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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 14:04 GMT
'Voter bribes' in Zimbabwe poll
Subsistence farmer in Zimbabwe
Subsistence farmers are promised ploughs for votes, Zesn says
Voters are being intimidated to back the ruling Zanu-PF party ahead of Zimbabwe's March elections, according to a report by independent monitors.

It says villagers have had to prove their loyalty to get free farming equipment, with threats of having it withdrawn if Zanu-PF loses.

Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the polls if they are not free.

Talks in South Africa between Zanu-PF and opposition factions to ensure free polls are reported to be deadlocked.

Negotiations due to resume on Thursday were delayed at the request of Zanu-PF.

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has been tasked by the Southern Africa Development Community with helping to find a solution to Zimbabwe's political crisis.

The opposition and observers have said that previous elections were rigged in favour of Zanu-PF.

Chanting slogans

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), which has 120 observers deployed across the country in the run-up to the polls, says there have been various cases of voter intimidation.

Zesn believes that the [registration] exercise risks becoming a cosmetic exercise
Zesn report

"In Masvingo Central constituency... [donated] ploughs were only allocated to people who held a fully paid-up Zanu-PF membership card and could chant correctly at least three of the party's slogans," Zesn's report says.

Also in Masvingo, a local councillor warned that opposition voters would be "bitten by dogs" if they supported either faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

It said that political campaigns have started countrywide, but have been "relatively low key".

There were reports of violence and coercion during the mobilisation of marchers for the "million man march" in December in support of President Robert Mugabe, the report says.

President Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe does not want polls to be delayed

The observers also said that voter registration had come to a virtual standstill in some areas.

"Zesn believes that the exercise risks becoming a cosmetic exercise unless it is adequately resourced and given the prominence it deserves."

The government says 5.6m voters were registered by 6 December last year, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The opposition has demanded a complete overhaul of the voters' roll, which it says is one way in which previous elections have been rigged.

One of the issues on the table at talks in South Africa is whether Zimbabweans in the diaspora should vote - which the opposition is pushing for.

Up to 3m Zimbabweans fleeing the country's economic crisis are thought to be living in South Africa.

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