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Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chief Under Fire from Mugabe's ZANU-PF

Critics of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairman Simpson Mutambanengwe charged that at a recent elections symposium in Spain he accused ZANU-PF-linked war veterans of terrorizing rural dwellers

Further election-related tensions surfaced in Zimbabwe's power-sharing government this week as hardliners in President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF called for the removal of the country's electoral commission chief, who they accused of overstepping his authority and sympathizing with the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Critics of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairman Simpson Mutambanengwe, a retired judge, charged that he made a statement recently at an elections symposium in Spain accusing war veterans with close ties to ZANU-PF of terrorizing rural dwellers.

ZANU-PF sources said the hardliners also took exception to Mutambanengwe’s publicly expressed position that elections cannot be held this year due to a lack of funds for the ballot, saying he has no mandate to make statements on election funding or timing.

Mutambanengwe has repeatedly clashed with ZANU-PF over the issue of election timing. The former ruling party has demanded since late 2010 that elections be held in 2011.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that his party is concerned at Mutambanengwe’s conduct, confirming some in the party are calling for him to be sacked.

But Mutambanengwe denied making any statements accusing war veterans of terrorizing villagers, and insisted it is within his mandate as chairman of the Electoral Commission to comment publicly about the financial situation of his panel.

Bulawayo-based political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said Mutambanengwe is simply paying the price for doing his job in a professional manner.

Elsewhere, MDC formation leader Welshman Ncube said Tuesday that he is standing by his recent statement that the constitutional outreach process did not cover all relevant aspects of the revision, so many will have to be negotiated by the governing parties.

Ncube came under fire from ZANU-PF and the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai which said the outreach covered the majority of aspects of the new basic document, and that the will of the people would be respected in the drafting.

Ncube responded that the other parties in government are grandstanding, contending that they know the 15 issues covered in the talking points for the 2010 public outreach process do not provide enough detail to redraft the entire constitution.

He said the parties will have to fill in the gaps themselves.

Ncube told VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that the negotiations will soon be under way even though the unity parties don’t want to publicly admit this.