should never be reversed."

Mr Mugabe's critics say the land reforms have mainly benefited civil servants and ruling party officials.

Mr Chihuri also said the police would deal with any violence, whichever party was behind it.

"We are sworn to be loyal and we are highly patriotic and this must not be construed to be partisan. We will apply the rule of law without fear or favour."

The MDC has gone to court to try to force the electoral commission to have more polling stations in urban areas - seen as opposition strongholds.

A report by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network earlier this week said there were an average of 2,022 voters per polling station in the capital, Harare, compared to 530 in Mr Mugabe's home region of Mashonaland West.

In previous elections, thousands of people have been unable to vote in urban areas because of the massive queues.

Last week army chief General Constantine Chiwenga said:

"We will not support anyone other than President Mugabe, who has sacrificed a lot for this country."

And last month, prison service head retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi told all his staff to vote for Mr Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe, who has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, is being challenged by the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai and former Finance Minister Simba Makoni.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic crisis, with the world's highest rate of annual inflation - 100,000% - and many people unable to afford enough food to eat.

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