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African Parliament to Send Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe

The Pan African Parliament, currently meeting in South Africa, has resolved to send a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe to investigate human rights abuses in the country. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our bureau in Johannesburg.

The decision to send a Pan African Parliament mission to Zimbabwe was approved by 149 to 29 and followed a lively debate in the house.

Delegates opposing the mission, including most of Zimbabwe's representatives, charged that recent negative publicity about Zimbabwe's crackdown on opponents was a fabrication by western media.

The Vice President for Southern Africa, Angolan Fernando van Dunem, told delegates that the mission must establish the truth without being influenced by what the media has published.

"Let us go there and try to find out what is the real situation as the basis of information for this parliament," he said. "Let us not judge from the picture on the TV, please let us be neutral. We have to help a country in serious difficulty."

Two delegates, one from Botswana and the other from South Africa, proposed the fact-finding mission, saying the government of President Robert Mugabe is committing human rights abuses and engaging in state-sponsored violence against Mr. Mugabe's opponents.

Senior opposition figures in Zimbabwe, including Morgan Tsvangirai, a leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, were detained and beaten by police in March.

Human rights doctors and lawyers say widespread abductions, ad-hoc detentions and beatings of mid-level politicians and activists are occurring nightly in and around the capital, Harare.

The Pan African Parliament is meeting at its headquarters near Johannesburg. It is the seventh such meeting since the parliament's formation in 2004. The parliament has no legislative authority. It has an advisory role, encouraging human rights, democracy and honest government on the continent.

The date and composition of the fact-finding mission are still to be decided.