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Zimbabwe Opposition Says Regional Election Observers Ignore Violence

The Southern African Development Community started deploying its main body of election observers in Zimbabwe on Thursday but the political opposition complained that the SADC mission has not focused enough on widespread political violence.

Zimbabweans are to return to the polls on June 27 for a presidential run-off election pitting opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai against President Robert Mugabe. The country has been rocked by violence since the March 29 first-round election.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change expressed irritation at statements from the SADC observer mission saying it had not received information on the political violence which the opposition says has claimed the lives of 67 of its members.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party says three of its members have died in politically inspired violence, which it has blamed on the opposition. Most observers say ZANU-PF has organized the violence with significant help from the military.

MDC officials said they have provided documentation on the violence to the observers and to SADC Chairman Levy Mwanawasa, who is the president of Zambia.

Human rights groups and doctors say more than 2,000 people have been seriously injured in the violence which has mainly targeted rural areas but has lately increased in urban areas with the abduction and murder of opposition officials.

SADC mission chief Tanki Mothae, director of SADC's secretariat on politics, defense and security, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that more than 120 observers have been deployed in Zimbabwe so far.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa expressed shock at the statement by SADC that it had not received information concerning incidents of political violence.

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