March 11, 2011 / 12:57 PM / 9 years ago

Diplomats urge even-handed restraint in Zimbabwe

HARARE (Reuters) - Western diplomats in Zimbabwe are worried by rising political violence and have urged security forces and the judiciary to remain impartial.

Zimbabwe riot police arrest labour unionists after they tried to march in protest against worsening poverty in the capital Harare November 8, 2005. REUTERS/Stringer

“The (diplomats) are concerned by increasing evidence in recent weeks of what appears to be politically motivated intimidation and violence,” the diplomats said in an undated signed statement seen by Reuters on Friday.

Violence has increased in recent weeks between the rival parties forced into a unity government due to disputed elections in 2008. President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party called for elections this year, ahead of a schedule drawn up in the power-sharing agreement.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai branded as political persecution the arrest of a minister from his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party on suspected fraud charges and condemned a Supreme Court ruling that nullified the election of an ally as speaker of parliament.

“Considering the role the security forces, the attorney general and judiciary play with regard to fundamental freedoms, we appeal to them to contribute to a positive environment and discharge their duties in an impartial and non-political way,” the diplomats said.

Tsvangirai’s MDC accuses the attorney general, a Mugabe ally, of selectively prosecuting its members while ZANU-PF blames the MDC for the recent violence.

The diplomats who signed the statement came from the EU, the U.S., the former colonial power Britain, Germany, France and Japan among others.

Tsvangirai said the unity government he formed with Mugabe in 2009 was dysfunctional and repeated calls for a regional group to draft a “clear road-map” to elections he envisages after March 2012. However, he said he would not quit the coalition.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF has been under Western financial and travel bans for more than a decade for suspected vote-rigging and rights abuses. The 87-year-old leader says he is being targeted for seizing white-owned commercial farms.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF is pushing to nationalise mines and acquire at least 51 percent of foreign companies with asset values above $500,000 but the MDC is urging restraint, fearing this could hurt investment and derail economic recovery.

Mugabe is also pushing to take over foreign firms from countries that have imposed sanctions on his party.

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