Election death toll in Zimbabwe now 85,say doctors

A total of 85 people have been confirmed killed in the last 11 weeks of violence in the campaign for Zimbabwe's June 27 run-off presidential election, according to independent doctors involved in treating victims, dpa reported.

Fourteen victims were confirmed dead yesterday, the worst day since the campaign of brutal subjugation began immediately after the first round of elections on March 29, according to the list.

The last four were killed in a single incident in Chitungwiza, a sprawling dormitory township, 30 kilometres south of Harare, on Wednesday. They were seized during an attack on the home of a councillor of the Movement for Democratic Change there.

Their bodies showed smashed skulls and two of them had been mutilated and dumped in the bush, south of Harare.

All 85 have been confirmed dead either by doctors who had seen their bodies or from post mortem reports. "This figure is by no means a full representation," said one doctor who requested anonymity.

"There are many who were buried by their families without being taken to a hospital. There are also many who have disappeared and have not been accounted for."

Observers say that the brutality in this election is the worst in Zimbabwe's history since independence in 1980 as 84-year-old Mugabe fights to reverse a parliamentary defeat in March when Tsvangirai won more votes than the elderly dictator in the presidential ballot.

The list showed only two fatalities were members of ZANU(PF), in contrast to constantly repeated assertions in the state propaganda media that the MDC has "unleashed an orgy of violence."

At least 21 of the killings bore the marks of murder squad operations, with the victims disappearing after being abducted, and their bodies being found sometimes up to a week later, badly decomposed.

Five of the murders on the list were attributed to soldiers and three of the victims had been shot in cold blood. Most of the others were victims of indiscriminate, savage assault by members of Mugabe's militias of war veterans and youths, the latter almost entirely uneducated, jobless rural young men.

In one of the killings, Temba Mironde was forced to swallow rat poison. When he survived, young militia men hacked him to death with an axe. Ratidzai Dzenga was pregnant when she was assaulted at length by young militia men. She miscarried and bled to death.

Analysts say that despite the deployment early this week of African observers, violence has continued to escalate. "The latest thing that we are having to treat is people who have been forced to walk through fire," said a doctor who requested anonymity.

On Tuesday, said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly and a veteran political rights campaigner, ZANU(PF) war veterans and youth descended on his family's village in the south-eastern district of Chipinge and burnt down the homes of 20 families, including that of his father, Luckson.

Police claimed that incidents of violence were declining ahead of the election.

"We are not aware of any of those murders," said chief superintendent Oliver Mandipaka, referring to the four young men murdered in Chitungwiza, as well as that of Abigail Chiroto, 27, wife of the informally elected mayor of Harare, whose blindfolded body was found on Tuesday.

All the bodies were identified in hospital morgues by relatives.

Members of the Pan-African Parliament observer mission visited the scene where the four MDC youths had been abducted before being killed. "There was blood on the walls," said one of the observers. "After what we have seen in the last three days, I will never be the same again."

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