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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
Dilemma of the fearful voter
Zanu-PF supporters
Zanu-PF supporters have been accused of intimidation
By Cathy Jenkins in Harare

Zimbabwe's election campaign has been marred by violence mainly directed at the opposition, which has set up safe houses for people who fled their homes.

Away from their home districts these people are now unsure whether they will be able to vote.

When I visited a safe house set up outside the capital, Harare, none of the 43 people there had seen their home since April.

They had not all come from one place, but they had similar stories to tell of harrassment at the hands of supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Threats

One man said his face had become known after he started campaigning for a small opposition party.

He said he had fled his farm after being beaten up and told not to campaign any more.

Another man - a farmer with his own small piece of land - said he had lived in the bush for several days after Zanu-PF followers started threatening anyone they suspected of being an opposition supporter.

He ran away, he said, when they started to burn nearby homes.

Having found refuge at the safe house, these people are awaiting the arrival of polling day without knowing whether they will be able to cast their votes.

Arduous return

To do so they will have to go to their home districts but that depends on being able to get transport and being confident enough to make the journey.

Some of the people said they knew their attackers as local people and were afraid of going back - but they desperately wanted to vote.

A helper at the safe house said that about 300 people had been given shelter at secret locations, having fled their homes.

The violence which has marred the Zimbabwe election campaign has been mostly directed at opposition supporters, but in one suburb of Harare a burnt-out bus which had been carrying Zanu-PF supporters showed how easily the violence could spread.

Local people said that opposition groups had attacked the bus.

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23 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe election rules eased
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