Zimbabwe's former ruling ZANU PF party says it will highlight an anti-sanctions petition it says was signed by 2.2 million Zimbabweans at a summit next month in Angola of the Southern African Development Community. But civic groups promised to produce evidence at the summit that many of the signatures were coerced.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo as saying the party would point to the signatures as evidence Zimbabweans back ZANU-PF calls for the removal of US and other Western sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and about 200 other top ZANU PF officials and related companies.
But civic groups have accused liberation war veterans and ZANU-PF youth militia of forcing school children and teachers to sign the petition.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition programs manager Pedzisai Ruhanya told VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that civil society will put the petition into perspective.
Ruhanya said relatively few people support ZANU-PF to the extent of going out of their way to sign such a petition, noting that Mr. Mugabe received no more than 1.2 million votes in the 2008 election and ZANU-PF has lost control of most municipalities.
The activist accused ZANU-PF supporters of force-marching people to meetings regarding the anti-sanctions petition, at times closing schools. It is charged that in some cases school children were ordered to get their parents to sign the petition.