Zimbabwe: Violence increases ahead of by-election, NGO report

JOHANNESBURG, 13 February (IRIN) - Human rights groups in Zimbabwe have voiced concern over an increase in political violence in the run up to a parliamentary by-election in the Harare suburb of Kuwadzana over the weekend of 29-30 March.
In its latest report, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum alleged that politically-motivated violence had increased in several parts of the country during the month of January, "with a substantial number of human rights abuses being recorded in Kuwadzana".

The seat fell vacant following the death in custody of Learnmore Jongwe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Member of Parliament in October last year.

The report, released on 10 February, alleged that supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF "had stepped up organised violence and torture in the area" following the death of ZANU-PF member Tonderai Mangwiro in a petrol bombing.

Mangwiro reportedly died from burns and severe head injuries he sustained when suspected MDC supporter's petrol bombed a ZANU-PF base in the area in late January.

Since then, about 30 MDC members have claimed that they have been abducted, detained, tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment by the police and Central Intelligence Organisation, the report said.

The by-election is expected to test whether the ruling party has made any in-roads in Zimbabwe's urban areas. The MDC won all the 19 seats in Harare and Chitungwiza in the 2000 parliamentary elections.

In January the MDC alleged that it had unearthed hundreds of phantom and non-resident voters in the Kuwadzana constituency in an audit that revealed 10,000 new names had been added to the voters' roll since the March 2002 presidential election. ZANU-PF has denied that it had fiddled with the register to ensure the party won the by-election.

The ZANU-PF candidate David Mutasa, a local businessman, is expected to challenge former student leader Nelson Chamisa who is a member of the MDC national executive committee for the seat.


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