Nation in turmoil A bleak outlook?

Ephraim Tapa's mistake was not hiding "vote no to violence" stickers and pamphlets urging people to vote in last month's election. They were spotted in the trade unionists' car by pro-government youth militia who abducted him and his pregnant wife, beat and tortured him for weeks, and were about to kill them when police raided the camp where they were captive.

Tapa is the president of the 2l,000-member Civil Service Employees' Association, and he sits on the general council of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). In free societies, people like Tapa are respected civil society leaders. Instead, he is the tragic face of a poll that most of the world has condemned as neither free and fair, nor legitimate.

When President Robert Mugabe was declared the winner on 13 March, he was re-elected after 22 years of rule since independence from colonial Britain in 1980. Now he has another six years.

But the poll was marred by two years of state-sponsored violence and intimidation, a partisan police force, unrelenting propaganda on public airwaves - the primary information source of most people - growing oppression in the form of harsh laws, and crack-downs on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and the independent judiciary and media.

These factors, and the inability of many people to vote on 9 and 10 March, led the 42-strong Commonwealth Observer Mission, headed by former Nigerian leader Gen Abdulsalami Abubaker, to conclude that conditions "did not adequately allow for a free expression of will by the electors", and even to suggest that Mugabe was not the popular choice.

Polling was also compromised by an array of irregularities, among them differences in the number of votes tallied in 120 constituencies and those officially announced, issuing new electoral rules until the last minute, slashing polling stations in MDC areas, disenfranchising masses of people, a chaotic voters' roll, accrediting only a few hundred local and foreign observers, and the arrest, harassment and beating of thousands of MDC supporters. There were even attacks on two international observer groups

Many African countries declared the poll legitimate, including South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia. But this was not the view of Ghana or Senegal, the mostly African Common­wealth, the African-Caribbean-Pacific group, the parliamentary mission of the Southern African Development Community, church observers, western nations, or local civil society groups. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai described it as "daylight robbery".

Pierre Schori, the head of the European Union observer mission expelled from Zimbabwe in February, wrote in The International Herald Tribune about his report to 15 EU foreign ministers, who went on to slap "smart sanctions" on Mugabe and some 20 colleagues. The US followed suit, and now sanctions are being widened to include other state, business, civic and church leaders close to the ruling Zanu-PF party.

"Compared with the parliamentary elections of 2000, violence is greater and has spread to urban areas. This time various government branches are interfering more brutally in favour of the President. Military top brass declared that they would not accept an election result that went against the revolution'. Freedom of the media and the right of citizens freely to express their views have been drastically restrained by new laws, just in time for the elections."

The Commonwealth's negative observer report persuaded its special "troika" - the leaders of Australia, South Africa and Nigeria - to suspend Zimbabwe for a year. The decision was informed by evi­dence of a tainted poll, the need for Commonwealth credibility and threats by the West to withdraw support for the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad)

Zimbabwe, wrote Uganda's New Vision on March 21, "failed the standard set, ironically enough, in its own capital. The 1991 Harare declaration committed all Commonwealth countries to certain basic principles. Democracy, human rights, judicial independence and sound economic management are some of the ideals Zimbabwe has failed to live up to."

But Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the sus­pension
meant "nothing, absolutely nothing" and Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said it
was based on "fundamentally flawed" conclusions of the observers.

A look at the measures that Mugabe employed in the 2002 poll led to the inescapable conclusion that he believed he could not win. The means used to ensure victory made the election undemocratic. The poll was held to avert international sanctions and seek a measure of legitimacy in the eyes of Zimbabweans and its country allies, not to reflect the will of the people or out of belief in democracy as the best form of governance.

The howls of protests over the election began months before the poll, and continued during and after it. In fact, the story of the "stolen" victory began years earlier.


The seeds of discontent with Mugabe, a Shona, were laid with his harsh clampdown on the Ndebele in Matabeleland in the mid-1980s: he feared an uprising against government. Between 8,000 and 20,000 people died before Ndebele leader Joshua Nkomo agreed to join a unity government with Mugabe, effectively ending political opposition.

Rising irritation in the late 1980s with the harsh effects of economic structural adjustments imposed by international financial institutions, with mismanagement, growing corruption and virtual one-party rule, fuelled opposition led by the ZCTU and rights and democracy groups.

