Call for state of emergency over Zim violence

A pro-government rights outfit in Zimbabwe has urged President Robert Mugabe to consider declaring a state of emergency to stem a tide of post-election political violence, state media said on Wednesday.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Justice (ZLJ) said a state of emergency would help protect lives and property from violence that it blamed on opposition activists.

”In view of the current situation, ZLJ appeals to government and President Mugabe to consider the possibility of declaring a state of emergency to quell the disturbances,” said the organisation’s chief advocate, Martin Dinha, in a report carried by the Herald.

A state of emergency can be declared where a president feels that a country’s stability is threatened. Initially it is for two weeks and can be extended for up to six months with the approval of Parliament. The measure enables the authorities to arrest and detain suspects indefinitely as well as impose curfews.

Scores of people have been arrested in recent weeks over the violence, which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims has left 32 of its supporters dead, dozens injured and thousands displaced.

The MDC reported on Sunday that 32 activists had been killed and another 30 were unaccounted for. The government has in turn accused MDC activists of fomenting violence and carrying out arson attacks.

A report on Zimbabwe state television on Sunday said that 58 arrested MDC activists had been involved in violent clashes that left seven people in hospital and destroyed four houses and a tractor belonging to members of the ruling Zanu-PF.

Warning of crisis

The United Nations warned on Tuesday that levels of post-election violence in Zimbabwe were escalating in urban and rural areas and could reach crisis proportions.

”These incidents of violence are occurring in communal farming and urban areas and there are indications that the level of violence is escalating in all these areas and could reach crisis levels,” Agustino Zacarias, the UN’s resident representative in Zimbabwe, told reporters.

He said most of the violence appeared to have been inflicted by supporters of Mugabe on suspected followers of the MDC, but the MDC had also carried out attacks.

”There is an emerging pattern of political violence inflicted mainly, but not exclusively, on rural supporters of the MDC,” he said. ”There are reports that MDC supporters are also resorting to violence.”

The diplomat said that aid workers, human rights activists and large numbers of civilians had also fallen victim to violence since the March 29 general election, when Mugabe’s party lost control of Parliament to the MDC.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai also beat Mugabe but fell short of an overall majority and the pair must now do battle in a run-off election, the date of which has still to be announced.

A South African contingent of eight regional election observers was in Zimbabwe last week, charged by South African President Thabo Mbeki to investigate claims of violence. Contingent head Kingsley Mamabolo said last Wednesday that the presidential election run-off could not take place given current levels of violence.

”We have seen it, there are people in hospital who said they have been tortured, you have seen pictures, you have seen pictures of houses that have been destroyed and so on,” Mamabolo told reporters.

On Saturday, White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe said: ”If this is going to be a successful run-off, obviously that’s the first thing that has to happen: opposition leaders and their supporters must be able to freely campaign free of violence.”

Tsvangirai, who is threatened by treason accusations in his homeland, is expected in Harare this week after leaving the country in early April. He was to seek security assurances from the 14-member Southern African Development Community before flying back, his spokesperson said on Sunday. — AFP, Reuters

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