THE attack on villagers at Mapondera in Chiweshe communal lands in Mashonaland Central early last week left the community traumatised. Six people were reportedly killed while scores were injured in the village bloodbath, a microcosm of escalating post-election violence gripping the country.
“They grabbed me, threw me to the ground and stripped me naked,” said Fungisai Dofo (28) as he narrated his ordeal to the Zimbabwe Independent from his hospital bed, an hour before he died on Saturday. “As if possessed by evil spirits, they started beating me up and in the process one of them crushed my testicles with his boot.”
Harare-based lawyer Shepherd Mushonga, a newly-elected MDC MP in the neighbouring Mazowe South constituency, in an interview this week said he helped to bury six party activists murdered last week.
“I helped to bury all of them. It was an excruciating experience. Villagers were shocked and they are currently living as prisoners of fear. The killings were systematic and brutal,” Mushonga said.
“The villagers were rounded up, they had their hands and legs tied up with wires and their private parts tied with cables.”
Dofo was one of the six people killed in the village. He died at Howard Hospital which is teeming with injured victims of the raid on the village. At least 50 people were injured in the sweeping attack by a group of alleged state agents on May 5.
Those who died include Wilson Emmanuel (34), Tapiwa Meda, Joseph Madzuramhende (29), Jeffy Jemedze and Alex Chiriseri (53).
There was no confirmation of Madzuramende and Meda’s deaths.
Police spokesman Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka last night said he was not aware of any reported deaths in the area.
“Honestly speaking, there has not been any reported deaths in the area,” said Mandipaka. “If there are any such incidents, they are reported to us and investigated.” He said he was checking with the relevant police station to find out if there were any deaths reported in the area.
Asked how many incidents of political violence had resulted in deaths, Mandipaka could not provide any figures and disputed MDC statistics which by yesterday showed that 40 people had died as a result of political violence.
“There is nothing like that; you can quote me on that. Let them continue with their figures,” he said.
The Independent is in possession of a postmortem report by Dr HS Mukungunugwa, a government doctor who examined Chiriseri at Concession Hospital on May 9. The postmortem, requested by Assistant Inspector Masikati, says the deceased had “fractured left 8th rib, swollen genitals, assault marks and bruises on the chest.
“As a result of the foregoing examination, I’m of the opinion that the cause of death was multiple body injuries due to severe assault,” the report says.
The report was requested by a policeman at ZRP Chombira Station on May 9.
Emmanuel died at the Avenues Clinic in Harare after four days in the intensive care unit.
His nephew Bernard Pungwe narrates. “They called us to a night meeting last week on Monday and we initially thought it was going to be a normal gathering but it turned out to be horrific.
“They rounded up people from three villages and said they wanted to re-educate us about the history of Zanu PF and the liberation struggle. When we were there, they started calling out names of people they wanted to come up front. Emmanuel was among them. They said the victims must confess they voted for the MDC. When the three men refused to say anything they were taken into the dark away from the crowd.
“Next we heard the whips and screams. Every time someone screamed hard the chairman of the meeting would stop his lecture and say: ‘Listen to the traitors, they are dying’.”
Jemedze died at the Avenues Clinic.
“He had been badly beaten and his testicles were swollen. He was beaten with sticks and barbed wire,” an eyewitness said.
Dofo, an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist, told the Independent he was viciously attacked by Zanu PF militants allegedly alligned to the party’s MP for Mazowe North, retired Major Cairo Mhandu.
Efforts to talk to Mhandu the whole week failed. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai routed Mugabe in the presidential election first round. The second round is due in August. However, a wave of political violence is rocking the country ahead of the run-off.
Dofo said the brutal assault by the menacing political gang left him shaken. “I was walking along the road coming from my field at around 6pm on Monday (May 5),” he said.
Four men confronted me and started asking political questions. They took me to a mountain nearby where they beat me to the ground, stripped me naked and assaulted me until I passed out. They beat me with a blunt object and stones,” he said.
