Zimbabwe has been in a state of political turmoil since Morgan Tsvangirai and his party, the MDC, defeated incumbent President Robert Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, in general elections on March 29.3 According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Tsvangirai failed to win the presidential election by a 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority, thus necessitating a presidential runoff against Mugabe on June 27.4  In a bid to win the runoff, Mugabe and ZANU-PF embarked on a brutal crackdown against MDC MPs, councilors, activists and perceived MDC supporters.  In the weeks leading up to the runoff attacks against MDC MPs, councilors and activists intensified. The sustained violence forced Tsvangirai and the MDC to withdraw from the runoff, but Tsvangirai’s withdrawal did not bring an end to the abuses. Human Rights Watch documented numerous incidents of intimidation, beatings and torture until the eve of the runoff. By polling day more than 100 people had been killed and some 5,000 had been brutally beaten or tortured.

Many African leaders, who have in the past been reticent to criticize Mugabe’s poor human rights record, were shocked at the levels of violence and called for the runoff to be postponed. Mugabe ignored their calls and declared himself president after the one-person presidential runoff.5 At the annual Heads of State African Union Summit on June 30 and July 1, African leaders issued a resolution calling for negotiations between the two political parties. The resolution also endorsed SADC’s previous mediation efforts under President Thabo Mbeki, paving the way for new talks to begin between the two parties. The ongoing talks have not brought an end to serious human rights violations in the country.  

3 See Human Rights Watch, Zimbabwe –“Bullets for Each of You”: State-Sponsored Violence since the March 29 Elections, June 2008,

4 Ibid.

5 “African Union Reject Result in Zimbabwe’s Sham Election,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 29, 2008,