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Page last updated at 04:59 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 05:59 UK

Film of Zimbabwe 'vote-rigging'

By Alix Kroeger
BBC News

Robert Mugabe is sworn in on 29 June
The film alleges there was no secrecy in votes for Robert Mugabe

New evidence of vote-rigging in last month's presidential election in Zimbabwe has emerged in the form of a secret film made by a prison guard.

The guard, Shepherd Yuda, filmed the vote-rigging at his jail in a production for Guardian Films.

Prison officers, including Mr Yuda, who has now fled Zimbabwe, were forced to vote for President Robert Mugabe by superior officers.

The officers organised a postal ballot and stood over them as they cast votes.

'Orphans'

Mr Yuda decided to speak out after the murder of his uncle, an opposition activist, two months ago.

He knew he and his family would have to leave Zimbabwe as a result.

[South African President] Thabo Mbeki has betrayed us. He didn't want to come down hard on Mugabe
Anonymous prison guard

"This election: I have never seen that type of violence," he says in the film.

"The impact has left a lot of orphans; it has left a lot of people displaced. You cannot expect that from your government."

He secretly filmed a war veteran, Superintendent Shambira, watching as prison officers voted.

Supt Shambira ensured they marked their ballots for Robert Mugabe, and not the opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Supt Shambira then logged each vote against an identification number. There was no secrecy.

All those voting knew Supt Shambira had the power to condemn them as MDC supporters.

Mr Yuda says he had no choice but to vote for Robert Mugabe.

Mr Yuda also spoke to voters on the streets of Harare.

"They're standing right in front of you when you cast your vote," one voter told Mr Yuda. "They watch."

The voter went on: "Shambira definitely sees you vote - there's no way of hiding it. I was thinking I could vote when he wasn't looking, but he was watching like a hawk."

Re-education rallies

Among the prisoners is Tendai Biti, a prominent opposition MP and human-rights lawyer.

Mr Yuda filmed him having his leg-irons removed for a court hearing.

Mr Biti, who is awaiting trial on treason charges, was released on bail, but could still face execution.

Newspaper reports election victory, 30 June
Mr Mugabe won the run-off election after the opposition pulled out

"You know, I was so touched: for a man of his status to be reduced to such levels, to be put in a criminal institution," Mr Yuda says in the film. "It's very, very sad."

Mr Yuda also captured conversations between prison guards in the run-up to the 27 June run-off election, as tension was increasing.

"In my area, there's a lot of tension," one guard tells him. "Zanu-PF (ruling party) thugs came to my house as soon as I left for work today. They abducted my wife. They took her to the base."

These "bases" are springing up in private houses all over Harare.

Previously they were a feature of rural Zimbabwe; now they have reached the capital.

Ordinary people are abducted and compelled to attend Zanu-PF re-education rallies.

"I am forced to go and guard these bases all through the night, after my shift here," another prison officer says.

"They cordon off the whole street: it becomes a no-go area. These people are killers, the thugs that Zanu-PF are using."

And another guard says the rest of the world should do more to help Zimbabwe.

"It's in the hands of the international community now," he says.

"[South African President] Thabo Mbeki has betrayed us. He didn't want to come down hard on Mugabe. Instead, he kept going on and on about pan-Africanism."

On election day itself, Mr Yuda films a woman who is so fearful that she has pretended to have voted.

She colours her little finger with a pink marker, hoping to simulate the ink used to identify those who have already cast their ballots.

The day after Robert Mugabe's election, Shepherd Yuda and his family began packing, preparing to leave Zimbabwe.

Their lives would have been in danger if they had stayed. They can only begin to think about returning once Mr Mugabe has gone.


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