“One of them had a pistol, so each time I tried to scream for help he would threaten to shoot me. They beat me up as if I was an animal. They wanted me to ‘confess’ that I had voted for the MDC during the recent elections.”
After talking for about 30 minutes, Dofo started groaning with pain and shifting agonisingly on his tiny hospital bed with blood-tainted sheets.
At that point the nurses ordered us out. People left in the ward said they heard Dofo speak to his wife his last words: “Listen Melody, they have killed me for nothing, these Zanu PF people, just because I’m MDC. I am dying, take care of our kid.”
After a short while Melody came out of the hospital ward wailing. It was clear Dofo had gone. A nurse confirmed he was dead. His family members and relatives were devastated.
Villagers were beaten with barbed wire tied to sticks, gun butts and blunt objects at Chaona business centre.
Some suffered broken legs, arms and severe body injuries. Women were whipped on their backs and sustained deep cuts.
They had to undergo skin-grafting treatment.
There is a reign of terror in the rural areas.
The MDC claims 40 people have so far been killed in politically-motivated violence, but government denies the reports. The international community has expressed outrage at the violence.
The US State Department Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour said last week there was a “campaign of terror” in Zimbabwe.
”In the aftermath of the March 29 elections, Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF has unleashed a wave of political violence designed to cow opposition members and supporters into submission and deter them from voting during the run-off election,” it said.
“Soldiers, police, war veterans and youth militia loyal to the ruling party have been deployed in rural areas throughout Zimbabwe to systematically intimidate voters through killings, beatings, looting of property, burning of homes and public humiliation.
“Women, children and the elderly have not been spared. Civil society groups, particularly those involved in election monitoring, and humanitarian organisations charged with providing desperately needed food assistance also have been targeted.”
It said over 700 documented victims have received medical treatment for post-election violence-related injuries, while 200 have been hospitalised and required surgical procedures.
“Many more victims are undocumented and there are increasing reports that government authorities are preventing victims from accessing medical treatment,” it said. “At least 18 deaths have been confirmed.
Victims have suffered severe beatings, fractured bones and severe burns.
Hundreds of opposition supporters have fled their homes in fear. Homes and businesses throughout rural areas have been burned and cattle and other livestock slaughtered. At least 6 735 persons have been displaced.”
Human Rights Watch last week accused the army of spreading a “reign of terror”, but the army dissociated itself with the ongoing violence.
Government spokesmen have been spinning yarns in a bid to cover up the bloody trail of violence.Â
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa recently said the MDC was “lying” that Zanu PF was behind political violence and challenged it to produce evidence to back its claims.
“They are lying about that to please their Western handlers and want to use it to appeal for international intervention,” he said.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa hit back: “Chinamasa is lying through his teeth to the whole world. He knows the truth. Violence has reached alarming levels and his party is behind it.”
South African President Thabo Mbeki last Friday visited Zimbabwe to meet Mugabe over the issue of violence as international pressure mounted on him to put a stop to it.Â
A South African team of retired senior officers led by retired Lt Gen Gilbert Ramano has unearthed shocking evidence of violence engulfing the countryside.
The team briefed Mbeki on the dire situation before his tense meeting with Mugabe last week.
Mbeki was understood to have been horrified by the briefing. His envoy on Zimbabwe, Kingsley Mamabolo, said last week there was violence in the country and the run-off could not take place in a climate of fear.
After Mbeki’s visit government started climbing down, saying political bases and structures of violence by “main parties” had been dismantled. The Zanu PF politburo which hardly ever condemns violence came out on May 14 calling for a cessation of political hostilities.Â
Southern African Development Community (Sadc) executive secretary Tomaz Salomao said this week conditions for a free and fair poll currently did not exist.
Zimbabwe, currently reeling from a protracted political and economic crisis and rapidly becoming an Orwellian society, has a long history of political violence mainly associated with elections.
Mugabe has said he has “degrees in violence”, while his former Information minister Nathan Shamuyarira has said “Zanu PF has a long and successful history of violence”.
By Dumisani Muleya and Shakeman Mugari