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Western Diplomats Call On Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF to Halt Crackdown on Opponents

In a collective statement spearheaded by the EU, the diplomats warned that arbitrary arrests and other abuses jeopardize the Global Political Agreement and called on Southern African leaders to step up mediation efforts

The European Union’s acting ambassador to Zimbabwe and the envoys of 22 Western countries on Friday expressed concern about a surge in politically motivated violence and a pattern of arbitrary arrests of opponents of President Robert Mugabe.

Spearheaded by European Commission Head of Sector Barbara Plinkert, the diplomats warned that such abuses jeopardize the 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning the power-sharing government in Harare. They called on South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, to quickly engage all parties and press on with a proposed roadmap to new elections.

The Western envoys said the recent series of arrests of senior officials of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and his threat this week to take his party out of the power-sharing arrangement, risks bringing the coalition government to an end before it can hold free and fair elections.

The statement signed by diplomats from the United States, France, Germany and Spain said current instability has potential of derailing the Globe Political Agreement.

EU diplomat Barbara Plinkert told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo the arrested MDC officials play key roles in achieving the objectives of the GPA.

The diplomats said that in light of the "role [that] security forces, the attorney general and judiciary play with regard to fundamental freedoms," they are appealing to them to discharge their duties in an impartial and non-partisan way.

Reached by VOA, Zimbabwean Ambassador to the European Union Nesbert Samasuwo said he could not comment as the Brussels mission had not formally received the letter from the envoys in Harare. Samasuwo referred questions to Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who could not immediately be reached.

However, addressing about 300 police recruits in Harare Friday, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, a hard-line backer of President Mugabe, accused Western countries of imposing illegal sanctions on Harare saying this was a “clear indication that colonialists do not want to acknowledge [Zimbabwe's] independence.”

Political analyst Joy Mabenge told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Harare has some work to do mending fences with the West.

Elsewhere the South African-based Institute for Democracy in Africa said the inclusive government in Harare might not last the year as Mr. Mugabe may call a snap election.

In a new report, IDASA said SADC must push for reform of the security sector, among others. The institute added that SADC must make sure that Zimbabwe does not fall under military rule if President Mugabe, 87, loses a bid for re-election or dies.

IDASA Political Governance Program Manager Karen Alexander told VOA Studio Seven reporter Sandra Nyaira that Southern Africa must engage the international community to ensure a road-map to free and fair elections is put in place, warning that failure to do so will increase the risk of a takeover by the Zimbabwean military.

“SADC and members of the international community must come together and agree on a synchronised public message that will engender concerted pressure on ZANU-PF and the security sector to embrace and enact reforms,” the IDASA report said.

“Failure to do so leaves the possibility for a coup d’état in the event of Mugabe’s death or a ZANU-PF defeat at the polls," IDASA said.

Analyst Charles Mangongera says that although ZANU-PF may want elections this year, this would be a mammoth task given the current political environment.

Zimbabwe's 2008 elections were marred by irregularities and deadly violence.