Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (File)
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (File)

Aids Free World, a non-governmental organization led by a former U.N. special envoy, says supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party engaged in the systematic violent rape of women who supported the opposition in the widely discredited second-round presidential poll in 2008. 

The report by Stephen Lewis' Aids Free World is based on the testimonies of 70 women drawn from each of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces.  Each gave harrowing accounts of beatings, rape, gang-rape, repeat rapes, and vandalism. 

One victim of both a gang-rape and repeat rapes who now lives in South Africa told reporters she has two reminders of her attacks.  She preferred to remain anonymous.

"After the rapes I started having some colds, fever until I was tested and I was positive," she said. "Most my time spend my time I spend my time crying and thinking of what happened to me.  As a result I have something in my hand that I will not forget that event, because I have got a result, I have got a baby."

Lewis says the HIV positive woman and the others who gave their testimony to researcher represent many others.

"Aids Free World has assembled through affidavits taken from women in every province of Zimbabwe what we believe to be unassailable evidence of rape and torture and savagery visited on 70 women who stand for countless others, sexually terrorized by ZANU-PF for the sole purpose of retaining power," said Stephen Lewis.

Lewis was speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg to launch the report.  He called for South Africa and other African countries to act urgently to ensure that President Robert Mugabe is no longer president of Zimbabwe when he turns 86 next February.

The report covers similar ground to earlier reports of election-related violence and rape in Zimbabwe in 2008.  Humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also found that most of the abuses that occurred before the widely discredited runoff presidential poll was perpetrated by individuals and groups who supported Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

Respected Zimbabwean writer and human-rights activist Elinor Sisulu told reporters it is essential that concrete steps be taken to prevent similar abuses before another election is held in Zimbabwe.

"This should be prevented, there should not be another election in Zimbabwe unless these issues are addressed, and unless there is some level of addressing the impunity and some level of accountability of the part of the perpetrators," said Elinor Sisulu. "And I am not even necessarily talking about prosecutions, but if there is some kind of system whereby the perpetrators have to account and that there is some demobilization of that machinery."

But Lewis argues the rapes were so systematic and widespread they fall within the definition of crimes against humanity and should be prosecuted as such.