/ 6 May 2008

MDC says 24 killed as SA probes poll violence

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said on Tuesday that four more of its members had been killed by supporters of President Robert Mugabe in nearly a month of post-election violence that is being investigated by South African officials.

Shepherd Mushonga, an MDC member of Parliament for Mazowe Central, said four MDC members had been killed in Chiweshe, 100km north of Harare, on Sunday night after being beaten by youth militia loyal to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Mushonga said that the youths went from door-to-door looking for MDC members and that several other people had been hospitalised with injuries following the attack.

It was not possible to immediately verify the report, which the MDC says brings to 24 the number of people from within its ranks killed in revenge attacks by mainly Zanu-PF youth militia and soldiers following Mugabe’s defeat in March parliamentary elections.

The MDC defeated Zanu-PF in the 210-seat House of Assembly. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai also took more votes than 84-year-old Mugabe in the presidential election, but not enough for an outright win.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is expected to announce a date for a run-off between the two leading candidates in the coming days. Mugabe has said he will participate but Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, which insists he won decisively, has yet to announce whether their man will partake.

A senior MDC official said on Tuesday that Tsvangirai would contest the run-off but that the party wanted to bring international pressure to bear on Mugabe to rein in his supporters first. The MDC claims Mugabe’s supporters want to brutalise people into supporting him in a second round.

A team of South African officials led by Local Government Minister Sydney Mumafadi arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday night to investigate the violence.

”They are already here and they are busy conducting wide-ranging interviews. This is not going to be a selective process. They are going to talk to all relevant players,” William Geerlings, first secretary at the South African embassy in Harare, said.

The African Union were also due to discuss the Zimbabwean crisis at a two-day meeting in Tanzania’s northern town of Arusha starting Tuesday, the country’s Foreign Minister Bernard Membe confirmed.

Meanwhile, in a sign of the country’s deepening economic woes, the central bank on Tuesday introduced two new banknotes — a Z$100-million and a Z$250-million.

The new notes come barely a month after the Reserve Bank launched what has been until now the largest single note – Z$50-million.

With inflation now running at over 165 000%, Zimbabweans get little change out of two Z$50-million for a single loaf of bread.

Zim should accept observers now

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called on Tuesday for international observers to be sent to Zimbabwe immediately if a second round of voting is to stand any chance of being legitimate.

”For a second round to be considered free and fair, there must at least be an immediate end to violence and international observers must be put in place now, well ahead of the vote itself,” he said.

Miliband said at least two people had been murdered and 500 beaten in violence in Zimbabwe since the undecided presidential election five weeks ago.

Miliband said he had ”little faith” in the figures released five weeks after the election by Zimbabwean authorities which gave Tsvangirai 47,9% of the vote to 43,2% for Mugabe.

The authorities had been allowed to ”contaminate” the results, Miliband said. – Sapa-DPA, AFP