A Methodist bishop has made a passionate appeal to Zimbabwe's political parties and the government of President Robert Mugabe to take action to stop the continuing political violence in the country.

At a New Year's ceremony on January 7, attended by judges and senior government officials, Bishop Cephas Mukandi said: "We hear incidents of citizens of this country fighting or killing one another because of political differences. Battles have never settled a quarrel, neither will they now."

Political violence and intimidation have been mounting in Zimbabwe over the past few months in the run-up to the presidential election, scheduled for March 9 and 10. In this election, President Mugabe faces the strongest challenge ever to his 21-year-rule in opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

At the end of December, during a congress of his ruling Zanu-PF party in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Mugabe vowed to crush the MDC. During the past two months, at least four people—all believed to be members of the MDC—have been killed.

The bloodshed has drawn the attention of the international community. Last autumn the European Union threatened to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe unless intimidation of political opposition stopped. A delegation of Zimbabwean government officials is expected to meet EU officials this week.

According to the latest reports, Zimbabwe's parliament approved new security and election laws which critics say are intended to stifle dissent before the elections. The parliament is also expected to pass a law introducing tight controls on the media.

The security bill gives the police new powers and would make it an offense to criticize the president. New election regulations ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.