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Zimbabwe Refugees Ask Global Parliamentary Forum to Intervene in Election


Political demonstrations are currently banned in Zimbabwe. But in neighboring South Africa, exiled Zimbabweans protested on Thursday, calling for the release of last month's presidential election results in a rally near the global assembly of members of parliament. For VOA, Terry FitzPatrick reports from Capetown.

A handful of immigrants from Zimbabwe marched on Thursday to the city's convention center, where parliamentary delegations from more than 120 countries are meeting for the annual assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Protest organizer Bongani Tagurenyika wants the members of parliament to pressure Zimbabwe to release the results from the country's presidential elections, held more than two weeks ago.

"We need the world to help us, because we alone cannot do it," he said. "We need some help from the world."

Protester Barbara Mondiwa says she fears it will take widespread violence in Zimbabwe to trigger global intervention.

"They must not wait for people to die," she said. "We need help now. We need help now."

Many of the demonstrators wore shirts with the word "crisis" painted in red. It was a rebuke to South African President Thabo Mbeki's assessment last weekend that Zimbabwe is not experiencing a political crisis. Activists here say Mr. Mbeki's comment is fueling an increase in violence against Zimbabwe refugees in South Africa.

"The xenophobic attacks have been increasing mainly because of the large number of Zimbabweans in South Africa, but a comment such as Thabo Mbeki's only fuels the situation further," said Braam Hanekom, who is with an organization called People against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty.

A small group of lawmakers at the parliamentary conference paid attention to the protest outside. The Inter-Parliamentary Union's Human Rights Committee has been investigating the arrest and beating of several Zimbabwe opposition politicians over the past few years. Committee chairwoman Sharon Carstairs from Canada says Zimbabwe has failed to cooperate with the probe.

"And sad to say, there has been no resolution of any of those cases, or even on a regular basis, communication with the Zimbabwean government with respect to their consistent harassment," she said.

Several speakers of parliament from Southern Africa have issued a statement calling on Zimbabwe to release its election results. A broader communiqué, representing the entire global assembly, is expected Friday.