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Zimbabwe Ministers Accused of Political Violence - 2001-08-31

Government ministers in Zimbabwe have been accused of political violence leading up to last year's parliamentary elections. The charges were made in a report by human rights groups and non-governmental aid agencies within the country. Six ministers are accused of gross human rights violations during the campaign.

The 46-page report from the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, which is made up of a number of organizations operating in the country, says it has recorded more than 1,000 incidents of political violence between February and June, when the elections were held.

Forty people were killed and thousands injured, with hundreds of women being raped in the run up to the election.

Among the six Zimbabwe ministers accused by the Human Rights Forum are Border Gezi, who was killed in a car accident earlier this year, as well as a number of former and current ministers. Also accused is Chenjerayi Hunzvi, the leader of the former guerilla fighters, who died from an unknown illness earlier this year.

Almost all of the 704 victims of alleged political violence listed in the report were supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which won 57 of the 150 elected seats against 62 won by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU (PF).

The ministers and senior government officials are said to have been directly and indirectly implicated in the violence. Their involvement included using their own motor vehicles to transport mobs to beat up the opposition, planning attacks on homes and offices of the opposition and organizing nighttime raids on villages.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum says the aim of the ruling party was to create what it calls "a systematic campaign of intimidation aimed at crushing support for the opposition." The report says no one has been prosecuted and no one is likely to be because of an amnesty granted in October last year by President Mugabe.

Human rights groups say at least 80 more people, almost all opposition supporters, have been killed in political violence since the elections.

Meanwhile, staff members at Zimbabwe's three state universities are on strike. That has led to classes for about 20,000 students being cancelled during the last three days. The staff is pushing for a 70 percent salary increase. They say the 15 percent increase offered by the government is far too little because the cost of living in Zimbabwe has almost doubled since the beginning of the year.