Recount Confirms Zimbabwe Opposition Control of Parliament

Results so far from a recount of disputed seats confirm the opposition's majority in parliament, a government-run newspaper reported Sunday as a top U.S. envoy called for international intervention against state-sponsored violence.

Completion of the recount, expected Monday, should also pave the way for first release of results from Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential election, state media reported Sunday — nearly a month after the polls were held.

But there was little appetite for celebrations amid reports of mounting violence and intimidation. The top U.S. envoy for Africa called Sunday for international intervention.

"When a government deploys its military — and its police and its intelligence operatives, as well as mobilizing youth militia — then the international community has a responsibility to step in and to try to stop that government from beating its own population," Jendayi Frazer said in an interview with The Associated Press in Zambia.

Frazer, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for African affairs, is touring the region to press leaders to take a tougher stance against longtime leader Robert Mugabe.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights also voiced concern about an "emerging pattern of political violence" directed at opposition supporters, election monitors and human rights activists.

"If tolerance and respect for human rights continue their steep decline, the consequences will be grave for all Zimbabweans, and lead to further problems for neighbouring states," Louise Arbour said in a statement released in Geneva.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is believed to have won the presidential election, though not with enough votes to avoid a runoff.

However, no results from the presidential poll have been released, and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change has accused Mugabe of engineering a delay — and a campaign of intimidation and violence — in a bid to hold onto power.

In the parliamentary race, results from 18 of 23 contested seats were enough to confirm opposition control of parliament for the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980, the state-run Sunday Mail said.

The electoral commission had confirmed the results from a recount of 10 disputed parliamentary votes Saturday. Tallies from eight more seats have not been released but Judge George Chiweshe, head of the electoral commission, said there were no significant differences between the two counts — effectively confirming the opposition's control of the main 210-seat House of Assembly.

Original results from the March 29 elections showed opposition parties winning 110 seats to the ruling ZANU-PF's 97. Three vacant seats are awaiting by-elections after the deaths of candidates.

For the presidential race, the electoral commission will invite Mugabe and Tsvangirai, or their polling agents, to a final "verification and collation exercise" on the tallies on Monday, said the Sunday Mail, a government mouthpiece.

Chiweshe said the candidates or their representatives will have a chance to examine the tallies before the results are released. Leaving room for a further delay, he said election authorities agreed that each party would collate its own figures during the final verification stage.

Political tensions have mounted since security forces raided the offices of the opposition and the independent observers Friday, seizing materials related to the vote count. More than 200 people were arrested in the raid on opposition headquarters, police said.

The oppositions said those arrested had been seeking refuge in Harare after being attacked by ruling party loyalists in the countryside.

Human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama said 24 children — "some still suckling" — were among the detained and that there were reports of widespread beatings in police stations.

Hundreds of opposition supporters have been abducted, tortured and assaulted in recent weeks in what independent religious and human rights groups call a violent crackdown on dissent.

Exiled Zimbabwean human rights activists said Sunday that they had set up a Truth and Justice Commission to "identify perpetrators and seek legal redress for the victims of crimes against humanity and other serious crimes in Zimbabwe."

The commission said it has gathered the names of more than 200 names from the ruling party and the armed forces accused of unleashing "unleashed terror and tyranny against civilians" in recent months.

It said the names formed part of a criminal dossier being compiled to support prosecutions in South Africa, where those responsible for crimes against humanity can be apprehended and prosecuted. It said it would highlight their personal assets and illicit money laundering.

Mugabe's name was not on the list but some in his trusted inner circle were, including the commander of the armed forces, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, who said before the elections that his soldiers would not serve anyone but Mugabe.

"He has personally rejected democracy and has also instructed a military rollout which includes the deployment of militia, soldiers, army brigadiers and war veterans into rural areas to torture at will, and in some instances kill mainly opposition supporters," the document said.

Nicole Fritz, Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, said Chiwenga bears the same responsibility under international law as the "warlords" of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.