10 die in postelection violence in Zimbabwe
By Angus Shaw
HARARE, Zimbabwe — An opposition leader said Sunday that 10 people have been killed in violence since last month’s disputed presidential election and 3,000 families have been forced from their homes.
Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change, also said key members of the opposition’s administration had been arrested along with more than 400 supporters.
Biti appealed to U.N. organizations present in Zimbabwe, saying the situation had escalated from a political crisis into a humanitarian one.
"They should move as a matter of urgency. They should move because Zimbabwe is a war zone," he told a news conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Zimbabweans are still awaiting results of the presidential election held three weeks ago alongside parliamentary voting. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims he won the presidency outright and that the delay in reporting results is part of an attempt to steal the election by longtime President Robert Mugabe.
Biti said that violence since the March 29 elections had forced 3,000 families out of their homes. He said hundreds of people had been hospitalized with injuries and 10 people killed.
It was impossible to verify the claims, although doctors groups inside Zimbabwe have reported an upsurge in injuries needing treatment in recent days. There was no official comment from the Zimbabwe government. Media restrictions make it impossible for journalists within the country to investigate the situation in rural areas.
In addition to the limbo surrounding the president race, the opposition’s landmark victory in the parliamentary vote also was being called into question over the weekend.
Electoral officials on Saturday began recounting ballots for a couple of dozen legislative seats being challenged — an exercise that could overturn the opposition’s majority win. Most of the seats being recounted were declared for opposition candidates, including in Mugabe’s home district of Zvimba.
Biti said the recount was rigged and the ruling ZANU-PF had tampered with tally sheets and ballot boxes.
"They created fresh ballot papers," he said. "It is quite clear the dictatorship will do everything ... to try to reverse the people’s victory."
State-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. said the full recount would take up to three days. The opposition called that yet another ploy to delay the publication of the presidential results. Tsvangirai claims he won more than 50 percent of the vote, but independent observers said it is unlikely he received an absolute majority.
Biti said that Mugabe’s government had arrested more than 400 opposition supporters out of desperation, but that the opposition wasn’t giving up.
"He (Mugabe) can delay ... but he will go," Biti said. "He hasn’t stolen this election. We are still fighting."
Biti and Tsvangirai say they cannot immediately return to Zimbabwe as they face arrest. Mugabe’s government has accused Tsvangirai of treason and plotting a regime change with former colonial power Britain.
Meanwhile, international pressure on Mugabe to release the election results continued to mount.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis with other African leaders on the sidelines of a five-day U.N. trade meeting that opened Sunday in Ghana.
Tsvangirai, who is trying to muster more diplomatic support in Africa, was due to travel to Nigeria and then Ghana and hoped to meet Ban.
Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general from Ghana who helped broke a peace deal after contested elections in Kenya, on Saturday questioned whether leaders on the continent were doing enough to help Zimbabwe resolve what he called "a rather dangerous situation."
"Where are the Africans? Where are the leaders and the countries in the region? What are they doing? How can they help resolve the situation?" he told journalists in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
"It’s a serious crisis that will impact beyond Zimbabwe and we do have a responsibility to work with them to find a viable solution," said Annan, who met with Biti on Friday.