MDC says 50 killed in violent attacks

A month before a presidential election run-off, Zimbabwe’s opposition said on Tuesday conditions were not conducive for a free and fair poll, but still expressed confidence it would oust Robert Mugabe.

“Access to the state media is totally closed, holding rallies is almost impossible and we had to appeal to the high court to get an order to hold our last two rallies,” Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) chief spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said.

“As of yesterday [Monday], at least 50 of our supporters had been killed in violent attacks. The perpetrators of this violence have devised a new strategy where they abduct key members of the party, and after some days you find the victims dead.”

He said hundreds of party supporters had fled their homes following attacks by ruling-party militants.

“Our supporters are being displaced in rural areas and key players have been abducted and killed, rendering our campaign crippled, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the army are working in cahoots to advance the cause of Zanu-PF,” Chamisa said.

“But despite all the disadvantages, our candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, will win the election. Our campaign is code-named ‘Let’s Finish It’ and we are saying all these things are birth pangs as we move into a new Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai won the initial election on March 29 but failed to garner enough votes to avoid a run-off, according to disputed figures compiled the by the official electoral commission.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, launched his campaign for the run-off on Sunday, accusing Tsvangirai of seeking to return the country to colonial rule.

The 84-year-old blamed his poor showing in the first round on divisions within the ruling Zanu-PF party and urged his supporters to set their differences aside and rally behind him.

Increased observer mission

Meanwhile, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is to send a beefed-up observer mission for the run-off election next month to ensure “greater transparency”, Angola’s Foreign Minister was quoted as saying on Monday.

Tsvangirai has been lobbying the 14-nation SADC to send more observers to ensure a fair run-off against Mugabe.

Speaking to state news agency Angop, Angola’s Foreign Minister, Joao Miranda, said SADC planned to increase the number of its observers.
The organisation sent 120 observers to the March 29 first round.

“We have in perspective increasing the number of observers to the presidential run-off set for June 27 so as to assure greater transparency and trust in the process,” he said.

Angola heads the security and defence committee of SADC.

The disputed first-round of voting in Zimbabwe has been followed by violence that the opposition claims is designed to rig the run-off.

No Western monitors were allowed to oversee the first ballot and teams from SADC and the African Union were widely criticised for giving it a largely clean bill of health.

Rights groups and the United Nations have said the attacks are being directed mainly at followers of Tsvangirai’s party, with pro-government militias accused of a campaign of terror in the countryside.

Tsvangirai set a number of conditions for his participation in the run-off, including the deployment of international monitors. He had also called for peacekeepers from SADC.

Returning to Zimbabwe on Saturday after a more than six-week absence spent lobbying SADC leaders, he called for peacekeepers and monitors to be deployed by June 1.

“You can’t have peacekeepers and observers two weeks before an election; they will not be of any benefit.”—AFP

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