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Southern African Civil Society Groups Mobilize Around Zimbabwe Crisis


South African-based Civicus, an international alliance of civil society organizations, announced on Tuesday that it will seek an audience with President Thabo Mbeki to express its concern about what it says is a deepening crisis in Zimbabwe.

Southern African leaders meeting late last month in summit named Mr. Mbeki mediator between the Zimbabwe government and ruling party, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change factions led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.

Though Mr. Mbeki has engaged the Harare government and opposition leaders, there have been continuing abductions and beatings of opposition officials and activists.

Civil Society Watch Manager Clare Doube says her organization is concerned at what it believes is Zimbabwean state-sponsored violence and intimidation. The group will also be reaching out to regional organizations including the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, Doube said.

Doube told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that her group is looking for “more practical” ways to engage in the crisis.

Elsewhere, several Southern African NGOs have embarked on a program of research on Zimbabwean refugees and their impact on poverty in the sub-region.

The research project is being undertaken jointly by Malawi’s Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Botswana’s Centre for Human Rights, the Southern African Legal Assistance Network of Zambia and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition of Harare. The organizations intend to present their findings to regional leaders.

Executive Director Undule Mwakasungura of the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation said Zimbabwe's crisis could negatively affect the whole region.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...