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Zimbabwe could be 'too traumatized' for runoff election, Catholic group warns

.- A Catholic peace and justice commission in Zimbabwe has said that it will be impossible to hold a meaningful run-off election between President Robert Mugabe and challenger Morgan Tsvangirai if state-sponsored violence against innocent civilians does not stop.

The Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports that the Zimbabwean Bishops Conference’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJPZ) has said that political partisanship among the police and violence from irregular and regular security forces have destabilized the country.

“There are country-wide reports of systematic violence in the form of assaults, murders, torture, abductions, intimidation and wanton destruction of property against innocent civilians whose alleged crime is to have voted ‘wrongly’,” the CCJPZ said in a Sunday statement. 

According to Fides news agency, the teachers’ union in Zimbabwe has said they have been main targets of the violence that followed the March 29 election.  Union representatives said that last week 133 teachers suffered assaults and 496 were interrogated on “electoral matters.”  Over 1,700 teachers have left the country because of threats.

“The population is now too traumatized that a run-off election will only serve to deepen this sad state of affairs,” the peace and justice commission said, noting that many people had been internally displaced and would be unable to vote in a runoff.

In the initial election for president Tsvangirai reportedly won 47.9 percent of the vote, while the incumbent Mugabe, who has held the presidential office for 18 years, won 43.2 percent.  A candidate must win a majority of votes in the runoff election to become president.

CISA reports that the peace and justice commission has said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which delayed reporting election results for weeks, is no longer credible. 

“Regrettably, the conduct of ZEC has seriously eroded its credibility as a neutral and non-partisan electoral umpire. All fair-minded Zimbabweans have lost faith and confidence in ZEC which can no longer be trusted to superintend a run-off,” the CCJPZ said.

The commission has called for the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union to manage the run-off election and asked for the United Nations to play a supervisory role.


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