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Zimbabwe Civic Groups Taking Lead in Anti-Violence Campaign

Zimbabwean civil society groups are increasingly getting involved in the campaign against political violence ahead of elections many fear may be as bloody as the 2008 run-off vote.

The murder two weeks ago of an MDC supporter in Mudzi, Mashonaland East, by alleged Zanu PF members was a stark reminder of the clashes that left dozens of oppositions activists dead in 2008.

In addition to prayer meetings held to-date by different churches across the country, the NGO, Bulawayo Agenda, will hold a peace concert June 30 in Lupane, Matabeleland North.

Political parties in and outside the power-sharing government have been invited to attend the event where they will publicly urge their followers to desist from violence.

Bulawayo Agenda director Thabani Nyoni told VOA's Studio 7 a number of acclaimed artists, including musicians and poets, will deliver performances that promote peace and togetherness.

"For a program of this magnitude that wants to reach out to communities affected directly or indirectly by violence," Nyoni said, "we need to attract different members of the community including young people, women and so on."

The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, or JOMIC, charged with overseeing the consummation of the unity agreement underpinning power-sharing, and different churches will also be on hand to preach the gospel of peace, officials said.

JOMIC official Thabitha Khumalo said her committee appreciated efforts by the civil society to ramp up the anti-violence campaign. "We respect the peace concert organized by Bulawayo Agenda, and we greatly appreciate efforts by anyone else seeking peace."

President Robert Mugabe and his ruling partners, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube held a rare joint rally last year in Harare and called for calm.

But simmering political tensions have remained, exploding into sporadic pockets of violence across the country with Mr. Mugabe's Zanu PF party intensifying its rhetoric of wanting elections this year even without basic reforms.