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Zimbabwe Presidential Run-Off Problematic With Political Violence Rife

With no sign of an end to post-election violence against opposition supporters in rural Zimbabwe, embattled members of the Movement for Democratic Change in Rusape, Manicaland, buried slain MDC activist Thabitha Marume on Friday.

Shot to death last week by alleged ruling ZANU-PF youth militia, Marume was laid to rest in her village of Gunda, in Makoni West constituency. Addressing thousands of mourners at the funeral, MDC Vice President Thokozani Khupe said Zimbabweans spoke through the ballot box on March 29 and have been punished for doing so.

Not only the opposition is demanding a halt to violence. Chiefs - traditional leaders - in Mashonaland East Province on Thursday urged a halt to the killings, beatings and the burning of homes that have surged following the elections. Human Rights Watch and other observers have accused the government of organizing the violence to punish rural voters who switched allegiance to the opposition in the recent elections.

During a meeting in Marondera, chiefs told ZANU-PF officials including Deputy Local Government Minister Morris Sakabuya, that ZANU-PF must respect human life if it is to have any chance of winning the presidential runoff called on Friday by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The panel set no date for the election.

Opposition sources said two teachers were murdered in Guruve by alleged ZANU-PF militia members. Elsewhere, a source said soldiers abducted three MDC activists in Bikita, Masvingo Province, and tortured them at a Grain Marketing Board depot in Duma.The source said the three opposition activists were later released.

President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe, Thursday visited victims of violence from both parties in Manicaland, calling for an end to violence.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a top ZANU-PF official, refused to comment on the violence when contacted by the Voice of America.

Vice President Thokozani Khupe of the Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that despite the calls for a stop to violence, it continues to mount.

Correspondent Sylvia Manika was in a number of towns in Mashonaland Central this week, including Guruve, home of slain opposition member Crispen Chiutsi, and told reporter Patience Rusere that the rural areas are tense with a heavy presence of army and youth militia who interrogate all strangers who arrive.

Observers expressed concern that the volatile environment is far from conducive to holding a free and fair presidential runoff election.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba discussed the swelling tide of violence with Human Rights Watch Zimbabwe specialist Tiseke Kasambala and Alois Chaumba, director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, which issued a statement this week denouncing “systematic” violence that has displaced thousands of people.

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