South African President Thabo Mbeki traveled to Zimbabwe Friday to meet with political leaders in that country following weeks of violence in the wake of March elections. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg, Mr. Mbeki went straight into a meeting with President Robert Mugabe and was expected to meet later with representatives of opposition parties.
Mr. Mbeki's visit comes as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and independent monitoring groups say the violence that flared in the wake of March elections, is continuing unabated. South African Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told South African radio this is one of the issues that has taken Mr. Mbeki to Zimbabwe.
"Secondly there are issues that have now arisen regarding violence; thirdly there is an issue around the run-off," he said. "Broadly that is the mandate of the president as part of a whole process by SADC to help the people of Zimbabwe."
Independent rights groups say that while the opposition has been involved in a few incidents of retaliatory violence; most of it is being initiated and perpetrated by the ruling ZANU-PF party with the support of security forces.
Reports by the MDC that dozens of people have been killed, have not been independently verified. But Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, a group of concerned medical practitioners, said in a statement Friday that in the past two weeks, levels of organized violence and torture have escalated dramatically. The group says it has documented over 900 victims since early April. The doctors group says this figure "grossly underestimates" the number of victims countrywide.
The state owned Herald newspaper reports Thursday that the Zimbabwe Army had categorically distanced itself and any of its members from allegedly harassing, assaulting people and robberies. ZANU-PF has also rejected allegations it is responsible for the violence, and in turns blames the opposition.
In March, 2007 Mr. Mbeki was appointed by southern African leaders to mediate between Zimbabwe's political parties. That mediation led to the March elections and also resulted in amendments to the electoral law that enabled opposition parties to monitor the results in each constituency.
But Mr. Mbeki has been widely criticized for not speaking out in public about the excesses of Mr. Mugabe and members of his government. His own party, the African National Congress, says that as mediator Mr. Mbeki cannot take sides.
The MDC won the majority of seats in parliament, but both parties have said they will be contesting the outcome in dozens of constituencies.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai also received the majority of votes in the presidential race, but not enough for an outright victory, and a run-off election must now be held. However Tsvangirai says he won, and has not said whether he will participate in a run-off. If he does not, Mr. Mugabe will become president by default.