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07 Jul 2004 14:50
Zimbabwe’s information minister blamed the main opposition for a damning report on human rights abuses in the country that was discussed ahead of an African Union summit in Ethiopia, state radio reported on Wednesday.
The report, compiled by the African Commission on People’s and Human Rights two years ago but released at the current summit, claimed there had been serious human rights abuses committed by the government of President Robert Mugabe.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo accused senior opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials of “attempting to smuggle a report and table it before the ongoing summit”.
“We know it was the likes of [MDC spokesperson] Paul Themba Nyathi, the likes of [MDC Secretary-General] Welshman Ncube” who are also responsible for the information contained in the report, Moyo was quoted as saying on state radio.
Political tensions are rising in Zimbabwe between Mugabe’s ruling party and the MDC ahead of parliamentary elections due in March next year.
Earlier this week Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge refused to discuss the report at the AU summit, which is due to end on Thursday, saying that it had been introduced in violation of procedures.
An official said in Addis Ababa on Wednesday that because of this the report was not likely to be tabled during the current session.
“The African Commission on People’s and Human Rights was expected to submit the report to all concerned parties. This has not happened.
Regulations were not adhered to,” he said.
On Tuesday, the MDC had welcomed the report’s exposure of alleged human rights violations by the government.
“We call upon the AU to take concrete steps to ensure that the Zimbabwean government corrects its appalling record on civil liberties, freedom of speech and human rights,” the party said in a statement.
But the information minister rejected the report, telling the state broadcaster that it had been clandestinely introduced by the opposition, whom he accused of working in concert with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“What you get here is a very telling example of the extent to which, unfortunately, some people who call themselves Zimbabweans… have gone [to] selling their country out, and doing this at the behest of Tony Blair,” said Moyo.
The archbishop of Buluwayo, Pius Ncube, separately slammed the AU’s apparent decision to back away from tackling the report during the summit.
“I heard yesterday [Tuesday] that the AU has failed to endorse the report because Zimbabwe said they have not seen it but they’ve had it for two years,” he said at a breakfast meeting in Johannesburg.
“That’s the sad thing about African leaders, they go there [to the summit] just to support each other.
“African leaders keep saying it is for the people of Zimbabwe to work it out. This is just an excuse for them. They fear facing the facts but they know very well there are so many injustices in Zimbabwe,” Ncube said.
Mugabe’s government accuses Britain of working with the five-year old opposition to topple his government, which has been in power since 1980. The MDC deny the charges.
A forum of human rights organisations in Harare has claimed the government was in fact given a copy of the report by the African Commission on People’s and Human Rights in February this year.
According to a statement released on Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said “the requirement by the African Commission to present the report to the [Zimbabwe] government… was adequately satisfied.” - Sapa-AFP
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