Zimbabwe’s last white ruler struck off voter roll

Ex-Rhodesian PM Ian Smith, pictured in 2000. Smith died over five years ago, but has just been taken off the voters' roll. Picture: AP
Ex-Rhodesian PM Ian Smith, pictured in 2000. Smith died over five years ago, but has just been taken off the voters' roll. Picture: AP
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ZIMBABWE has finally removed the name of its last white ruler from its shambolic voters’ roll, 33 years after power was handed to Robert Mugabe.

Former Rhodesian premier Ian Smith is among the 345,000 dead struck off the roll ahead of elections that Mr Mugabe, 89, wants to hold in June, according to the state electoral commission. Mr Smith died in 2007.

His name was on the roll during the last elections in March 2008 – when Mr Mugabe was accused of using ghost voters to stop Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claiming outright victory in the first round of voting.

According to a tally released five weeks after polling, Mr Tsvangirai garnered more votes than Mr Mugabe but not enough to avoid a run-off. Zanu-PF militias unleashed a campaign of terror against opposition supporters, killing around 200. After standing alone in the second round, the president was forced by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to form a coalition with the MDC, in which Mr Tsvangirai now serves as prime minister.

Yesterday Mr Mugabe’s justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said the president had cancelled a request for poll funding from the UN after a team of assessors asked to speak with human rights groups.

Mr Chinamasa said: “We remain alert to any attempts to manipulate, infiltrate and interfere with our internal processes and we are happy we have parted ways with them.

“The ball is back in our court and what we have to do is look for local resources to conduct our elections and that we have already started doing.”

South Africa’s reserve bank has not confirmed reports it has just granted Zimbabwe a £66 million loan.

Mr Mugabe had approved a request to the world body for up to £87m funding for the polls – but refused to allow the United Nations’ needs assessment mission to fly in from Johannesburg last week after hearing it planned to interview activists seen as sympathetic to the MDC.

Foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told the official Herald newspaper yesterday: “They wanted to be involved in our affairs but we know our needs and requirements.”

The UN Development Programme said in a statement: “In the course of deploying the mission to Zimbabwe it became apparent that there were different expectations on the modalities … [The team] is therefore not expected in Zimbabwe at the present moment.”

Mr Mugabe has been in power in the former British colony since independence on 18 April 1980 and will preside over a military parade to mark independence day in Harare today. Under a new constitution approved in a referendum in March he can stay in power for another ten years if he wins the next two elections.

Critics warn that Mr Mugabe plans to win forthcoming polls by playing on voters’ fears of violence – and making sure only Zanu-PF supporters can register as new voters. “It is a plan to intimidate and threaten citizens by drawing on past memories. The plan is already unfolding in targeted constituencies,” said Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition researcher Phillan Zamchiya in a report released last week. “There will still be cases of violence, some spontaneous, others organised to target those who pose the greatest threat to Zanu-PF’s hegemony.”

Mr Tsvangirai wants the elections delayed until September.

Registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede, a close ally of the president, has meanwhile announced that voters can only be added to the roll if they can prove that both they and their parents were born in Zimbabwe. That excludes many white potential voters and those whose parents were born in neighbouring South Africa, Malawi and Zambia.

Mr Mugabe’s father Gabriel Matibili was born in Malawi but when two state-controlled radio announcers broadcast that fact during birthday celebrations for the president in February, they were fired.