Mugabe Government Dismisses Human Rights Watch Accusations
By Peter Clottey
10 June 2008
The Zimbabwe government has described as nonsensical accusations by Human Rights Watch that ongoing violence would prevent free and fair election in this month’s presidential run-off. This comes after the US-based rights organization reportedly said President Robert Mugabe’s government is systematically using violence to intimidate partisans of the opposition and thwart any possibility of free and fair vote in the run-off.
The group said it has documented at least 36 politically motivated murders and over 2,000 victims among others. But the ruling ZANU-PF party says the accusations are yet another attempt by agents of foreign governments to interfere in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs and force a regime change. Sydney Masamvu is a Zimbabwean with the International Crisis Group in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria that the Mugabe government is to blame for the violence and insecurity in the rural areas.
“I think this is typical of a government, which has become paranoid, which has become immune to any external criticism, be it internal or external. So, in a sense one is not surprised that the Zimbabwe government can come out with a dismissive report for the simple reason that the Zimbabwe government led by Robert Mugabe has gone beyond a point where it can do anything good,” Masamvu pointed out.
He said although the presence of a UN envoy to help with the election run-off is welcomed, it will do very little to change the escalating violence in the rural areas.
“While the gesture is welcomed, you have to look at the point that, at what point is that envoy allowed given the damage, which has taken place? You know for the past three months or four months the Zimbabwe government has been engaged in a systematic military-led campaign, which has unleashed so much damage in terms of death countrywide. And right now the reference that observers are going including the U.N observer, as much as it is a welcome move, it is a symbolic gesture, which does not change any material issue on the ground in terms of making the conditions of the election free and fair. That doesn’t change anything at this late juncture,” he said.
Masamvu urged the UN envoy to engage both the government and the opposition in peace talks ahead of the run-off.
“The U.N envoy should be seized with the mediation efforts to try to capacitate the mediation, which President Mbeki (South Africa’s President) is currently involved in. I think that should be the key factor, which the U.N envoy should grapple with, not the electoral process, which I believe his presence is too late to make any material difference on the ground in terms of facilitating a free and fair election,” Masamvu noted.
He said it is possible for a negotiated settlement between the government and the opposition for a unity government to help address the suffering of the masses and end the political and economic crisis.
“We have to look at a situation where Mugabe talked to Ian Smith, the South Africans talked to the apartheid regime here in South Africa. So, there is nothing between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, which can make them talk. When you look at the polarizing environment and the outcome of the 29 March election, the country is crying out for a negotiated settlement, which should actually yield a transitional government, which should be mandated with negotiating terms for a free and fair election after maybe two or five years at a time when I think would have healed, the nation would have come down. And maybe be able to make an informed choice to choose democratic government of their choice, and at the same time that deal would be used to get President Mugabe out of the political radar, ” he said.