SA Team Probes Zim Violence

A GROUP of former South African army generals is in the country to investigate reports of political violence which is reported to have escalated after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission last week released the results of the March 29 presidential poll.

 

The South African team, sent by President Thabo Mbeki and led by Lt General Gilbert Lebeko Ramano, a former army chief from 1998 to 2004, has been in the country since Sunday and has met government and MDC officials, civic society groups, and other stakeholders.

Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that the generals this week interviewed some of the reported victims of the alleged state-sponsored post-election violence.

The generals, the sources said, recorded testimonials from some of the victims which will be incorporated in a report they will compile for Mbeki.

This comes amid revelations by former South Africa ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kingsley Mamabolo, that there was political violence in the country. Mamabolo — who headed a South African contingent of regional election observers — told reporters in Pretoria on Wednesday that violence was rampant and the environment was not conducive for a presidential election run-off.

“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 said. “You cannot have the next round taking place in this atmosphere; it will not be helpful, it will create a whole lot of problems.”

Sources said Mbeki sent the army generals on the fact-finding mission after pressure mounted on him from the opposition alleging state repression and persecution against its supporters.

“The reports of violence that have been coming from the MDC and civic society in the past few weeks have pushed Mbeki into action,” one of the sources said. “He told a meeting of African religious leaders that he would dispatch a team to Harare to investigate these allegations of violence and within two days of that statement the team left to conduct the probe.”

The source said after meeting various stakeholders the generals would meet Mugabe before concluding their mission.

The probe comes in the wake of the MDC claims that over 30 of its supporters had been killed by state security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans.

The MDC alleged that political violence was at peak levels in Mashonaland Central where war veterans were said to have embarked on witch-hunting expeditions for suspected opposition supporters. However, the police on Wednesday dismissed the MDC claims as fabrications.

Wayne Bvudzijena, the police spokesperson, said one of the MDC polling agents the party claimed to have been murdered in politically motivated violence died from chronic meningitis, tuberculosis and clinical immuno-suppression. Bvudzijena said Clement Dube died at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo having succumbed to illness.

The police said a teacher in Guruve, Percy Muchibwa, whom the opposition party said had been killed, was alive.

By Nkululeko Sibanda