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Zimbabwe Political Violence Continues Despite Talks

Negotiations between Zimbabwe's two main political parties to form an inclusive future government are underway in Pretoria, South Africa. But while Zimbabwe's leaders have agreed to end political violence, Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA that violence continues.

There is a news blackout on negotiations between Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF Party and the Movement for Democratic Change in Pretoria, South Africa.

The only statements about the negotiations have come from ZANU-PF, which lost its parliamentary majority to the MDC in the March 29 elections. According to the statements published in the Zimbabwe state media, the negotiations will not lead to MDC rule.

The parties have committed themselves to negotiating "an inclusive government" within two weeks, during the talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki. All Mr. Mbeki will say is that talks continue.

Meanwhile, the political violence that has plagued Zimbabwe continues. The violence began after President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF was beaten by Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC in March 29 elections.

Violence escalated until Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from a June 27 presidential run-off in which Mr. Mugabe later claimed victory. International observers say the run-off was neither free nor fair.

Human rights monitors say the violence has diminished somewhat, but since the parties agreed to talks a week ago three people, all known MDC supporters, have been killed.

In other incidents, a Zimbabwean freelance journalist was savagely beaten in his Harare home. He was later allegedly accused by police of bringing Zimbabwe's name into disrepute.

And, political scientist John Makumbe was questioned by police last week. He was accused of fabricating cases of political violence, according to the state press.

In at least three Zimbabwe districts there is still political tension and many people who fled their homes say they are still too frightened to return home.

In Buhera, in the Manicaland Province, human rights monitors say there are 25 paramilitary bases controlled by ZANU-PF youth that are still operational. In other districts, bases continue to be dismantled, but in many cases ZANU-PF personnel who worked there are still in the districts. Many people say they are fearful of them.

There are curfews in place in the northern parts of Mashonaland East province, in parts of Manicaland and Mashonaland Central, according to human rights monitors who have traveled around those districts in the past 10 days.

Police have not responded to questions put to them about the violence.