Video secretly recorded by a Zimbabwean prison guard appears to show evidence of vote-rigging in the country’s recent presidential runoff election.
The footage, shot with a secret camera provided by the British newspaper The Guardian, was posted on the paper’s Web site Saturday. The paper said the guard had since fled the country with his family.
The video shows the guard being summoned along with other prison guards to an office at Harare’s central jail days before the June 27 runoff between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Once there, a supporter of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party instructs the guards to vote by postal ballot while he watches. The ZANU-PF supporter takes careful note of the guards’ ballot numbers and which candidate they vote for, and even helps a guard properly fold his ballot and put it inside the envelope.
“The atmosphere in the room seems benign, but it’s deceptive,” the voiceover says, adding that the ZANU-PF supporter “has the power to condemn them as MDC supporters.”
MDC is the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition party headed by Tsvangirai.
Allegations of vote-rigging in the election are not new, but evidence of it has been rare. The Guardian said the video is believed to be the first footage of vote-rigging from the Zimbabwean election.
According to the paper, the guard made the film to draw further attention to violence and corruption in Zimbabwe. He initially wanted to chronicle secretly life inside Zimbabwe’s jails but kept filming when he found himself present for the postal voting, the paper said.
He also filmed a compulsory meeting at the jail at which top prison officers instructed the guards whom to vote for, the paper said.
As the guards sit in rows of chairs, a man at the front of the room says, “Forward with ZANU-PF! Down with MDC!” Later on, the man says, “Tsvangirai, even if you vote for him, even if he wins, he will never rule this country.”
The paper says the guard worked for the prison service for 13 years but fled the country this week with his wife and children.
“I’ve decided to leave Zimbabwe,” he tells the camera. “It is a painful decision that I should leave.”
Asked about the Zimbabwe video, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that “there should be no question in anyone’s mind that Mugabe was not elected by the people.
“He used corruption, intimidation, and violence to keep this election from being free and fair, as the evidence seems to show every day. The international community should stand together in recognizing that the election was a sham, and Mugabe is not the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe.”
Tsvangirai dropped out of the runoff amid complaints of violence and intimidation, but his name and image remained on the ballot in what became a widely discredited one-man election. Mugabe claimed victory and was sworn in for a sixth consecutive term this week.
Mugabe has come under harsh international criticism for the election-related violence. The African Union this week stopped short of condemning him but urged dialogue between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
The opposition leader has rejected that call, saying conditions are not conducive to talks.
A draft resolution before the U.N. Security Council would impose U.N. sanctions on Mugabe and 11 senior members of his government.
The sanctions would impose a travel ban on Mugabe and the others, would freeze many of their assets, and would impose an international arms embargo on the regime.
The draft, circulated by the United States this week, expresses deep concern at voting irregularities, violence, and intimidation ahead of the runoff vote that it said made free and fair elections impossible.
Story courtesy of CNN.COM