POLICE have reportedly started arresting members of the Zanu PF militia who terrorised suspected MDC supporters in the countdown to last Friday’s presidential election run-off.
The militia was part of President Robert Mugabe’s campaign strategy to win the run-off against Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC.
Reports from throughout the country suggest that incidents of violence have decreased as police have moved in to disband Zanu PF bases while security deployments on the ground have been withdrawn.
These reports however contrast with an MDC statement yesterday which said MP-elect for Buhera South, Naison Nemadziwa, was abducted at gunpoint on Monday by a group of armed men in Mutare.
The MDC said by last night his whereabouts were still unknown.
Nemadziwa had reportedly gone to court for a hearing in which the Zanu PF losing candidate, Joseph Chinotimba, is challenging his victory in the March 29 election.
The MDC said Nemadziwa was abducted as he was coming out of the court at around midday by five armed men who were in a Toyota twin-cab truck that had no number plates.
However, there were reports of calm in the high-density suburbs like Mbare where a group of youths that were used by Zanu PF to force people to attend midnight vigils and to vote for Mugabe were this week arrested on common assault charges.
“There are well-known Zanu PF youths who were responsible for terrorising suspected MDC supporters who have been arrested and some of them have gone into hiding,” a source told the Zimbabwe Independent.
In Chegutu, police this week arrested over 48 people linked to Zanu PF on charges that include robbery, stock theft, kidnap and assault.
Sources at Chegutu magistrates’ Court said the arrested people were known members of Zanu PF militia who were campaigning for Mugabe.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday confirmed the arrests, but denied that the 48 detained people had been arrested in connection with political crimes.
Some of the detained youths are facing charges of robbing and assaulting white farmers in Mashonaland West province.
He said: “I can confirm that we arrested 48 people in Chegutu but they were all arrested on common crime charges which include acts of theft, robberies and kidnap.”
Bvudzijena said contrary to media reports, some of the people arrested had nothing to do with politics.
“Our investigations suggest that the people in detention at Chegutu police station had committed common crimes,” he said.
Prominent farmer Ben Freeth and members of his family were assaulted on Sunday after a raid on their farm. Footage of the badly beaten farmers was shown around the world.
In Marondera, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force this week said a group of war veterans raided Imire Safari Ranch and demanded that farmer John Travers shoot three impala for them to eat.
“When John refused, they stated that they would burn the place down,” a statement said. “They were extremely aggressive and John eventually had no option but to shoot the impala. The invaders left with the impala, saying that Imire was at the top of their list and they were going to take it.” Imire is involved in rhino conservation work.
According to the taskforce, Travers reported the incident to the police.
The taskforce said it was a foregone conclusion that if the invaders succeed in evicting Travers, animals at the ranch would be slaughtered.
“We have reported the matter to the National Parks who have confirmed to us that Imire is designated as a black rhino breeding area and is therefore not part of the land redistribution programme,” the statement read.
“They say that the invaders have obviously taken the law into their own hands and they will give the matter their urgent attention.”
Meanwhile, the MDC this week said it was battling to repatriate thousands of party supporters who escaped political violence ahead of the run-off.
The MDC claimed that 200 000 of its supporters have been displaced by the political violence that allegedly claimed over 85 lives.
The opposition party claimed that some of its supporters were still in hiding in the countryside.
The most affected areas, the MDC said, were Manicaland and Mashonaland Central where people are reportedly staying in the mountains, a week after the election was held.
A political violence victim from Mberengwa who sought refuge in Bulawayo told the Independent that he was afraid that the Zanu PF militia would kill him.
“The people who attacked me are my neighbours and even when we tried to report the matter to the police, they failed to do anything,” said the victim. “I will not go back home as these people will kill me and they seem to be above the law,” he said.
Christian Alliance national coordinator Useni Sibanda said the situation was tense as the churches were still receiving people fleeing violence from rural areas.
He said: “There seems to be a retributive exercise still going on against opposition supporters and we are still receiving more people fleeing violence and the issue of sending the people back home at this stage is rather too early. Things have not yet settled down.”
The MDC spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa, said the party, together with various institutions, has put up mechanisms for the displaced people to be helped to return to their homes.
In Zaka Central, the MDC MP-elect Harrison Mudzuri said militia bases were still in place.
“The bases are still operational and people are still being intimated and threatened,” Mudzuri said. “This week the militia disturbed a funeral that was taking place. Bases that are still operational are at Gwangwava, Jerera Growth Point, Chinyabako and Fuve.”
He said an MDC activist, Magen’a Mawadze who was recently abducted by alleged Zanu PF youths, was this week found dead.
By Lucia Makamure/Loughty Dube/Wongai Zhangazha