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With Political Tensions Rising, Zimbabwe By-Election Closely Watched

On the eve of a parliamentary by-election to be held Saturday in the Chiredzi South constituency in Masvingo province, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said the conditions for the ballot fall short of regional standards for democratic elections.

ZESN issued a report saying conditions in Chiredzi South violated the principles and guidelines set by the Southern African Development Community, a regional body.

Numerous reports have emerged of intimidation and political manipulation of food aid by ruling party officials. Local traditional chief Fortune Charumbira said “only ZANU-PF supporters” would be allowed to live in his area. Charumbira is also said to have told other traditional leaders to deny government food aid to opposition members.

ZESN issued a statement saying such declarations by government officials ahead of the by-election are unconstitutional and violate human rights.

Political analyst Farai Maguwu told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that such allegations have become standard in Zimbabwe elections.

Maguwu said the Chiredzi by-election is particularly significant because it may serve as a barometer for future ballots, including the next presidential election.

Reporter Safari Njema visited Chiredzi South this week and heard from residents that they hope candidates understand the need for an overhaul of local infrastructure.

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