Mugabe, Tsvangirai urge end to political violence

File photos showing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (L) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (R) in 2008.

Story highlights

  • Mugabe is the longtime leader of Zimbabwe
  • He and Tsvangirai are longtime political rivals
  • Disturbances on Sunday injured MDC supporters
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai asked their respective parties to shun violence on Friday, a rare expression of unity between the political rivals.
It came after disturbances Sunday between Mugabe's Zanu PF party and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change in Chitungwiza near the capital of Harare.
About 30 MDC supporters were injured after suspected Zanu PF militia had disrupted a rally where Tsvangirai was scheduled to speak.
The two men have different takes on who might be to blame for the violence.
Tsvangirai accused the police chief, Augustine Chihuri, an ally of Mugabe, of asking police to protect only Zanu PF supporters. Mugabe defended police, saying MDC had barred officers from attending its events.
But both want citizens to embrace peace.
"I am happy the president is with us," Tsvangirai said.
"I have brought before him the issues of violence. I have brought before him the blood unnecessarily shed in our communities simply because of one is Zanu PF and the other is MDC," he said. "I told him about the Chitungwiza violence. ... The police watched and to date there is no single arrest."
Speaking to the leadership of Zanu PF and MDC, Mugabe said, "Let us walk the talk of peace. This is our sincere plea from our hearts."
He added, "People must hold their meetings freely. Don't stand in the way of those who are holding a meeting."
But the 87-year-old president, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, said the level of violence in his country was worrying. He said he has been discussing the issue with Tsvangirai at their weekly meetings.
The men, now partners in a fragile coalition government, said they want Zimbabwe's next elections to be peaceful.
In 2008, political violence ahead of the presidential run-off resulted in Tsvangirai pulling out, citing violent attacks and intimidation by the militia of Mugabe's faction. Mugabe won the election but regional leaders did not recognize the polls and called for a coalition government.
Since then, violence has decreased. But talk of upcoming elections has resulted in renewed clashes.