Friday, June 20, 2008

Zimbabwe TV drops opposition adverts

Zimbabwes public broadcaster, ZBC has said it will no longer carry campaign adverts from the opposition party ahead of next weeks presidential election.

The Movement for Democratic Change said it would appeal against the decision.

Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, defended the move saying international coverage favoured the MDC and never reported the ruling Zanu-PFs position.

Earlier, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, expressed concern over the political violence in Zimbabwe.

Adding his voice to growing international concern, he said the violence in Zimbabwe could undermine the outcome of the June 27 run-off vote.

Violence, intimidation and the arrest of opposition leaders are not conducive to credible elections,” he told the UN General Assembly in New York.

The MDC said 66 of its supporters had been killed and 25,000 forced to flee their homes in a state-sponsored campaign of violence.

The BBC reported on Thursday that the ban on adverts would not make a great deal of difference, as news bulletins at the state-run ZBC had always favoured Mugabe, only mentioning the opposition in negative terms.

There are no privately controlled radio or TV stations in Zimbabwe and only a few weekly newspapers, which most people cannot afford.

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is due to chair an informal UN Security Council meeting on Zimbabwe later on Thursday in an attempt to maintain international political pressure.

On Wednesday, South African President Thabo Mbeki spent his 66th birthday continuing his efforts to mediate between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

He held separate talks with both presidential candidates as pressure mounted on Mugabe to curtail political violence ahead of the poll, but released no statement on the talks.

The MDC has criticised Mbekis policy of quiet diplomacy” for failing to hold Mugabe to account.

Official results show Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, gained the most votes in the first round of the presidential election in March but did not pass the 50 per cent threshold for outright victory.

A senior UN official, Haile Menkerios, earlier met President Mugabe to discuss the political stand-off and what the UN said was the increased suffering of an already vulnerable population.

The UN is prepared to pay to fund election monitors to oversee the run-off vote.

South Africa is opposed to the Security Council having too much involvement, the BBC reported from the UN.

Pretoria argues that it is not for the council to resolve disputed elections.

Earlier, an African poll observer warned that he would not endorse the vote if current levels of violence continued.

Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliamentary observers, told the BBC his team had received horrendous reports of attacks and that the political environment was not conducive to a free poll.

Thousands of opposition supporters have been beaten or worse

But with the vote just days away, there is a growing sense of urgency with political violence beginning to spread from the countryside to the towns, says the BBCs Peter Biles in Johannesburg.

Mugabe has been waging a fierce campaign to extend his 28-year rule since Tsvangirai failed to win enough votes to score an outright victory in Marchs disputed first round.

Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has called for an international peacekeeping force to be deployed in Zimbabwe to ensure a free and fair vote.

It is time for the leaders of Africa to say to President Mugabe that the people of Zimbabwe deserve a free and fair election,” he said.

Rwandas President Paul Kagame has also criticised Mr. Mugabe, asking why he bothers holding an election, if he says he will not respect the outcome, reports the Reuters news agency.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he has spoken to the leader of South Africas governing African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, about the possibility of deploying 1,000 election observers from the ANC.

Western observers have been banned, as the government accuses them of being biased in favour of the opposition.

The government has also said it wants to reduce the number of local election monitors, after 50,000 asked for accreditation.