Civic group says poll monitors under siege

Simplicious Chirinda
HARARE - Zimbabwe's biggest elections monitoring civic group said on Friday that worsening political violence in the country did not allow for the holding of a free and fair presidential election run-off.

Zimbabwe is due to hold a second presidential election on June 27 after electoral authorities said opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai defeated President Robert Mugabe in a first round poll on March 29 but failed to muster more than 50 percent of the vote required to takeover power.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said scores of poll observers had been targeted in the political violence – blamed on ruling ZANU PF party supporters – making it difficult to monitor the second round election.

ZESN observers have been under siege from suspected ZANU PF supporters in various parts of the country. Observers have been abducted, severely assaulted and injured, ZESN chairman Noel Kutukwa told journalists in Harare.

Observers have been subjected to harassment and intimidation while homesteads and property have been destroyed, homesteads looted targeting clothing and food reserves.

ZESN, which deployed 8 667 observers throughout the country in the March 29 elections and was the first to project that both Mugabe and Tsvangirai would not be able garner more than 50 percent of the vote – said to date 185 of its observers had been displaced from their homes because of violence.

Political violence broke out in many parts of Zimbabwe almost immediately it became clear that Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party had defeated Mugabe and ZANU PF in the March polls.

The MDC, Western governments and human rights groups have accused Mugabe of unleashing ZANU PF militias and the army to beat and torture Zimbabweans into backing him in a second round presidential ballot.

The MDC says 32 of its members were killed in the violence while thousands others have been displaced.

However, the government denies committing violence and says it is the opposition that has carried out violence in a bid to tarnish Mugabe’s name. – ZimOnline.

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