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Zimbabwe Presidential Contest Heats Up As Contenders Sharpen Rhetoric


Political temperatures were rising in Zimbabwe Monday, five days ahead of national elections, as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation of Morgan Tsvangirai, a presidential candidate, charged that the government printed nine million election ballots although there are only 5.9 million eligible voters.

The Tsvangirai formation of the divided MDC said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission failed to come up with an explanation for the alleged mass overprinting of ballots.

The three main presidential candidates were all on the campaign trail Monday.

President Robert Mugabe was stumping in Hwange, Matebeleland North Province, opposition challenger Tsvangirai was in Guruve, Mashonaland Central, and Simba Makoni, a former ruling party official, was in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West.

The presidential hopefuls have sharpened their rhetoric in attacks on each other. Mr. Mugabe in Hwange reiterated his charge that Tsvangirai is a British puppet and said the MDC founder would never be allowed to govern.

Tsvangirai in Guruve accused Mr. Mugabe of ruining Zimbabwe and predicted that the 84-year-old incumbent will be voted out of power.

Makoni, addressing a rally in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West, accused both Tsvangirai and Mugabe of deliberately misleading voters about his candidacy.

"Morgan Tsvangirai is going about telling people that I am a ZANU-PF creation and that I am being used by Mugabe, well that is not true and the electorate cannot be fooled," Makoni told the crowd, speaking in Shona. "Mugabe on the other hand is going about telling people that I am a British puppet and I will take the country back to the former colonizers. Let me assure you those are lies."

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the electoral commission has not responded to questions about how many blank ballots have been printed, among other issues.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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