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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 17:40 GMT
Zimbabwe names election month
President Mugabe casting his ballot at last year's parliamentary election
The run-up to elections has seen a lot of violence
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has said presidential elections will be held in March next year, though he did not give a specific date.

Mr Mugabe told a group of ministers from the Southern Africa Development Community meeting in Harare to discuss the land and current political crisis that a date would be announced "in due course".

Zimbabwe is by law required to hold its election no later than April next year.

The run up to the presidential poll, in which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change threatens the stiffest challenge yet to Mr Mugabe's 21-year rule, has been marked by violence and claims of government supported intimidation.

Body in dam

The latest involved an MDC youth organiser whose body was found floating in the Gonye Dam after he had been kidnapped by unknown attackers, the independent Daily News newspaper reported on Tuesday.

US Congress
US is getting tough with Zimbabwe over election violence

Augustus Chacha was taken from his home in Gonye village, about 240 km south of Harare, late on Saturday.

The paper said that Mr Chacha's attackers accused him of supporting the MDC.

"I strongly suspect that my brother was killed by Zanu-PF supporters who trailed him from Gokwe, where he was active as an MDC member before he came to Shurugwi in August," the French news agency quoted the dead man's brother, Lazarus, as saying.

American pressure

Gokwe has been the scene of some of the worst political violence in the country this year.

The newspaper's report coincides with the visit to Harare of the United States assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Walter Kansteiner.

He said he was worried by the breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and by government support for political violence.

Political violence has killed dozens of people in the last couple of years.

The United States has been the only western country that has so far signalled its intention to act against Zimnanawe for its human rights abuses.

 Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge
The US visitors met Mudenge but not Mugabe

Last week, the US House of Representatives approved the Zimbabwe Democracy Act, which allows Washington to impose economic and travel sanctions against any individuals responsible for the violence.

Southern African ministers have said they do not support sanctions against Zimbabwe, despite the worsening political crisis in that country.

African governments have continued to take a cautious approach to the Zimbabwean crisis.

Barnaby Phillips, Southern Africa correspondent
"The campaign will be the most keenly contested since independence in 1980"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | Africa
Sanctions loom for Mugabe
04 Dec 01 | Africa
Court backs Mugabe land reforms
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