/ 15 May 2008

Zim eyes cross-party probes into violence

Zimbabwe’s government is to invite the opposition to form cross-party teams to probe acts of political violence in the aftermath of the country’s March elections, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told state television on Wednesday.

”Whenever there is a claim of an act of politically motivated violence committed, it should be very good that we form joint teams made up of the [ruling party] Zanu-PF and [opposition] Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] so that we can establish the veracity of these claims,” Chinamasa said.

It is the first time such an idea has been floated by the ruling party, which has been accused of orchestrating a campaign of terror against supporters of the MDC.

The MDC won control of the Parliament and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai also beat veteran President Robert Mugabe in a first round of voting. A run-off poll between the two men has been delayed until as late as July 31.

Zanu-PF’s political commissar, Elliot Manyika, also told state television that the ruling party did not want any more loss of life.

”We don’t want any loss of lives, particularly in this election,” he said. ”We are calling on everyone to desist from violence. In this country, there is law and order.”

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist since the country’s break from white rule in 1980.

Zimbabwean doctors, trade unions and teachers have reported beatings and intimidation by government-backed militias since the elections on March 29 and the MDC says 32 of its supporters have been killed.

The government has also intensified a crackdown against its political opponents with the arrests and detention of journalists, union leaders and opposition activists.

The call for an end to violence and offer to form cross-party investigation teams comes amid pressure from the regional body the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and the United Nations.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, chief mediator on Zimbabwe for the SADC, met with Mugabe last week for the first time since the disputed March ballot. — AFP