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Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 13:59 UK

'Huge violence' in Zimbabwe poll

Opposition supporters
The opposition was able to campaign across the country this year

Zimbabwe's opposition says its activists have been attacked in a campaign of "massive violence" around the country since recent elections.

"Militias are being rearmed, Zanu-PF supporters are being rearmed," said MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti.

The government says there has been no violence and everything is peaceful.

Meanwhile, a judge has agreed to hear an opposition request that the results of last month's presidential election be released, as an urgent matter.

"The case should proceed," said Justice Tendai Uchena in Harare's High Court.

He then began hearing the actual arguments of the case.

This year's election campaign has been relatively calm until now.

The opposition says the violence is meant to intimidate rural voters ahead of a possible run-off poll.

People are being beaten for supporting the MDC
Misheck Kagurabadza, MDC

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu denied the reports of violence.

"There is nothing like that. They are concocting things. It is peaceful," he told the AP news agency.

Independent and ruling party projections say opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai gained most votes but not the 50% needed to win outright.

His Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says he gained 50.3% of the vote and so should be declared the winner.

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF has demanded a recount of the vote, while police have arrested at least seven election officials, accused of under-counting votes cast for Zimbabwe's long-time leader.

'Houses burnt'

Mr Biti said the violence was meant to enable the government to proclaim a state of emergency.

He said rural areas which voted for the opposition had been targeted.

Don't wait for dead bodies on the streets of Harare. Intervene now
Tendai Biti, MDC

The reports of violence coincide with the invasion of white-owned farms by so-called "war veterans".

Some 60 farmers have fled their homes, according to Commercial Farmers' Union President Trevor Gifford.

"It's been more verbal abuse, racial rhetoric and being pushed around and having fingers poked in ones' face and it's been very, very intimidating," he told the BBC.

He said that one of those affected was black.

"His workers' houses have all been burnt and he's been accused of voting for the opposition MDC."

Mr Biti said there had been a "complete militarization of Zimbabwean society since the 29th of March 2008 [election day]".

He also condemned the "deafening silence" of the African Union over the crisis in Zimbabwe.

"Don't wait for dead bodies on the streets of Harare. Intervene now," he urged.

At least 80 Zimbabwean opposition activists have been assaulted by pro-government militants in different parts of the country, the opposition says.

The alleged assaults took place in the eastern province of Manicaland and Matabeleland in the west.

map

One ex-army officer told a BBC contributor in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo that he had fled his home after being attacked for supporting independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni in the election.

"These guys [war veterans] have started violence and it will continue until the re-run," he said.

He said that at least 20 other opposition supporters had been assaulted in the Nyamandlovu district north of Bulawayo.

Mr Makoni's campaign officials say their supporters have also been attacked in three other districts of Matabeleland.

In Manicaland, opposition parliamentary candidate Misheck Kagurabadza said that about 60 families had fled their homes after being harassed by so-called "war veterans" who had invaded nearby white-owned farms.

"People are being beaten for supporting the MDC," said the MP-elect for the Mutasa South constituency, just north of Mutare.

The reports have not been independently confirmed, although they have been reported to the police.

'Rubbish'

The invasion of white-owned farms came as President Mugabe called on the black population to ensure white farmers did not reverse his land redistribution programme.

"Land must remain in our hands. The land is ours, it must not be allowed to slip back into the hands of whites," the state-owned Herald newspaper quoted him as saying on Monday.

Robert Mugabe (5 March 2008)
President Mugabe has urged Zimbabweans to fight for their land

The widespread invasion of white-owned farms from 2000 coincided with a campaign of intimidation against opposition supporters in rural areas.

The government says the land reform programme was needed to right colonial era wrongs, when black villagers were evicted from the most fertile land.

Results have been published in the parliamentary race and Zanu-PF has lost its majority for the first time since independence.


video and audio news
People claiming to be war veterans occupy land



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