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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 16:31 GMT
Vote Mugabe, prison staff ordered
Retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi
Paradzayi Zimondi says he will only salute Robert Mugabe
The head of the prison service in Zimbabwe has ordered his staff to vote for President Robert Mugabe in next month's elections.

Retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi - one of the most senior defence officials in Zimbabwe - said he would resign if the opposition won.

He said he would retire to protect his farm from the opposition who, he said, were planning to reverse land reforms.

Mr Mugabe's main challengers are Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni.

Mr Zimondi told guests at a ceremony to promote 14 senior officers that voting for either of them was tantamount to supporting former colonial power, Britain.

I am giving you an order to vote for the president
Paradzayi Zimondi

"Do not be distracted," the state-owned Herald newspaper quoted him as saying.

"The challenges we are currently facing are just a passing phase."

The country is suffering an economic crisis, with annual inflation of 100,000% and unemployment at 80%. There are also severe food and fuel shortages.

The president, who has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980, blames a British plot for much of the country's failings.

War threat

Mr Zimondi said Mr Makoni, a former finance minister, and opposition leader Mr Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change, would give land back to "former colonial masters" if they won the elections.

Zimbabweans are entitled to one person, one farm
Simba Makoni

He said this would provoke war.

"I will be the first one to resign from my job and go back to defend my piece of land. I will not let it go," he said.

"No empowerment is more than the land we got. If you let the country go, God will not help you anymore; and when you die, you will go to hell for failing to defend your land against your enemies."

But Mr Makoni told the BBC he would not repossess farms given to Mugabe supporters, unless they had acquired the land improperly.

He said it was an important issue and more essential now than 10 years ago, before Mr Mugabe's land seizures began.

One person, one farm

He said land reform in the past wasn't about taking farms from white farmers, it was about taking land from people who owned more than the majority, and that would continue.

Mr Makoni said Zimbabwe's land reform policy was that "land shall be acquired and redistributed equitably, fairly and transparently".

"Zimbabweans are entitled to one person, one farm," he said.

Critics say Mr Mugabe's land reform has been marred by corruption, with top officials gaining more than one farm, contravening official policy.

Both Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai have urged their supporters to refrain from violence ahead of the 29 March presidential and parliamentary votes.

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