SADC urged to end Zim violence

12 August - Southern African Development Community leaders are urged to take tough stance to end violence in Zimbabwe at its summit in South Africa on 16 August, Human Rights Watch said.

A newly released report by HRW – ‘They Beat Me like a Dog’ – accuses ruling ZANU-PF of ongoing abuses, including killings, beatings and arbitrary arrests, militia and its allies against MDC supporters before and after 27 June presidential runoff election.

The report further accuses Zimbabwean government for little effort to dismantle the torture camps and bases established by ZANU-PF and its allies since the first round of elections on 29 March.

“ZANU-PF and its allies are still committing violent abuses, undermining the party’s credibility as a political partner,” said Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Mr Gagnon further said instead of focusing on quick political fixes, chief Zimbabwe mediator, president Thabo Mbeki and other SADC leaders should look for a durable solution, leading to end of human rights violations.

President Thabo Mbeki, who takes over the SADC chairmanship at the summit, has been trying to persuade president Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders to reach an agreement in make-or-break talks in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party warned power-sharing talks resuming on Tuesday risked collapse as it haggled with the opposition over roles in a new government. The talks are seen as the best chance to end a post-election crisis and raise hopes of economic recovery.

A report further said presence of torture camps and of armed ZANU-PF supporters, militias and war veterans highlights the precarious nature of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. “Ongoing tragedy has been exacerbated by an increasingly dire humanitarian situation,” said a report.

HRW further stresses that severe government restrictions on distribution of humanitarian assistance, including food aid by local and international agencies, have had a devastating impact on people in rural areas of Zimbabwe.

Giving an example, the report said a 70-year-old woman who was assaulted also witnessed the killing of her son, Gibbs Chironga, an MDC councilor, by ZANU-PF militia on 20 June.

“I am an old woman and they beat me like a dog, no, a wild animal. They insulted me; they beat me on the back and in the ribs. My only crime was that my son was an MDC councilor,” Human Rights Watch quoted her as saying.

“I am in great pain. Now my son is in the mortuary, I am unable to bury him. I will not be there when he is buried, if he is buried. I regret being alive. My life is ruined, my home is destroyed and my son’s life was taken in cold blood.”

HRW urged SADC leaders to insist on agreement between the political parties to a comprehensive programme of human rights reform prior to any final political agreement, and on obtaining measurable progress on human rights.

In the past four months, ZANU-PF and its allies have been implicated in the killing of at least 163 people and the beating and torture of more than 5,000 others. Thirty-two of these people were killed after 27 June runoff and two since ZANU-PF and the MDC signed a memorandum of understanding that paved the way for negotiations.

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