Talks have failed to break cycle of violence, says report

JOHANNESBURG - Politically motivated violence and human rights abuses are continuing in Zimbabwe despite talks between President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party and the opposition, local human rights groups have said.

The groups said in a report released at the weekend that 2007 has seen the worst violence, despite claims by Mugabe’s government that reports of politically motivated violence after March 11 – when talks with the opposition commenced – were false.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum contends that the year 2007 has been the worst and evidence to corroborate these allegations is available, the Forum said in its latest report chronicling cases of politically motivated violence in the month of September.

Mugabe and Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi last month dismissed as false claims by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party that its supporters were being victimised.

The Forum brings together 17 local groups involved in human rights work and assists victims of organised violence. It regularly publishes reports on politically motivated violence in strife-torn Zimbabwe.

The rights coalition said while there was a dip in violence in September compared to August, the South African-led talks between ZANU PF and the MDC had failed to break the cycle of politically motivated violence.

Politically motivated violence, and use of force by state security agents in Zimbabwe continued in September albeit at reduced levels compared to August 2007, the human rights coalition said in the report.

The Zimbabwean political parties have held several rounds of talks and last August agreed constitutional reforms that will see parliamentary elections brought forward by two years to be held together with presidential elections in 2008.

But analysts say South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki should urge Mugabe to end political violence and repeal tough security and press laws that have hampered the opposition from carrying out its political work if next year’s polls are to be free and fair.

The Forum said the month of September was characterised by a systematic wave of human rights violations against various groups of citizens with 29 cases of violations on the freedoms of association, expression and movement being recorded.

The overall total number of cases of violations on the freedoms of association, expression and movement recorded by the Forum from January to September 30 stands 2 333.

A total of 86 cases were recorded in September alone for unlawful arrest and detention against citizens who were demonstrating, attending meetings or simply belonging to an organisation that was deemed to be propagating information considered to be criminal by the police, the Forum said in the report.

The rights coalition also expressed deep concern at the harassment, intimidation and torture of students for daring to question the government on such issues as the availability, accessibility and quality of education in Zimbabwe. – ZimOnline

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