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Vol 49 No 5

Published 29th February 2008


Zimbabwe

A birthday at Beitbridge

Economic hardship and growing divisions in the ruling party give the opposition candidates a better chance in the coming elections

President Robert Mugabe, sure of victory in the presidential election on 29 March, chose to hold his 84th birthday party in Beitbridge. The party overlooked the border post through which hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans troop in search of food and jobs across the Limpopo in South Africa. The reason for this exodus - Zimbabwe's fast-shrinking economy - could help Mugabe's opponents to spring a surprise. That is earnestly believed by the two main opposition candidates: Simba Makoni, a former Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) politician, now standing as an independent; and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). With economic decline wrecking the lives of more than 95% of Zimbabweans, voting for change is a patriotic duty, they say. The government's Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) reports spiralling economic discontent across the country, even in ZANU-PF's base in the rural heartlands where the lack of basic commodities and farm inputs has shocked the most resilient Mugabe loyalists.

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