The creation of an independent print media in the late 1990s gave voice to an opposition denied spacemen state airwaves, and along with economic decline and concern about moves to entrench Mugabe's power, helped to coalesce opposition. The MDC was formed in 1999.
The real decline began in February 2000 when the opposition won a referendum in which Mugabe sought changes to the constitution, and in June 2000 it won nearly 50 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections - although the President's right to appoint 30 of 150 MPs secured Zanu-PF controL

The lost referendum panicked a government unused to effective opposition, and Mugabe's response was to crack down on the opposition. He first moved against whites, almost all of whom support the MDC, with racist rhetoric and the state-sponsored invasion of com­mercial farms by "war veterans" and the land hungry poor, to whom the president looked for voting support.

Now, nearly all of the 4,000 commercial farms arc listed for expro­priation. Thousands have been invaded, farm workers displaced and hundreds beaten or murdered, and 10 farmers killed. Many of the seized farms have gone, not to the landless, but to top govern­ment officials, including Jonathan Moyo.
The invasions disrupted the most productive farming sector -it used to export surpluses - and combined with drought, halved Zimbabwe's maize crop and deci­mated its food supplies. Inflation and demand is pushing up informal market prices, and is putting food beyond the reach of millions.

Zimbabwe's economy is in tatters, having shrunk by 30 percent over the past two years due to bad management and instability. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost, and thousands of businesses have closed. The Zimbabwe dollar dropped from Z$ll to the US$ in 1997, to Z$55 on the official market and Z$350 on the black market Tourism collapsed.

Per capita incomes today are no higher than 30 years ago, and 25 percent below their peak. Real spending per head on education and health has declined, and life
expectancy plummeted to 40 years, largely due to HIV/AIDS infecting nearly a third of all adults.

But it has been violence against black Zimbabweans that has been Zanu-PF's greatest crime in the past two years.

Zimbabwe's Human Rights NGO Forum reports 30,000 incidents of political harassment and violence since March 2000, the overwhelming majority committed by Zanu-PF. There have been more than 120 killings, 42 of them since January this year, and 70,000 peo­ple have been driven from their homes.

Land invading "war veterans" became a Zanu-PF militia, tasked with harassing and beating farmers and their workers, and then expanding their remitto encompass members of the MDC in villages and towns.

They were joined by Youth Brigades, more than 20,000 jobless youngsters who were voluntarily rounded up and sent for military-style training in 120 camps. Many were promised money and jobs in the army for spearheading Zanu-PF's campaign.

Together, said Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee chair Brian Raftopoulos, they waged a terror campaign. "Scores of rural voters have been systematically tortured and subjected to traumatic politi
cisation referred to as'reeducation'. Illegal roadblocks are mounted through the country and this parallel justice system flourishes with the blessing of the state.

"The violence has involved killings, disappearances, torture, assaults, death threats, rape, arson, malicious injury to property and displacement. In excess of 500,000 cases of gross human rights vio­lations have been recorded from March 2000 to present"

Zimbabwe's security forces have mostly stood by and allowed intimidation of the opposition. The Commit­tee, and other civil society groups, blame Zanu-PF for more than 90 percent of violence.


Zanu-PF management of the pre-poll period heavily tilted the electoral playing field in its favour. The MDC decided to contest the election because most supporters wanted it to: "They said they simply could not survive another six years waiting to vote."

The MDC, local moni­toring groups-including the Zimbabwe Election Support    Network (ZESN), an umbrella group of 38 civil society organisations -and several international observer groups, judged the March 2002 poll to be seriously flawed for several reasons.  Lack of freedom to campaign, associate or express Violence against MDC supporters made it impossible for the party to campaign safely and openly in most areas: aside from rallies, it conducted a "whispering" campaign, distributed pamphlets at night and advertised in the independent print media. Government provided no security for Tsvangirai, despite death threats against him. He was arrested, his convoy attacked five times by Zanu-PF supporters, and he was shot at once by police.      

