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Zimbabwe Voters Continue to Face Reprisals


A steady stream of people injured in political violence continues to arrive in Zimbabwe's capital Harare looking for medical treatment. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA that a number of people have been beaten following the March 29 elections and many more continue to flee their rural homes for the relative safety of the towns.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said Wednesday that 81 cases of organized violence and torture have been inflicted on people in just three days ending April 21.

The group says, so far, 323 people have needed medical treatment since partial election results were released in the first week of April.

The Association says there may be substantially more incidents of political violence which have not been reported as people may have sought medical help from doctors who are not members of the Association

The Association says the overwhelming number of perpetrators are members of the uniformed forces, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army.

The Association also says many patients report extreme psychological stress after having their homes and property burned.

In eastern Zimbabwe, where many people say they are being assaulted for voting for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, many are fleeing to the regional capital Mutare on the border with Mozambique.

Some are arriving with household effects at the MDC's Mutare offices and are camping in the garden.

On Tuesday there were about 200 people who seemed to have settled semi-permanently at the MDC offices. Many of them told human rights workers they had fled because ZANU-PF had burned their homes and threatened them with retribution for voting for the MDC.

On Wednesday there were three people in a small private clinic in Mutare who had been attacked in their homes in the last week.

Surprisingly, some victims of post-election attacks are families who say they were settled on land seized by the ruling ZANU-PF from white farmers since 2000.

In Karoi, about 200 kilometers north of Harare, the MDC's losing parliamentary candidate and some former commercial farmers still living in the area say there are several hundred internally displaced people seeking refuge around the small town.

They fled their homes in rural areas around Karoi since the election. Many say they feared they would be attacked. Some homes were burned down, and many say they can name their attackers who they say belong to ZANU-PF.

MDC welfare officials in Harare estimate that several thousand people have been internally displaced.

The Commercial Farmers Union in Harare continually updates reports of disruptions on commercial farms. Its officials say that since the elections there have been about ten times more incidents than usual.

Many farm workers have been beaten or kidnapped or forced to give up their jobs or attend all night ZANU-PF political "re education"sessions, called pungwes.

About 70 MDC supporters, activists and party workers, are currently in detention in Harare.

Harare lawyer Alec Muchadahama says they have all been accused of violence following the elections.

Not a single MDC supporter, among thousands arrested over eight years, has ever been convicted of violence. Only a handful has been brought to trial.

As far as can be established, no one from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has been arrested in connection with political violence following last month's elections.

Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission has facilitated recounts of election results in 23 constituencies. So far there is little change to the original results announced on April 3 which saw ZANU-PF narrowly lose its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in 1980.

The MDC says its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, was a clear winner of the presidential poll. But three weeks after counting was completed, the commission has still not released the results.

According to the electoral act, the victor of the presidential poll has to win a majority of the votes cast or face a run-off.

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