Zimbabwe leaders deny assassination plot

Zimbabwe’s ruling party has denied a claim by the opposition that the military is plotting to assassinate its leader.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai cancelled his return to his homeland over the weekend because of the alleged plot, his aides have said.

The claim followed reports from the opposition and independent human rights groups that opposition supporters have been targeted in a campaign of violence aimed at ensuring president Robert Mugabe wins a planned June 27 presidential runoff.

The assassination allegation has “no foundation whatsoever except in his own dreams”, today’s The Herald newspaper, a government and ruling party mouthpiece, quoted ruling ZANU-PF party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira as saying. Mr Tsvangirai “is dreaming things that are not existent in Zimbabwe. No one in ZANU-PF or government has any intention of killing him”.

Deputy information minister Bright Matonga was quoted in the same article as calling the allegation “stupid”.

Mr Tsvangirai has been out of Zimbabwe since shortly after the March 29 first round of the presidential vote. He plans to return to Zimbabwe to campaign for the June 27 runoff election, once security measures are in place, his aides say.

Mr Tsvangirai says he won the March 29 first round outright. But official results and those compiled by independent monitors indicate he did not win the 50% plus one vote required to avoid a runoff.

The violence poses serious questions about whether the runoff can be free and fair.

In a statement yesterday, Human Rights Watch urged the African Union to send election observers and human rights monitors to Zimbabwe to ensure free and fair voting on June 27.

“The African Union should publicly demand that the Zimbabwean government halt its campaign of violence, torture and intimidation,” Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said. “Unless the current situation is reversed, more civilians will be brutalised and die.”

The African Union, an intergovernmental organisation of 53 African nations, has struggled to agree on what it should to do to help Zimbabwe handle its political crisis.

Her New York-based rights watchdog said Zimbabwe’s ruling party is responsible for almost all the violence. Human Rights Watch said that since the March vote, it had documented at least 27 deaths.

In Washington yesterday, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters the US is working closely with Zimbabwe’s neighbours “to help ensure that there are the proper conditions for a free and fair runoff election”.

He said that includes making sure international monitors are present, the election commission is independent, the army is not intimidating the opposition, there is free access for the media, and the opposition can move freely without the threat of violence.

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