The continued violence makes any chance of a peaceful runoff election “almost impossible”, they say. When President Thabo Mbeki visited Harare last week, the team’s leader, Lt-Gen Gilbert Lebeko Romano, briefed him on their findings. The violence intensified after it was confirmed that President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF had lost to the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the March 29 poll.
Senior members of the investigating team said their findings were “alarming” and that most of the violence was state sponsored, although the opposition had also retaliated. “What we have heard and seen is shocking. We have heard horrific stories of extreme brutality and seen the victims,” said one of the generals. “We have seen people with scars, cuts, gashes, bruises, lacerations and broken limbs, and bodies of those killed. It’s a horrifying picture.”
The generals’ report will soon be given to Mbeki, who will decide whether to publish it. Since it lost the elections, Mugabe’s regime has launched a crackdown in a bid to win the expected presidential election runoff. Opposition and human rights activists, trade union leaders, lawyers and journalists have been arrested during the past three weeks.
Yesterday police briefly detained US, British, Dutch, Japanese and Tanzanian diplomats and journalists in Glendale outside Harare while they were visiting scenes of political violence. Human Rights Watch last week accused the army, deployed nationwide, of creating a climate of fear and of committing human rights abuses. The military has denied this.
The incident which has shocked the investigators most happened at Chaona village in the Chiweshe area last Monday. A Zanu PF MP is believed to have led an armed gang of 45 in an attack on MDC activists, leaving four dead. Three other victims died later and at least 50 people were seriously injured. “It was a ferocious onslaught on the village. We have never seen anything like that before. The village is still in a state of shock and we now live in fear,” said an eye – witness at the Avenues Clinic in Harare, where some of the victims have been admitted.
The team of generals has met government, Zanu PF and opposition officials, civil society leaders and other interest groups. Mbeki is understood to have been “shaken” by what he was told, and it is hoped he will press Mugabe to curb the violence and to ensure that the runoff is held in a secure environment.
While Mugabe agreed that violence should end, he complained that the MDC was behind some incidents. Sources say Mbeki is convinced that a runoff cannot take place in the tense climate. His envoy on Zimbabwe, Kingsley Mamabolo, highlighted these concerns even before he travelled to Harare last week. The MDC claims 32 of its activists have so far been killed. MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said yesterday that political violence has reached alarming levels.Post published in: Uncategorized