Said Raftopoulos: "Towards the end of 2001, in a bid to ensure that no party other than the ruling party was able to freely operate, the government fast-tracked a number of controversial pieces of legislation." This included the General Laws Electoral Amendment Act, Public Order and Security Act, and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The Public Order and Security Act gave the police sweeping pow­ers to ban meetings, arrest MDC campaigners and journalists branded as a threat to security or merely for "spreading alarm and despondency" if they criticised Mugabe or his government.

Along with the General Laws art, it severely curtailed freedom of association and expression for political parties, people and journal­ists. Some 83 MDC rallies were banned or disrupted by police or Zanu-PF supporters.

The law, says the MDC, was also used to harass its supporters and damage its campaign. "Political meetings and polling agent training workshops were violently disrupted. Party premises and property was destroyed. Many people were terrified to attend any political event. They were afraid to enter the MDC offices, own a party T-shirt or a red card."

For two years, independent journalists have been harassed, vilified and arrested. Offices of The Daily News have been attacked and its printing presses were destroyed in January 2001. The Access to Information and Privacy Bill, though signed after the election, cast a pall over the election. The government only accredited selected for­eign media. The opposition had no access to state media, which was relentlessly used for propaganda.

• Election administration

Zimbabwe's Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) was supposed to be independent, but was not. One of its commissioners and several top staff were from the military. The election was administered by Home Affairs and monitoring carried out by 20,000 civil servants and people drawn from 70 civic groups (all of them allied to Zanu-PF).

Although the General Laws Amendment Act was overturned by the courts, a few days before the poll the President used emergency powers to restore provisions that disadvantaged the MDC. During the election, government ignored a High Court order for an extra day of voting, only agreeing to re-open polling stations in the capital - and then only doing so at noon.

The ESC slashed the number of polling stations in urban areas, where the MDC has strong support, and increased them in rural areas, traditional Zanu-PF strongholds. This was done, the MDC points out, despite municipal elections being held simultaneously in Harare and Chitungwiza, where more than 880,000 registered voters had but 167 stations. By contrast, rural Gokwe constituencies gained 124 new polling stations.

The locations of polling stations were announced by registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede at the nth hour, making it difficult to deploy MDC pollingagents and delaying accreditation. Sobuza Gula-Ndebele, the retired army colonel who chaired the ESC, was unable to say how many ballot papers had been printed.

Civil society was excluded from the election for the first time and the ESC was put in control of voter education. Police arrested scores of MDC polling agents who were being trained in the weeks before the election.

Only 430 of the 12,000 domestic independent observers who applied were accredited, and only around 500 foreign observers from nations and groups Zanu-PF thought sympathetic to its cause.

• Voter registration and the roll

The voter registration process was chaotic, suspicious and it disenfranchised thousands of black migrant, white, Asian and coloured voters, and young people. Postal votingfor (mostly MDC-supporting) citizens abroad was disallowed. There were major irregularities, such as the printing of 1.5 million extra ballot papers, secret regis­tration of voters beyond March 3, and "correcting" of the voters roll.

The MDC was refused access to the final voters' roll - in contravention of electoral law - until the last minute. But an independent audit it commissioned of a January version of the roll found that only 50 percent of registered voters were living at addresses given: between 10-20 percent were living elsewhere in the constituency, the rest had emigrated, moved away, died or disappeared.

A random check of more than 500 people whose deaths had been registered since 1980 revealed that four-fifths were still listed as voters.

A major concern was a supplementary voters' roll that has never been made public. Some 400,000 people were registered between the end of January and March 3. The MDC claims it was used by Mugabe to
bridge the difference between him and Tsvangirai. "The voters' roll was Zanu-PF's master-stroke," said MDC activist Topper Whitehead.

• Polling station problems

The election's 4,689 polling stations were in public places, but were situated alongside Zanu-PF militia camps in several areas. There were reports of Youth Brigades, war veterans and pro-govern­ment supporters menacing voters, and of MDC agents being forced to leave stations.

In all, MDC agents were prevented from deploying in 40 percent of rural constituencies. During voting days, more than 1,400 opposition polling agents or assistants were abducted by Zanu-PF supporters and held by police.

Some 66 white farmers arrested for helping MDC monitors and agents, and later charged with corruption and possessing illegal radio equipment.

