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Zimbabwe "on the brink of civil war"
This is the dire warning contained in a fresh report on the political and security situation in Zimbabwe, where desperate MDC supporters are said to be taking the fight to "state-sponsored goon militias".
The report - a collaborative effort between the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Africa Policy Institute (API) - was released on Thursday in Johannesburg.
Its authors warn that, as a peaceful solution to the political impasse remains elusive, the spontaneous, retaliatory violence allegedly perpetrated by frustrated MDC supporters is starting to show signs of greater organisation, setting the scene for an all-out civil war.
"The MDC youth and general public are increasingly fighting back, and it is likely that their responses will become increasingly sophisticated," the report says.
But MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa on Thursday denied the claim, saying MDC supporters are the victims and that - even under extreme circumstances - they have resisted the temptation of "fighting fire with fire".
The MDC claims that more than 90 of its supporters have died in the violence that intensified after the first round of elections on March 29.
The HSRC/API report claims that state-sponsored violence against MDC supporters has triggered a "parallel emergence of retaliatory violence by the opposition which, though still covert, appears to be gradually acquiring a more structured and programmatical character".
Zimbabwe's disputed president, Robert Mugabe, will use violence to establish "total control" under his renewed presidency, which will precipitate an accelerated economic collapse and may eventually lead to "unrest and civil war", the report warns.
It also urges regional and continental leaders to work toward establishing a "neutral and professional, disciplined force" and to pull so-called "war veterans and youth militias from the streets and villages".
To avoid civil war, the authors propose that regional leaders move speedily to broker a "sustainable executive power-sharing arrangement, leading to a government of national unity with clear time frames".
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