ZimRights concerned at continued violence

HARARE There has been a sharp increase in arson attacks against supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirais MDC party since the former oppositions congress, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association has said.

In the latest of its Political Temperature Bulletins ZimRights said it had received several reports that suspected Zanu (PF) militia in Manicaland have raided scores of homesteads belonging to MDC supporters and burnt them down as punishment for not backing President Robert Mugabe.

Houses belonging to two MDC families in Mutasa Central families were set ablaze last week, the rights organisation said.

The suspected ZANU (PF) attackers left a note which partly read if you continue to talk about Tsvangirai, you will continue to do so in heaven, implying that they would be all killed). All the property of the victims was destroyed and they are currently in hiding, it added.

Police were not immediately available for comment on the matter, neither was Zanu (PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo. But the party, which maintains a stranglehold over the police, has in the past denied its members commit political violence, while accusing non-governmental organisations of falsely accusing the party of perpetrating violence and human rights abuses in a bid to tarnish its name and that of its leader, Mugabe.

Political violence and human rights abuses are on the rise in many parts of Zimbabwe amid growing tension between Zanu (PF) and the MDC-T over when to hold elections to choose a new government to end their tenuous power-sharing arrangement. Mugabe is fighting to have elections this year, which ZANU-PF is confident it will win after the partys loss to the MDC in 2008.

Tsvangirai has repeatedly urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to craft a “road map” that will set benchmarks for credible free and fair elections to end the tenure of the coalition, while avoiding the bloodbath of 2008 when more than 200 opposition members were killed in political violence.

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