Other opposition agents and monitors, said the MDC, were "physically removed by Zanu-PF militia from stations, in full view of the police who did not protect them from attacks." Among the arrested were four US diplomats who were attempting to monitor the election.

"At least 52 percent of ballot boxes were not watched by polling agents for all or part of the time," giving Zanu-PF "unfettered opportunity" to manipulate voting in those areas".

Polling agents were also often not present at the counting station to verify their boxes as the last-minute Presidential decree meant they were unable to travel on vehicles transporting the boxes. Several support vehicles arranged to overcome this problem were impounded by police, burnt out or their drivers detained.

The cut in polling stations in Harare and Chitungwiza resulted in very long, stow queues. Large numbers of people were unable to vote, sparking outrage. Despite expectations of a high urban turnout, according to the ESC only 440,000 people in Harare were able to cast their ballots; the Registrar General says only 413,000 votes were counted in Harare.

• Claims of widespread rigging

Mugabe was declared the winner with 1,685,212 votes (56 percent) to 1,258,401 (42 percent) for his opponent. Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede said 3.1 million out of 5.6 eligible voters cast their ballots.

But the MDC alleges massive electoral fraud, saying that if figures allegedly used by ESC to inflate the votes for Mugabe were excluded, it would have won by a narrow 8,135 votes. The party believes 430,000 votes may have been miscounted, and that there was rigging in all of 120 constituencies.

In most areas there are big discrepancies between the numbers of votes that polling stations counted and the numbers announced in the results. The statistical breakdown of the number of votes cast in each constituency given to the MDC by the ESC differed sharply from figures later announced by Mudede. However, manipulation of the figures ensured the total national count issued by the commission and Mudede were identical.

For example, in the remote Gokwe North constituency, the count of votes cast was 19,141 less than the total count announced by Mudede. Yet the same number turned a loss for Mugabe into a 23,663 vote victory.

MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said that after voting ended on Sunday, Mudede announced a voter turnout - excluding Harare - of 2.4 million. "Yet after they started counting we were given a figure of 2.9 million, still without Harare. We believe the additional half a million were ballot papers stuffed into the boxes along the line."

one constituency, Tsholotsho, MDC agents counted 12,000 voters, but when the result was declared turnout "had somehow surged to 21,000". Several rural areas recorded very high turnouts - over 70% — particularly in Mashonaland where Zanu PF is strongest.

In Uzumea-Muraba-Pfungwe (73.5 percent turnout), Mugabe got 37,341 votes against 3,197 for Tsvangirai. But high turnouts belied the reports of journalists and independent observers, who reported election agents twiddling their thumbs in many rural stations, with only a few hundred voters on both days.

The party is investigating alleged switching of ballot boxes and the introduction of fraudulent ballot papers. In February, a police car that crashed was reportedly found with ballot boxes filled with votes.


Today, amidst continuing diplomatic activity to woo Zanu-PF and the MDC into a government of national unity in order to stave off international isolation and reduce political polarisation, thousands of people are in hiding, fearing for their lives.

Ephraim Tapa, 40, and his wife Faith, 25, are among them. He was beaten so badly that he could not see for a week, tortured and inter­rogated about the MDC at militia bases for three weeks.

The Tapas are visibly traumatised. Police have warned them to leave Zimbabwe as they will be hunted down by their abductors, who they are able to identify. "We are very, very lucky to be alive," he says. "It was horrible to feel so helpless. It feels sickening to have had a free Zimbabwe under black rule, and now to be deprived of the rights we fought so hard to win."

Zimbabwe bristles with roadblocks, although pro-government militia are overwhelmingly responsible for violence. They have been searching out people who assisted the MDC at the polls, and are harassing, beating and torturing them. There have been hundreds of cases reported.

Waves of violent retribution are washing across the country, and at least six people had died at the time of going to Press. The offices of Amani Trust, which helps victims of violence, are crammed post-election as they were before. "It is a witch-hunt. We have a human rights crisis on our hands and it is growing daily," said Amani's Frances Lovemore.

"We estimate that 10,000 to 30,000 people have fled their homes because of violence". Soldiers and youths' are going from hut to hut in remote areas with lists of people who served as MDC polling agents and other MDC officials".

