Zimbabwe Violence Increasing


UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

The prospect of a second round of the presidential poll, even though the result has not been officially released, is leading to increasing tensions throughout Zimbabwe and the fear of greater violence.

“The situation is turning increasingly violent and this worries us, as well as the electorate,” said Rangu Nyamurungira, projects manager for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

Zimbabwe held combined presidential and parliamentary elections on 29 March, which saw the opposition win control of parliament from ZANU PF for the first time since the country won its http://www.wvwnews.net/story.php?id=3453 in 1980.

The opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has claimed its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidential http://www.wvwnews.net/story.php?id=3973 by the required 50 percent plus one vote, that if accurate, would negate the need for a run-off presidential ballot. However, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), whose executive is appointed by Mugabe, has yet to release the results.ZANU PF, which has ruled Zimbabwe since independence, has said there was no clear presidential winner and wants a recount in at least 21 constituencies where it says the party was prejudiced by ‘fraudulent’ counting. Seven ZEC officials have reportedly been arrested.

The recently amended Electoral Act does not provide a deadline for when election results should be announced, but the MDc has resorted to the courts to try and force the ZEC to release the results of the presidential ballot. The presiding judge has postponed judgment until 14 April.

“There is pervading fear that the delay in announcing the presidential results could be because the votes are being tampered with and we don’t believe ZEC when it says it is still verifying the results. The electorate has the democratic right to be informed about the results and the longer it takes, the greater the tension,” Nyamurungira said.

David Chimhini, the director of the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (ZIMCET), said there was “an ominous potential of the political situation getting out of hand” should a run-off ballot be held, which is likely to pit Mugabe against Tsvangirai.

Chimhini, who won the Mutasa North parliamentary seat for the MDC in rural Manicaland province, said ZANU-PF youth militia and war veterans were gathering in his constituency.

“The militia… are re-assembling and holding frequent meetings with war veterans. This is getting people in my area really scared, they are well known for violence,” he said. “They refer to a re-run as the beginning of another war.”

Nyamurungira said human rights lawyers were receiving reports from across the country of MDC supporters being “tortured by loyalists of ZANU PF and state agents who want to maintain the political status quo.”

Chimhini said despite a heavy police presence in both rural and urban areas, authorities might be overwhelmed should tensions reach boiling point.

“It seems he [Mugabe can’t come to terms with the fact that he can be defeated, and that is extremely dangerous. We might be going back to the [year 2000 scenario where… he unleashed soldiers on the people and invaded farms, leading to hundreds of deaths,” Chimhini said.

Intimidating the opposition

Takura Muzhingi, an MDC activist in former ZANU-PF stronghold Mhondoro district in Mashonaland West province, told IRIN he fled after a soldier accompanied by youths loyal to Mugabe visited him at his parents home. “They told me that my days were numbered since I had openly campaigned for Tsvangirai.”

Even though they did not beat us up, I still live with the fear and won’t venture out after dusk anymore. I hope that the situation will not degenerate into total chaos that would give the government the excuse to declare a state of emergency

“They said they had a full list of all the people in Mhondoro who were known MDC supporters and come campaign time for the re-run of the presidential election, they would make mince meat of us,” he said.

According to Muzhingi the soldier had paid regular visits to the local headman “telling villagers that when the re-run takes place, each village head will have to lead his people to the polling station and remind them who to vote for.”