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Zimbabwe Election Watch Issue No. 11
November 21, 2007

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Executive Summary

THE 42nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights is now underway in the Congolese capital Brazzaville with Zimbabwe's deteriorating human rights situation dominating the proceedings.

In his welcoming remarks, outgoing Commission Vice Chairperson, Commissioner Yassir Sid Ahmed El Hassan, set the tone when he described the situation in Zimbabwe as "alarming".

On November 16, SW Radio Africa reported that the MDC would make further representations to South African President Thabo Mbeki about the escalation of political violence and intimidation against its supporters. Secretary for Home Affairs Sam Nkomo said it was still impossible for the opposition to hold a public demonstration or political rally. The radio station noted that scores of MDC supporters had been arrested and assaulted in Chipinge, Mutare and Bulawayo for holding legitimate consultative meetings.

In this issue we include brief information on the latest report released by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum which expresses concern at the upsurge in politically motivated violence. It has recorded 2 333 cases of violations on freedoms of association, expression and movement from January to September 30.

Similarly, a report released by the International Bar Association has found evidence of police torture, intimidation and illegal arrests which threaten the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for March next year.

People living in rural areas continue to experience political repression, which remains rampant and under-reported. The safety and security of opposition supporters is under constant threat and during mid November, war veterans and Zanu PF militia severely assaulted a 59-year-old woman for wearing an MDC T-shirt and carrying an opposition party umbrella.

A 57 year-old activist from the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), who had been arrested on 10 different occasions and had been physically and mentally abused by the police each time, has died. Ninety-eight activists from WOZA and their male counterparts, who were protesting against escalating state sponsored violence, were arrested by the police earlier this month.

Fifteen opposition activists were abducted from a house belonging to an MDC member in Chipinge South and a police chief threatened to invoke the shoot-to-kill order against MDC activists if they went ahead with a planned rally in Chimanimani.

Contentious developments on the election front include the appointment of five former government employees to positions of influence in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The appointments have been condemned by the opposition and civil society.

Zimbabwe's Defence Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, has expressed confidence that the elections scheduled for next year will be free and fair. "The election will be held on schedule and as things are now in Zimbabwe the environment is quiet," he said.

However, a report in the Zimbabwean Newspaper (November 13) that Mr Mugabe's government is buying arms from China suggests a different scenario. According to the article, a shipment of heavy assault rifles, military vehicles and tanks, riot equipment, tear gas and rubber batons is being secretly moved through the port of Beira in Mozambique.

ZimOnline reports that police officers who have recently undergone retraining in public control and management ahead of the elections confirm that military trainers as well as police instructors have taken them through rigorous and intensive physical and weapons handling drills.

The viability of independent newspapers is under serious threat after government ordered privately-owned newspapers to slash their cover prices to levels that could force them to close down.

War veteran leaders are being paid as much as Z$100 billion, in one instance, for co-ordinating marches to drum up support for President Mugabe.

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