A three-day strike called by the ZCTU to protest against the conduct of the poll was declared illegal by the police and flopped. The clampdown on the opposition has begun. On March 20, Tsvangirai was formally charged with treason after being accused repeatedly on state media pre-poll of plotting to assassinate the president.

The MDC's Ncube and shadow agriculture minister Renson Gasela have also been charged. They have all been released on bail, and will appear in court again on April 30.

The accusations are based on a discredited Australian television documentary.   apparently showing Tsvangirai trying to hire Canadian political consultants-who are now Zanu-PF's spindoctors - to kill Mugabe. Butthe video­tape   was   digitally manipulated, and Tsvangirai has sued the broadcaster.

The government has announced that it will seize 388 more white farms. On March l8, in Norton, farmer Terry Ford was bludgeoned to death by Zanu-PF settlers and supporters (before the election, Mugabe's sister Sabina is reported to have told Ford she wanted his
farm). Two days later, 10 farm workers were wounded by illegal set­tlers on a farm near Karoi and at least 50 farmers have been forced off their properties since the election. Colin Cloete, Commercial Farmers Union president, said "harassment, looting, eviction, extortion and political retribution have reached alarming proportions".

Two days before his inauguration, Mugabe signed the new media laws. Within weeks a Zimbabwean journalist was arrested while investigating allegations of violence against the opposition in Chimanimani - even though local journalists still have two months in which to seek accreditation from government

The future

The fear is that with Mugabe, 78, at the helm for another six years, Zimbabwe will slide deeper into repression and economic collapse. At his inauguration ceremony, attended by only five of 22 invited heads of state despite the poll's endorsement by many African nations, the President paid lip service to reconciliation but mostly reverted to lashing out at the west - particularly "No 10 Downing Street" - and the opposition.

Expressing joy at a "triumph for democracy and a "stunning blow to imperialism", Mugabe said that in re-electing him people said "loudly to those in Europe, no, no, never, never again shall Zimbabwe be a colony". He accused Britain of sponsoring Tsvangirai, 50, as he did throughout his election campaign.

He also announced intent to "greatly" speed up land reform and "indigenisation" of the economy: support for black farmers, companies and entrepreneurs, and the take-over of white commercial farms, and possibly privately owned businesses.

He pledged to grow the economy and tourism, fight HIV/AIDS, restructure the civil service and rid it of "sloth" - and especially those who did not support the government and were undermining its performance.

The independent and foreign media, and international community, have vilified Mugabe. The brilliant liberation war hero, who would have remained so in the eyes of the world had he stepped down timeously, argues that he is attacked because the west has imperialist ambitions for control of Zimbabwe, because of racist double standards, and because he is wresting control of prime agriculture and the economy from whites.

The media and the West have been harsher on Zimbabwe than most other African nations, as harsh as they were on apartheid South Africa. This is probably partly because of
ethnic identification with white Zimbabweans, although with only about 70,000 left in the country (less than l percent of voters) they are not a powerful political force.

But a stronger reason for Mugabe's pariah status is because under him democracy and freedom in Zimbabwe have gone backwards. Most other African countries are either slowly strengthening democracy or are wracked by internal or regional conflicts that, outside of military intervention and humanitarian aid, the world can do little to influence.

There was condemnation of alleged irregularities in Zambia's recent election, and Namibia's Sam Nujomo has not yet secured a fourth term.

Whatever double standards may be working against Mugabe and his government, there are many reasons to condemn their actions in the past two years, especially violence.

Elinor Sisulu, a Zimbabwean, writing in a South African magazine recently, railed against those who "dismiss the fuss over the violence". She referred to South Africa's argument that thousands died before its 1994 election, and to a South African observer's comment that Zimbabwe "is a Sunday school picnic compared to what happened in East Timor".

"The first democratic elections in South Africa and East Timor were the culmination of protracted and bitter struggles and violence was to be expected in that context. It is not fair that Zimbabweans, who paid a heavy price to hold their first democratic elections in 1980, should pay so dearly 22 years later," she wrote.

"There is no reason one single Zimbabwean should have died in the past two elections. It makes a mockery of the notion of democracy. The concept of a free and fair election has been stretched so far that for many Zimbabweans it has lost all meaning. That is why we hope and pray. with every fibre of our being, that tomorrow will be another country."                                         

Nation in turmoil A bleak outlook?

