13 July 2007

Zimbabwe: New Churches' Report Accuses State of Violent Repression

Johannesburg — The outspoken Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube has urged President Robert Mugabe to step down as the country faces deepening political and economic woes.

"Mugabe is a man who is a megalomaniac. He loves power, he lives for power. Even his own party is appealing to him to step down. Zimbabweans are desperate to offer him anything [for him] to relinquish power," IPS quotes him as telling journalists in Johannesburg, Tuesday.

Archbishop Ncube was launching a report titled 'Destructive Engagement: Violence, Mediation and Politics in Zimbabwe', published by the Solidarity Peace Trust. He chairs the church-based non-governmental organization which aims to further justice and peace in Zimbabwe.

In the 44-page document, the trust accuses the Mugabe regime of continuing to use violence against its political opponents in order to cling to power.

"Out of 414 individuals interviewed, 30 percent, or 122, reported torture between March, April and May 2007. This is a shockingly high figure, yet it represents [only a] tip of the iceberg in Zimbabwe. Apart from politically motivated torture, torture of those arrested on suspicion of having committed a criminal offence is routine in Zimbabwe," notes the report.

"In 90 percent of the attacks, government agencies such as the police, Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and army" were involved, it adds. More than three-quarters of reported cases were in the capital, Harare, "one of the two major urban areas considered to be opposition territory".

Recent years have seen Zimbabwe plunged into a crisis caused by a variety of factors, including increased repression and politically-motivated farm seizures. Mugabe accuses the West of plotting to unseat him, and of opposing land reform in Zimbabwe because it has caused minority white farmers to be dispossessed.

Tuesday's launch came as the president, in power since 1980, had ordered price cuts, this amidst runaway inflation and widespread shortages of essential goods.

"Inflation is now 5,000 percent. But economists say it's (actually) 10,000 percent," Arnold Tsunga, executive director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO based in Harare, said in an interview with IPS.

More than 1,300 supermarket managers and owners have been arrested for refusing to sell their merchandise at the lower prices.

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