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Violence ruins chance of free Zimbabwe poll

Resource type: News

Business Day (South Africa) |

Original Source Increasing levels of political violence have extinguished hopes for a free and fair presidential run-off election in Zimbabwe at the end of the month, Human Rights Watch warned today. “Since the runoff was announced, the violence in Zimbabwe has gotten even worse,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, following the release of a report detailing incidents of abductions, beatings, torture, and killings of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters. “Zimbabweans can’t vote freely if they fear their vote may get them killed.” The New York-based organisation said it has recorded at least 36 politically motivated deaths and 2,000 victims of violence since the first round of polling at the end of March. According to the report, President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party had embarked on a politically-motivated campaign of looting and destruction, slaughtering animals, stealing food and property, and burning down homesteads. “‘War veterans’ and youth militia have set up roadblocks and taken control of huge swathes of the countryside in order to limit the flow of information on the extent of the violence and to punish those perceived to have voted for the MDC,” says the report. Human Rights Watch said senior-ranking army and police officials were found to be extensively involved in the violence. “ZANU-PF and its allies have also established torture camps, and organized abusive ‘re-education’ meetings around the country to compel MDC supporters into voting for Mugabe,” read the report. “Hundreds of people have been subjected to severe beatings, with logs, whips, bicycle chains, and other forms of torture during these meetings and at the camps.” The rights group urged the African Union and South African Development Community to insist on full accountability for politically-motivated crimes committed in Zimbabwe. “AU and SADC leaders should not turn a blind eye to the serious abuses taking place in Zimbabwe,” said Gagnon. “They should make it clear to Zimbabwe that they won’t endorse the elections and the result unless the government takes immediate measures to end the violence and other abuses.” Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai square off on June 27 after an inconclusive first round of voting which also saw Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front lose control of parliament.

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