The United States government and the International Crisis Group in recent reports said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party is using the national security apparatus to crack down on its opponents.
The US State Department in a briefing on the release of a report from its Bureau of Democracy and Human Rights for 2010 said that security forces, police and ZANU-PF-dominated elements of the government “continued to commit numerous, serious human rights abuses” despite the formation of a national unity government in 2009.
The report said security forces continued to torture, beat and abuse political activists of parties other than ZANU-PF. Washington said the projections of an early election this year have led to the escalation in harassment and intimidation of rights activists.
“Security forces, which regularly acted with impunity, arbitrarily arrested and detained political activists not associated with ZANU-PF, members of civil society, labor leaders, journalists, demonstrators, and religious leaders," the report said.
The International Crisis Group, in a report issued this week entitled “Zimbabwe, the Road to Reform or Another Dead End?” similarly concluded that the worsening climate of fear and violence means Zimbabwean security sector reform is urgently needed.
The independent think tank accused ZANU-PF of insincerity in its participation in the unity government and of using "securocrats" to block democratic reform.
The Crisis Group cited an internecine struggle in ZANU-PF for control of the party after President Robert Mugabe, 87, has left the scene, as an aggravating factor. "Mugabe's health and ZANU-PF succession turmoil are further complications," it said.
The analytical organization added that, "Without stronger international pressure on ZANU-PF, the tenuous current coalition [in Harare] may collapse, triggering further violence and grave consequences for Southern Africa."
But ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the US and Crisis Group reports were off target, dismissing them as "hogwash."
Roger Bate, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said continued human rights abuses in Zimbabwe are likely to strain US-Zimbabwean bilateral relations, which have been less tense under President Barack Obama given the normalization of ties at least with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Harare-based political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said the Zimbabwean military and the national security apparatus is ZANU-PF’s last line of defense.