With just over five weeks to go to a highly controversial presidential run-off election in Zimbabwe, the political atmosphere in the country can only be described as poisonous with deadly political violence becoming an almost daily occurrence.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation of presidential candidate and first-round frontrunner Morgan Tsvangirai says 45 of its activists and supporters have been murdered since the March 29 presidential and general elections.
But President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday accused the opposition of embarking on an "evil crusade" by promoting division in the country and unleashing violence.
Speaking at a Harare graduation ceremony for police recruits, Mr. Mugabe accused the MDC of sponsoring heinous violence targeting innocent citizens.
But most observers say Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party with help from the army and police is responsible for the attacks on opposition supporters, mainly in rural areas. The accusation from Mr. Mugabe was a taste of what may be expected during his presidential run-off campaign, scheduled to be launched on Sunday in Harare.
The International Crisis Group meanwhile issued a report saying the run-off should be avoided if possible through a political settlement between the MDC and ZANU-PF for a transitional government led by Tsvangirai but including ruling party moderates.
The think tank warned that the run-off seems unlikely to be free, fair and credible with violence still mounting, and also cautioned that even Mr. Mugabe’s decisive defeat by Tsvangirai in the run-off might lead the military to seize power through a coup.
"African leaders, with support from the wider international community, must step in to stop the violence and resolve the deepening political crisis, ideally by facilitating an agreement establishing an MDC-led transitional government that avoids the need for the run-off now scheduled for June 27," the ICG report states.
The report continued: "Senior military commanders strongly opposed to the MDC have been instrumental in preventing a democratic transition following the March 29 election, and there is growing risk of a coup either before a run-off (in a pre-emptive move to deny Tsvangirai victory) or after a Tsvangirai win."
International Crisis Group Senior Political Analyst Sydney Masamvu told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a unity government is the only way forward – adding that in reality the military is already in charge in Harare.
Independent parliamentarian and former ZANU-PF information minister Jonathan Moyo said the military could block a peaceful transition.
From Washington DC political commentator Regina Dumba called on the international community to intervene to rein in Mr Mugabe who has so far resisted international pressure.