By Ed Cropley
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Hackers opposed to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe took out the website of the African National Congress (ANC) on Friday, accusing South Africa's ruling party of a corrupt and bloodstained relationship with the former British colony's leader.
The group also said it had successfully attacked the website of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Defense "for the genocide slaughter of 20,000 ndebele people".
"Ladies and gentlemen and secret agents. today we shall be hitting one of the biggest enablers of the mass murdering mugabe. the ANC in 50 min," Anonymous Africa said on its Twitter feed, @zim4thewin, shortly before the ANC website went down.
Human rights groups say Mugabe's forces killed as many as 20,000 people in an early 1980s crackdown on dissidents in the western provinces of the country, home mostly to the Ndebele minority tribe. Some say Mugabe should stand trial for genocide.
In an interview on South African television this month, Mugabe admitted the Ndebele crackdown was "very bad" but blamed it on soldiers who disobeyed orders.
Tensions inside Zimbabwe and between Harare and Pretoria are running high the day after Mugabe declared an election on July 31, to the anger of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
Tsvangirai said Mugabe's "unilateral" declaration of an election date broke a power-sharing agreement signed after violent and disputed polls in 2008, and accused the veteran leader of trying to cause a constitutional crisis.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which helped broker the 2008 deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, is due to meet in Mozambique on Saturday to discuss the election.
Top of the agenda is how to come up with funds for the vote, although the controversy surrounding the date is also certain to feature. Mugabe argues that he is merely following a constitutional court order to hold the vote by the end of July.
The ANC denied taking sides between Mugabe and Tsvangirai and said its mediation since 2008, along with that of the rest of the region, had helped produce a new Zimbabwean constitution, overwhelmingly approved in March in a referendum.
"The African National Congress will not be deterred nor derailed in the efforts to assist, where requested, in Zimbabwe or elsewhere on the continent," it said in a statement.
Zimbabwe's Ministry of Defense declined to comment and its website was working after Anonymous Africa said it had ended its attack.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)