SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki last week confronted President Robert Mugabe on post-election violence after a probe team he sent to Zimbabwe uncovered shocking evidence of largely state-sponsored brutality against opposition supporters in rural areas.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that Mbeki raised “great concern” about the violence when he met Mugabe in Harare last Friday afternoon soon after receiving a brief on political violence from the investigators.
Mbeki was appointed by Sadc last year to facilitate dialogue between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC. The sources said the head of the probe team made up of ex-army generals, Lieutenant-General Gilbert Lebeko Ramano, met Mbeki for several hours and told him they had uncovered evidence of brutal violence against the opposition.
Ramano, the source added, told Mbeki that in a few cases members of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC were also involved in counter-violence.
The generals during their investigations met government, Zanu PF and opposition officials, civil society and other stakeholders. They also saw victims of the political violence, some of them with lacerations, scars and broken limbs.
The team reportedly declined to entertain police chief Augustine Chihuriâ€™s attempt to give them a colonial context of the situation obtaining in the country. Chihuri, the sources added, was reminded by the generals that their mandate in Zimbabwe was to probe current political violence.
Mbeki, the sources said, was shown some of the evidence of the violence and was reportedly shaken.
“After the briefing with the generals at the South African ambassadorâ€™s residence, Mbeki met Mugabe at State House for three hours and raised concern about the violence,” one of the sources said. “Mbeki reportedly told Mugabe that a run-off in an atmosphere of violence would produce a disputed result.
Mugabe, the sources said, agreed with Mbeki that the violence should be brought to an end, but tried to convince the South African leader that MDC youths were provoking his party members.
Since the Mugabe/Mbeki meeting, the Zimbabwe government and Zanu PF have been issuing statements deploring violence.
Police in Masvingo this week said they had dismantled political bases in the province that were being used to unleash violence, while Zanu PF in Mashonaland Central launched an anti-violence campaign.
On Wednesday Zanu PFâ€™s politburo met in the capital and also condemned violence. The source said Mbeki was convinced that a run-off could not take place in the tense climate.
Last week, his special envoy on Zimbabwe, Kingsley Mamabolo, also said the environment in Zimbabwe was not conducive for the run-off now expected about or after July 31.
On Wednesday Sadc â€” which is expected to monitor the run-off â€” said the political environment was not yet suited for a free and fair second-round poll.
â€œWe canâ€™t say the playing ground is safe or will be fair, but we are there to create a conducive environment for everybody to be confident,â€ Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao said.
Sadc is expected to hold an extraordinary meeting on Zimbabwe soon.
Political violence intensified in Zimbabwe after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) confirmed on May 2 that Mugabe and Zanu PF had lost to the MDC and Tsvangirai in the March 29 poll.
The sources said Mugabe told Mbeki during their meeting that the run-off would be delayed because ZEC needed funds to replenish election materials, among other logistics.
Mugabe reportedly told the South African leader that ZEC wanted to delay the run-off by at least six months.
â€œMbeki pledged to mobilise funds for the run-off,â€ another source said.
By Constantine Chimakure