/ 30 October 2009

New terror fear in Zim

The widening rift between Zimbabwe’s ”parallel governments” has raised the spectre of renewed political violence in the country.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it was receiving an increasing number of reports from its rural supporters of attacks by Zanu-PF militia, much of it in the largely Zanu-PF Mashonaland West and East provinces, Manicaland in the east and Masvingo in the south.

The party said Zanu-PF was launching the attacks in ”retaliation” for its disengagement from the unity government. The party also alleges mounting intimidation of its officials. On Saturday, armed police raided an MDC house, purportedly searching for weapons stolen from an army base in Harare.

Two MDC members of Parliament were detained overnight near Bulawayo, accused of involvement in the disappearance of the arms. They were later released without charge.

Days later, the party said, a member of staff was abducted on his way home, hours after what it called an attempted abduction of another official in Harare.

”We expect this to increase and escalate on a national level. We take this very seriously. We are possibly on the brink of another storm of persecution and intimidation,” said MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa.

Last week the MDC launched a boycott of Zimbabwe’s Cabinet in support of its demands for a raft of reforms. In response, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF this week announced a plan to ”replace” MDC ministers. This infuriated the MDC, which is looking to the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) troika on politics and security to help end the dispute.

Appointing his own ministers to posts allocated to the opposition under the political agreement would signal the end of the unity agreement, the MDC warned.

The SADC troika was expected to hold talks with the feuding parties on Thursday, but diplomats said it was unlikely the MDC would get what it wanted from the regional grouping — a summit of heads of state that would press Mugabe to implement the coalition deal fully.

Regional leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, do not believe the stand-off is beyond resolution by the Zimbabweans themselves.

The region appears fatigued by the Zimbabwe crisis. SADC secretary Tomaz Salomão has suggested to the MDC that its pull-out and its efforts to gather heads of state appear to be a plan to cast Zimbabwe as being ”a crisis in perpetuity”.

Further evidence of such impatience came from African Union Commission head Jean Ping, who said the AU would intervene only if it was convinced ”the country cannot sort out the dispute” internally.

With no real prospect of firm regional intervention, the divisions between the two centres of power have grown more visible.

The unity government’s failure to dismantle Zanu-PF’s structures of violence remains a real fear among opposition supporters and aid workers. Such fears have been sharpened by a new government audit report that reveals how Zanu-PF, through the Youth Ministry, illegally put 10277 youth militia on the government payroll in May last year.

The MDC appears not to have a plan B if SADC mediation fails.

”If the mediation fails, unfortunately we have to start preparing for elections,” Chamisa said, adding that such elections would have to be supervised by the AU and the United Nations.

But Arthur Mutambara, the third member of the coalition, who mediated in abortive talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai on Monday, warned that calling a fresh election would only lead to an eruption of violence.

”A fresh election after a pullout will be clearly unfree and unfair, and we all know what that means,” Mutambara said on Wednesday.

To dramatise the emergence of parallel government structures, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday overruled Mugabe’s decision to bar a UN torture expert from entering the country. Mugabe had denied Manfred Nowak access to Zimbabwe, but Tsvangirai went ahead and invited him.