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Detentions, Violence And Tensions Escalate In Zimbabwe


The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights says the number of people it has treated as a result of post-election torture or political violence has suddenly escalated. For VOA, Peta Thornycroft reports that doctors say the figure is only a fraction of the victims who never got to a hospital for treatment.

Political assassinations, torture, beatings and detentions continue in Zimbabwe in what some analysts believe is the worst internal conflict since the 1980s when Robert Mugabe crushed political opponents by sending North Korean-trained troops to hunt down opposition supporters. Thousands of people, mainly civilians of the minority Ndebele tribe, were killed.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said the 900 cases of torture and assault it has attended to since the March 29 elections are only a fraction of those injured in many other parts of the country.

Senior South African foreign affairs spokesman Kingsley Mamabolo told journalists this week that violence has been committed by both the MDC party which won the parliamentary election and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

The small team of medical personnel who make up the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights say their records show that the overwhelming number of people who seek medical treatment say they have been hurt by people loyal to ZANU-PF.

One injured person said that the health minister, David Parirenyatwa, a medical doctor, led an armed attack on civilians in his home district Murewa in north eastern Zimbabwe shortly after the elections.

Since Wednesday, 30 victims of violence have been treated for fractures in Harare hospitals and clinics, according to the doctors association which says medical supplies are scarce in most health centers.

One hospital in Harare says it has treated an average of 23 victims a day over the last week.

Numerous incidents of violence are being reported from remote rural areas where there is no access to transport. There are also widespread reports of the injured being denied treatment at health centers where staff have been intimidated and, in some cases, are acting under specific instructions from state agents not to treat victims of violence.

In one area called Headlands, about 100 kilometers southeast of Harare, government doctors are reportedly refusing to provide medical care to injured people unless they had a letter from the police authorizing treatment.

The doctors association says their colleagues and nursing staff at rural hospitals are working under severely stressful conditions. Many health workers have reported intimidation with some having been specifically instructed by state agents not to treat members of the Movement for Democratic Change.

These health workers, who, according to some reports, are treating up to 60 victims of torture and violence a day. Many are emotionally traumatized by the conditions.

The level of brutality and callousness exhibited by the perpetrators is unprecedented in Zimbabwe's history, according to the doctors.

The doctors called for an immediate, large scale deployment of teams of observers ahead of the presidential run off and for all military personnel to be confirmed to barracks. They also called for the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of the violence.