Zanu-PF struggles in partial vote recount

President Robert Mugabe appeared unlikely on Saturday to win back control of Parliament in a partial vote recount after a police crackdown on members of the opposition, which accuses him of stealing the poll.

About 13 seats have been recounted so far. Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF must win nine of 10 remaining constituencies to take back control of Parliament, according to figures from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the state-run Herald newspaper reported in its online version on Saturday.

On Friday, Mugabe resorted to strong measures used in the past to keep the opposition in check, in what Human Rights Watch said was a stepped up ”campaign of organised terror and torture against opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans”.

The government denies it is waging a violent campaign.

Armed riot police raided the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and detained scores of people in the toughest measures against the MDC since disputed elections last month, officials said.

Angola said a Chinese ship with arms bound for Zimbabwe would be allowed to offload some cargo, but not the weapons, in a move that appeared to mark a shift in policy by neighbours, South African President Thabo Mbeki in particular.

The MDC says its leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat his old foe Mugabe in the March 29 election, and results showed it had also ended the ruling party’s 28-year hold on Parliament.

A delay to the presidential result and a recount of some parliamentary votes has brought growing international pressure on Mugabe (84) and stoked fears of bloodshed in a country already suffering an economic collapse.

Former colonial power Britain, which Mugabe blames for Zimbabwe’s troubles, requested a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the first session on the post-electoral crisis in Zimbabwe, said a Western diplomat.

South Africa’s UN envoy Dumisani Kumalo said his country would not oppose the move. He said someone from the UN secretariat would brief the 15-nation council, probably on Tuesday, on developments in Zimbabwe.

The Western diplomat on the council said any action in the form of a statement or resolution was unlikely. But the meeting would be useful in increasing pressure on Mugabe, who the MDC accuses of delaying results of the poll to rig victory.

Torture allegations

Zimbabweans face severe shortages of basic goods and a staggering inflation rate of 165 000% — the world’s highest.

Dozens of riot police detained around 100 MDC supporters who were taken away in a crowded police bus, a Reuters witness said. The MDC said 200 to 250 police took part in the raid and they also took away computers used by the election command centre.

An MDC statement said armed police took away hundreds of people who had sought sanctuary at the party’s headquarters after fleeing various parts of Zimbabwe, ”where the regime has been unleashing brutal violence”.

Police said the raid had targeted people who had sought refuge with the opposition after committing crimes outside Harare.

”Some of them are not office workers at all. We are busy screening them. There are some cases we are investigating and we will release those who have not committed any crime,” said police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented a pattern of increasing violence by Zanu-PF militias and the military.

”For example, one MDC supporter from Uzumba, Mashonaland East province, told Human Rights Watch that Zanu-PF militia members had cut off his ear,” it said in a press release.

But the organisation also said MDC supporters had hit back.

”For the first time since the post-election crackdown in Zimbabwe started, Human Rights Watch has documented several incidents of retaliatory violence by MDC supporters,” said Human Rights Watch, adding the scope of the incidents bears no comparison to state-sponsored violence.

Mugabe, a hero of the independence struggle, accuses the opposition of conspiring with Western critics to end his 28-year rule, which began with high hopes that Zimbabwe would become an African model of democratic and economic success.

Opening Zimbabwe’s international trade fair in Bulawayo on Friday, Mugabe renewed his attacks on Western foes for leading what he called a shameless campaign against his government.

The Herald called African leaders ”myopic stooges” for joining Western criticism of Zimbabwe’s handling of the election. – Reuters 2008

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