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Zimbabwe's Parliament Urges Closure Of Youth Training Camps, Citing Abuse

A parliamentary committee dominated by Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF, has recommended that the government temporarily close its controversial National Youth Service training centers.

The committee, chaired by ZANU-PF's member of parliament for Gutu South, Shuvai Mahofa, cited starvation and unreported cases of sexual abuse of female recruits by male instructors and fellow male trainees, as reasons for the suggested closure.

The committee's recommendation, came ahead of an announcement by Zimbabwe's deputy youth minister Saviour Kasukuwere, that his ministry intended to expand the youth program, which he described as a noble idea that helps youth contribute positively to society.

Kasukuwere however, declined to comment on the parliamentary report saying he had not yet studied it.

The timing of the announcement, less than a year before the March 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections, has raised suspicion among many opposition, as well as human rights advocates, who have accused President Mugabe's government of using the youth, also called "green bombers," as shock troops to harass, intimidate and torture political opponents.

Political analyst Glen Mupani, based at Cape Town University in South Africa, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, that the closure of the camps was long overdue, as they were being used for political expediency by the ruling party.

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