Civil and human rights groups predicted more chaos and violence after Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off takes place, saying on Tuesday they do not believe President Robert Mugabe will step down if he loses.
However, it is ”critical” for the election to go ahead so a winner can emerge, Gorden Moyo, from the civil rights group Bulawayo Agenda, told reporters in South Africa.
”Mugabe will not transfer power to the winner,” he predicted.
Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s longtime ruler, will face opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the run-off, which is scheduled for June 27.
Rights groups and opposition supporters have criticised widespread violence and intimidation in the run-up to the vote, and there are widespread fears that Mugabe will try to steal the election.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says more than 50 of its supporters have been killed and thousands driven from their homes, especially in rural areas.
Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Jenni Williams, Magadonga Mahlangu and 12 other activists from the organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise.
The women were arrested May 28 after holding a peaceful demonstration in Harare.
The women have been denied bail and are been kept in harsh prison conditions, the London-based watchdog said in a statement.
”Zimbabweans are going through difficult times going into these elections. They don’t know what happens after,” Moyo said. ”We believe that the Zimbabwean people are ready to vote. But we are not sure the structures of violence will be dismantled before that.”
Gabriel Shumba, a lawyer who went into exile in South Africa after 2001 when he was abducted and beaten by security forces, said conditions in Zimbabwe were worse than before the first round of voting, on March 29.
He called for the urgent arrival of observers from the region and the African Union.
There have been calls for more elections observers from the Southern African Development Community to be allowed into Zimbabwe. Observers are expected to arrive in Zimbabwe on Sunday.
‘A big let down’
The groups in South Africa expressed outrage at Mugabe’s attendance at a UN food summit in Rome. Mugabe addressed the summit on Tuesday, defending a policy to transfer land from white Zimbabweans to black Zimbabweans — at times
violently — that others have blamed for his country’s economic collapse.
He also accused Western countries of trying to topple him.
Mugabe’s appearance ”is a big let down”, said Japhet Ncube, deputy secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union, adding that they were calling on workers in Europe to protest against Mugabe’s presence.
Attorney Arnold Tsunga said human rights lawyers and those defending opposition supporters were increasingly coming under threat.
He said human rights lawyer Andrew Makoni had to be driven to South Africa in the middle of the night when he received death threats.
Makoni has been given refuge by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which expressed concern at the targeting of lawyers by Zimbabwe’s security forces.
”When the most prominent, the most active and the most courageous human rights lawyers are targeted and forced to flee, you know that you’re dealing with the most grotesque forms of impunity,” Nicole Fritz, the centre’s director, said in a statement. – Sapa-AP