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Civic group begins voter education in rural areas
Simplisio Chirinda, ZimOnline
October 11, 2007

HARARE - A Zimbabwean political pressure group says it has begun an exercise to educate and enlighten voters in rural areas that are the backbone of support for President Robert Mugabe and his government.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC) says the campaign that began last weekend in the eastern Mtoko rural district will make use of music and other forms of pop culture to raise awareness among villagers and the youths on issues related to voting and elections.

CZC is a coalition of human and civic rights groups, churches, women's groups, the labour and the student movements campaigning for a democratic settlement to Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

Coalition's coordinator Jacob Mafume said: "It is essentially an exercise to look for alternative forms of communication to raise awareness on election issues.

"We want to use music, dance and street comic to teach people on how they can go about it in elections but the ultimate goal is to make sure that the rural electorate knows their rights when it comes to voting."

Rural constituencies have traditionally voted for Mugabe and ZANU PF and are expected to do so again in presidential and parliamentary elections next year despite a worsening economic crisis and food shortages gripping Zimbabwe.

ZANU PF attributes support from rural voters to what it says are its pro-poor policies and a long association with the villagers who backed its guerrillas during the 1970s war of Zimbabwe's independence. However, some analysts say the ruling party has also largely benefited from some rural voters' ignorance about their rights.

Mafume said CZC campaign was aimed at educating voters about their rights only and not canvassing for support for any political party.

He added that a diverse crowd of people attended the music concert at Mtoko which he described as a "pilot project" to see how the group could inform and educate voters ahead of next year's polls.

The Harare administration has in the past accused civic groups such as the CZC of using voter education as a pretext to campaign for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.

However, a law passed by Parliament that would have made it illegal for civic groups to carry out voter education never made it into the statute books after Mugabe withheld ascension.

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