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'Beat Up' Opposition, Senior Zimbabwe Official Tells ZANU-PF Militants

A senior official in Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has urged provincial members to “beat up” opposition members and silence them in the approach to the presidential, parliamentary and rural council elections slated for March 2008.

Sources said ZANU-PF political commissar and elections director Elliot Manyika told party members at gatherings in the Mashonaland West Province towns of Zvimba and Karoi that they should not tolerate opposition parties in their areas. According to these sources, Manyika exhorted them to ensure ZANU-PF won the 2008 elections.

The online news agency ZimOnline reported meanwhile that Manyika has circulated a memo indicating Harare plans to expand the National Youth Service, a violence-prone militia known many Zimbabweans as "Green Bombers" for the color of their shirts, by 15,000 members between now and these elections. Along with veterans of the 1970s liberation war, the youth militia have served as ZANU-PF political shock troops.

Manyika could not be reached for comment on his reported speeches and the memo.

Elias Mudzuri, organizing secretary of the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the faction is now assessing the situation and might boycott the elections if violence continues.

Political analyst John Makumbe, a senior lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said the ruling party will do whatever it takes to claim victory in the elections, regardless of the outcry from the opposition, civil society or the international community.

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