The Presbyterian church in Zimbabwe has appealed for an end to violence in the run-up to the country's elections. In a statement issued yesterday, the church said: 'Despite our repeated calls over the last 18 months, and those of other churches and much of the democratic world, for an end to the violence and intimidation and a return to the rule of law, it is obvious that the ruling party continues to use every means at its disposal to ensure that it remains in power, no matter what it costs the country or the individual Zimbabwean." While the church notes that the violence has not always been one sided, it says most attacks are being carried out by uniformed forces of the the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) party. The statement says: "We continue to witness the illegal use of political thugs to intimidate the entire voting public. Passing of 'fast- track' legislation's such as the Electoral Act, which effectively disenfranchises many Zimbabweans, and removes many of our hard won constitutional rights to speak, gather and move freely in our land all in an attempt to get unfair political advantage. It condemns the use of: "illegal road blocks, the demand for party cards, the closure of schools and churches, forced attendance at political rallies, and the existence of 're-education' base camps." It also points out the illegality of restrictions on political meetings, the treatment of the European Union delegation and the clampdown on the media. "Even in the voter education process, we are receiving information that voters in rural areas are illegally being forced to put their mark on what appear to be copies of original ballot papers rather than the current ones with fictitious names and symbols" it says. The statement concludes: "We call upon all Zimbabweans to be courageous in the knowledge that your vote is a secret and urge you to exercise your constitutional right to choose the leader of your choice. May the God of Peace grant us Peace of His son Jesus Christ in the days ahead."
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