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New Political Violence Flares in Zimbabwe Over Constitution, Sanctions


The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association charged that ZANU-PF youth militia have established torture bases in the provinces of Manicaland, Mashonaland West and Midlands, and disrupted meetings across the country on constitutional reform

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has stepped up pressure on its main partner in the troubled unity government with a march through the capital this week by party youth who according to a report in the pro-ZANU-PF state-controlled Herald Newspaper issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai containing a veiled threat.

The Herald quoted the ZANU-PF youth as saying the prime minister, head of the main formation of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to call for the removal of Western sanctions within one month or face unspecified action. His MDC denounced the demand as threat against Mr. Tsvangirai.

The ZANU-PF youths who demonstrated in Harare on Wednesday demanding the sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and other ZANU-PF brass be lilted, gave the prime minister until March 24 to call for sanctions to be lifted or "risk action from the youths of Zimbabwe."

Mr. Tsvangirai has already publicly urged that travel and financial sanctions be lifted, but ZANU-PF says he should do more to achieve this objective.

The Tsvangirai wing of the MDC condemned the apparent threat against Mr. Tsvangirai and called for the arrest of those behind the ultimatum.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the statements issued by the ZANU-PF youth wing were tantamount to inciting violence and should be taken seriously.

Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the prime minister had received no petition but his office considered the threat "very serious."

Elsewhere, General Secretary Gertrude Hambira of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe has gone into hiding alleging harassment and intimidation by the Joint Operations Command, a panel of top military and security officials, sources said.

Hambira and her staff were summoned to a meeting by the Joint Operations Command on Friday. Sources said the JOC was displeased with the union's recent film, "House of Hunger," about the plight of farm workers in Zimbabwe under land reform, and a related report entitled "If Something Is Wrong."

Members of the JOC include Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, and the commanders of the Army and the Air Force.

Sources said Hambira's union turned for help to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Ministry of Labor after the JOC session. They said Hambira went into hiding on Thursday after suspected agents of the feared Central Intelligence Organization spent the night loitering outside her home.

ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that his organization is very concerned for Hambira’s safety.

Human rights activists and analysts say such episodes of violence and intimidation reflect determination on the part of ZANU-PF to dominate the political space with a constitutional referendum and new national elections in the offing between now and 2012.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association charged that ZANU-PF youth militia have established torture bases in the provinces of Manicaland, Mashonaland West and Midlands, and have been disrupting meetings across the country regarding constitutional reform.

For more on this disturbing trend, VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere turned to ZimRights National Director Okay Machisa and Sidney Chisi, spokesman for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

Machisa said flaring violence has made many people reluctant to voice their opinions in public meetings as the country moves into the public outreach phase of a constitutional revision process that should culminate in a referendum late this year or early next, and eventually in new presidential, general and local elections.

The last round of elections in 2008, in which President Mugabe was defeated in the first round by now-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and in which Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change won a majority in parliament, was followed by months of violence in the runup to a presidential runoff from which Tsvangirai withdrew, leaving Mr. Mugabe unchallenged. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has stepped up pressure on its main partner in the troubled unity government with a march through the capital this week by party youth who according to a report in the pro-ZANU-PF state-controlled Herald Newspaper issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai containing a veiled threat.

The Herald quoted the ZANU-PF youth as saying the prime minister, head of the main formation of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to call for the removal of Western sanctions within one month or face unspecified action. His MDC denounced the demand as threat against Mr. Tsvangirai.

The ZANU-PF youths who demonstrated in Harare on Wednesday demanding the sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and other ZANU-PF brass be lilted, gave the prime minister until March 24 to call for sanctions to be lifted or "risk action from the youths of Zimbabwe."

Mr. Tsvangirai has already publicly urged that travel and financial sanctions be lifted, but ZANU-PF says he should do more to achieve this objective.

The Tsvangirai wing of the MDC condemned the apparent threat against Mr. Tsvangirai and called for the arrest of those behind the ultimatum.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the statements issued by the ZANU-PF youth wing were tantamount to inciting violence and should be taken seriously.

Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the prime minister had received no petition but his office considered the threat "very serious."

Elsewhere, General Secretary Gertrude Hambira of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe has gone into hiding alleging harassment and intimidation by the Joint Operations Command, a panel of top military and security officials, sources said.

Hambira and her staff were summoned to a meeting by the Joint Operations Command on Friday. Sources said the JOC was displeased with the union's recent film, "House of Hunger," about the plight of farm workers in Zimbabwe under land reform, and a related report entitled "If Something Is Wrong."

Members of the JOC include Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, and the commanders of the Army and the Air Force.

Sources said Hambira's union turned for help to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Ministry of Labor after the JOC session. They said Hambira went into hiding on Thursday after suspected agents of the feared Central Intelligence Organization spent the night loitering outside her home.

ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that his organization is very concerned for Hambira’s safety.

Human rights activists and analysts say such episodes of violence and intimidation reflect determination on the part of ZANU-PF to dominate the political space with a constitutional referendum and new national elections in the offing between now and 2012.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association charged that ZANU-PF youth militia have established torture bases in the provinces of Manicaland, Mashonaland West and Midlands, and have been disrupting meetings across the country regarding constitutional reform.

For more on this disturbing trend, VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere turned to ZimRights National Director Okay Machisa and Sidney Chisi, spokesman for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

Machisa said flaring violence has made many people reluctant to voice their opinions in public meetings as the country moves into the public outreach phase of a constitutional revision process that should culminate in a referendum late this year or early next, and eventually in new presidential, general and local elections.

The last round of elections in 2008, in which President Mugabe was defeated in the first round by now-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and in which Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change won a majority in parliament, was followed by months of violence in the runup to a presidential runoff from which Tsvangirai withdrew, leaving Mr. Mugabe unchallenged.

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