After a three-year economic decline, the result of Zimbabwe's presidential elections is not likely to solve the country's problems. Zimbabwean economist JOHN ROBERTSON looks at the situation.


The deeply distrusted result of a bitterly fought election is now generating its own problems, but while the power rests with the incumbent, little or no change can be expected from within the country and no direct investment can be expected from abroad.

Any challenge to the election results might yield results only after many months if no other forms of leverage are brought to bear, and for lack of options, powers such as the US and the UK have made South Africa the main target for this pressure.

One widespread belief holds that if he is not unseated by the challenges, Mugabe will find it necessary to take early retirement so that a new Zanu-PF leader who has a better chance of capturing aid can take office. As aid will be even more desperately needed by the end of the year when the next food crisis reaches its peak, and as Mugabe's contin­ued presence will be the country's most serious handicap, his own party might ask him to leave if he does not do so himself.

However, it is doubtful that any Zanu-PF successor would be trusted by foreign investors, and most of the possible choices would not even be trusted by the government's few remaining friends-A complete change of management would really be the best option. As things stand today, this option is not even on the map.

Unless the current administration can be pressed to meet conditions that the very same people have steadfastly rejected in recent years, it is almost certain that virtually all of the current distortions will be held in place.

What are the sources of most of the distortions? The most serious are state-sponsored attacks on property rights, a fixed exchange rate despite inflation at more than 100 percent, and interest rates at a quarter of the inflation rate.

On top of those, laws against trading foreign currency at any rate other than the official rate (which are happily broken for huge profits by well-connected officials), price controls and punitive labour retrenchment laws have made every field of business a battlefield.

Only a change in leadership personalities is likely to lead to a restoration of good working relations with international development agencies or donor countries. If, after such a change, the World Bank or the IMF do come in with facilities, they will still set very demanding conditions.

An extensive and continuing devaluation will be required, as will a rapid move towards positive real interest rates. Only after acting on these requirements will funding be made available.

As we have to assume that the leadership will not be displaced by moves like suspension from the Commonwealth or by visa restrictions on the political hierarchy, the more immediate international reactions are going to be of some importance. However, it would be hard to argue that they will have any   useful

If he remains intractable, Mugabe is likely to further distance the country from any useful support from everywhere other than possibly South Africa. Having spent the electioneering campaign insulting the IMF, the World Bank, the Americans and the EU, Mugabe has lit­tle prospect of attracting new foreign exchange inflows in any form. Further capital flight is more likely, together with outflows of skills. Insufficient food imports, and growing scarcities, resulting in no new investment or job creation.

If there are not some far-reaching changes soon, these pressures will rapidly leave the country more impoverished and the population more difficult to control. The exchange rate could easily collapse to Z$1000: $l and inflation could quickly rise to 500 percent while gov­ernment prints more money to pay the public service and to keep its power base intact.

As the need for foreign exchange rises, a further leap in the parallel market exchange rate and in the inflation rate will be a certainty, as will a further decline in export revenues. Government will then have to devalue further officially, and we will experience yet another rapid rise in inflation, more serious shortages and massive down­turns in employment

All of this will lead to increasing unrest as more and more people realise that Zanu-PF has no new answers.

Mugabe's conduct in the last three years has disqualified him from being able to claim the world's trust. But because nothing has reduced his authority within the system or his control over the security forces, we can expect nothing to improve quickly.

Coming on top of four years of willful destruction of productive capacity by the country's own government, the drought is only wors­ening an extremely serious situation and making good friends all the more vital.

At present. Mugabe's few remaining friends do not have the means to help, so he will soon be forced^to make way for better ideas. As Zimbabwe needs help with rebuilding confidence, with restoring essential institutions, with the recovery of lost production capacity and lost markets, and now with funds to import a million tonnes of maize this year — about Z$6o billion — our needs are extremely large. We cannot meet them ourselves and we cannot expect help from others without being deserving of that help.

To be deserving of help, Zimbabwe must fully restore the rights of its citizens and expunge from the statute books the discriminatory legislation that has destroyed the population's self-respect as well as the country's attractiveness as an investment destination.      


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