Zim to ban int'l observers?

Harare - Zimbabwe's government plans to ban foreign and independent local monitors from observing upcoming presidential elections, the state-run Herald newspaper said on Wednesday.

On the recommendation of Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, government plans to amend Zimbabwe's Electoral Act to allow only civil servants to monitor the polls, the paper said.

Last year, non-government organisations trained 24 000 monitors to observe parliamentary elections which were marred by widespread violence and intimidation during the campaign period.

At least 34 people were killed before the polls.

Chinamasa said in his recommendation that monitors trained by NGOs were not impartial because they received funding from overseas.

"The situation has been discovered to be undesirable, considering the fact that most non-governmental organisations are partial, foreign-funded, loyal to their funders, and therefore produce monitors who were partisan," Chinamasa said.

Chinamasa plans to propose the new measure when parliament resumes sitting on November 20.

The government has already refused to allow observers from the European Union and the United States to observe the polls.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change does not hold enough seats in parliament to block the amendment to the Electoral Act.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to pose the most serious challenge ever to President Robert Mugabe in the elections, expected by April 2002.

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