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Mugabe Opponents, In Washington, Sound Alarm On 'Rising Repression'

A delegation of Zimbabwean opposition leaders and civic activists made the rounds in Washington on Friday to call attention to a government crackdown on opponents that they say has involved arbitrary arrests and detention, beatings and torture.

It included Deputy International Relations Secretary Grace Kwinjeh of the Movement for Democratic Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai, National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, Otto Saki of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition National Coordinator Jacob Mafume.

Members of the U.S. Senate and House heard a briefing Friday from the delegation, which later participated in in a conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center on the theme of “Keeping Democratic Hopes Alive Amid Rising Repression.”

Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Kwinjeh and Mafume about recent events in Zimbabwe and their purpose in Washington.

Kwinjeh said the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe has a record of instigating violence ahead of elections. Presidential and parliamentary elections are on tap for March 2003 even as South African President Thabo Mbeki tries to mediate the Zimbabwean crisis on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.

In a visit to the United Nations in New York earlier this week, Kwinjeh issued an appeal to the international community to increase pressure on Harare to release 28 activists held since late March on charges they plotted firebombings and sabotage.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...