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Zimbabwe Chief Justice Urges Peace, Political Tolerance

Zimbabwe's Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has called on political leaders to preach peace and shun violence ahead of general elections widely expected sometime next year.

Addressing a police pass-out parade in Harare Thursday, the chief justice also urged ordinary members of the public to live in harmony despite their political differences.

Chidyausiku was quoted by state radio as saying: “Let me take this opportunity to sincerely appeal to all Zimbabweans to demonstrate that we are a united people by shunning all forms of violence in the forthcoming elections."

The country is still traumatized by the 2008 election violence that left more than 400 people dead - most of them supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change. A few Zanu PF members were also killed.

In recent months, President Robert Mugabe has spoken strongly against violence - at one time joining his rivals, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube in a peace rally.

But simmering tensions have persisted, resulting in an outbreak of sporadic violence in several parts of the country over the past months, including the capital, Harare.

Mr. Mugabe had insisted on early elections this year, citing the dysfunctional unity government. But he has since scaled back his push after meeting stiff resistance from both the MDC and regional leaders.

Lawyer Matshobana Ncube of the Bulawayo-based human rights lawyers' group, Abammeli, told VOA remarks by Chidyausiku should be taken seriously to avoid another bloody election.