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The BBC's Craig Swan
"The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said he felt vindicated by the judgment"
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MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
"It vindicates our earlier claims that the elections were not free or fair"
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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Zimbabwe court boosts opposition
Morgan Tsvangirai celebrates outside the High Court
Mr Tsvangirai says the ruling vindicates the opposition
The High Court in Zimbabwe has nullified the result of last year's election in two constituencies, including one contested and lost by the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

I'm very confident that justice has been delivered

Morgan Tsvangirai
The rulings are the first victories for the opposition in their legal battle to challenge the election results in 37 constituencies

Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change says the election was marred by a systematic campaign of intimidation and violence, orchestrated by President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

The verdicts reduce Mr Mugabe's ruling party's narrow majority among elected MPs. By-elections must now be held in the Buhera North and Hurungwe East constituencies.

Following the rulings, Reuters news agency reported that four of Mr Tsvangirai's bodyguards had been arrested.

In another development, South Africa made its strongest diplomatic protest yet to Zimbabwe over political violence in the country, which has seen South African businesses in Harare attacked.

Rulings due

In delivering his verdict in one of the cases, Judge James Devittie said there was evidence of intimidation of opposition officials and supporters.

Robert Mugabe
Zanu-PF stand accused of a systematic campaign of intimidation and violence
In the second case, Judge Devittie said: "The picture that clearly emerges is of a community where high levels of intimidation occurred."

Further high court rulings on MDC challenges in other constituencies are also expected.

Speaking after the first ruling, Mr Tsvangirai said his position had been vindicated and he was looking forward to the new vote.

"I'm very confident that justice has been delivered, and that's why we came here in the first place," he added.

At least 32 people were killed in the run-up to last June's parliamentary elections.

One previous MDC challenge was rejected by the courts, while in recent days another MDC case was withdrawn.

Zanu-PF party won 63 of the 120 elected seats in parliament, whilst the MDC won 56. Another 30 seats in the parliament are uncontested ones.

Assaults condemned

South Africa summoned Zimbabwe's High Commissioner on Thursday to protest about a wave of assaults and kidnappings of South Africans in the country.

South African officials say they have received reports of attacks on staff from eight companies, believed to have been carried out by Zanu-PF supporters.

"Our concern is that within this situation, South African businesses are entitled to protection," said senior Foreign Ministry official Sipho Pityana.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has been criticised in Africa and beyond for what some see as a failure to condemn President Mugabe's economic and political policies.

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See also:

23 Apr 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe democracy 'in peril'
09 Mar 01 | Africa
Mugabe man named top judge
23 Apr 01 | Africa
Mugabe sued for election violence
16 Feb 01 | Africa
Mugabe opponent rejects charges
27 Jul 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe election challenge
25 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe 'voted for change'
26 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Zimbabwe faces attack warning
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