Thabo Mbeki visits Zimbabwe amid rising violence

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Some oppose Mr. Mbeki's strategy of "soft diplomacy" towards Zimbabwe, the New York Times reporting that he has been "sharply criticized and even mocked"

South African president Thabo Mbeki has arrived in Harare today to talk with Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe about the upcoming presidential run-off election. This comes amid claims that violence has risen in the country over the last few days.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights claim there has been a "dramatic escalation in incidents of organised violence and torture" after the recent elections with "more than 900" documented as injured. The organization said in a statement that "the level of brutality and callousness exhibited by the perpetrators is unprecedented and the vicious and cowardly attacks by so-called war veterans on women, children and the elderly shames the memory of all true heroes of the liberation struggle".

Mr. Mbeki is acting as a mediator for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and may have discussed elections and the recent crackdown on opposition by the Mugabe government, which has included the arrest of Davison Maruziva, editor of free newspaper The Standard, 22 deaths, the displacement of 40,000 opposition farming families and such a casualty influx into Harare hospitals that they are worried that plaster of Paris bandage supplies will soon be "exhausted".

Talks between the two leaders at State House lasted for more than three hours before Mbeki left for the South African embassy in Harare.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the largest opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), plans to announce whether he will stand for the run-off election in the South African city of Pretoria, where he is currently residing, tomorrow at 9:00 UTC.