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Election official: Expect Zimbabwe result in days

  • Story Highlights
  • Presidential election results should be known by the weekend, official says
  • NEW: Leaders of two local groups report violence against Mugabe opponents
  • Zimbabwe faith leaders say they have seen political killings, torture, kidnaps
  • Government repeats denial of state-sponsored violence against opposition
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(CNN) -- A Zimbabwe election official said Tuesday that results from the presidential and parliamentary elections should be announced this weekend, four weeks after votes were cast.

Election officials are working on a recount of the hotly contested March 29 race between President Robert Mugabe and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.

Officials are also recounting 23 of Zimbabwe's 210 voting districts but have not yet released any results of the vote, said George Chiweshe, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

The delay in releasing the presidential election results have raised fears that Mugabe, who has been in office for 28 years, is taking underhanded steps to cling to power.

"There is no problem," Chiweshe said. "It is a tedious process."

There have been reports of violence and intimidation of those that voted for Tsvangirai. Government spokespeople have denied those reports or said they were exaggerated.

In interviews with CNN Tuesday, two local leaders joined a chorus of Zimbabweans who have said retaliatory violence is surging in the country amid the wait for release of results from the election held nearly four weeks ago.

"We're talking about farm workers being beaten very severely," said John Worsley Worswick of Justice for Agriculture, a Harare-based group that supports farmers' rights in Zimbabwe.

Jestina Mukoko, executive director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, said: "We are getting reports that members of the opposition are being targeted. They are being abducted and taken to torture camps. They are running away if they are lucky. Homes are being burned and being razed to the ground. We have a crisis in Zimbabwe."

Zimbabwe's religious leaders Tuesday called for international help. "People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support," according to a statement from a coalition of Christian churches in Zimbabwe. "In some cases, people are murdered."

The church leaders said they have witnessed political violence, killings, kidnappings and torture -- and warned it would get worse without outside help.

Zimbabwe's government, led by Mugabe repeated its denial of state-sponsored political violence against opposition party members and government officials challenged anyone with evidence of it to come forward, according to Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper, The Herald.

The country's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has claimed that 10 members have been killed by supporters of ZANU-PF, the ruling party -- including four in recent days. The MDC also claimed 800 homes of their supporters were burned and hundreds of people jailed on trumped-up charges.

Father Frederick Chiromba, head of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, said his group issued the statement along with leaders of the country's Protestant denominations.

"We have received reports of organized violence perpetrated against individuals, families and communities who are accused for campaigning for the wrong political party," Chiromba said.

Many people are seeking shelter in churches around the country because of the political violence, he added.

The churches are "appealing to the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations to work toward arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe," he said.

According to the church coalition's statement, some Zimbabweans have been "ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the 'wrong' candidate and should never repeat it in the run-off election for President."

But Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, quoted in the Herald, suggested that the MDC was waging a propaganda campaign to justify international intervention in Zimbabwe.

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"It is all part of a scheme to undermine the country, President Mugabe and our processes," Chinamasa said. "But the rule of law is being observed and will continue to be observed."

Chinamasa accused MDC officials of "gallivanting all over the world lying through their teeth that there is genocide in Zimbabwe and that the country was in a state of war."

National police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, the Herald reported, dismissed claims 10 MDC supporters were killed in post-election violence.

"Four names were given. I have personally investigated these cases. Of those four, three have no basis whatsoever while the fourth is still under investigation and will be concluded soon," Bvudzijena told the Herald.

Chinamasa, the newspaper reported, accused the MDC of having a "macabre tendency to claim dead bodies."

"Even people who have died of natural causes are adopted by the MDC and the cause of death is subsequently attributed to state-sponsored violence," Chinamasa said. "I refute completely that people are dying because of political violence," he said.

As for the arrests, Chinamasa said police would arrest anyone suspected of committing crimes and solid cases would be taken to the courts.

"When a crime is committed the police do not ask what party the perpetrator belongs to," he said. "They just make an arrest. So if you believe that political violence has taken place go to the police."

The MDC claimed those who have reported violence to police have themselves been arrested.

"In Epworth, over 40 MDC supporters were arrested after they had gone to the police to make reports that they had been assaulted by the police," an MDC statement said. "They are currently detained at the Harare Central Police Station."


The newspaper said Chinamasa warned that the MDC "should desist from agitating for war because ZANU-PF does not want war but would use its resilience to weather any such outcome.

The MDC has lost repeated appeals to the High Court to force the commission to announce what the opposition believes would be a victory for Tsvangirai over longtime leader Mugabe. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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