IN the countdown to the June 27 presidential election run-off some parts of Epworth —— a sprawling township outside Harare —— were turned into “war zones” with alleged Zanu PF militia convening regular night vigils where perceived opposition supporters were routinely assaulted.
Their crime? Supporting MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who outpolled President Robert Mugabe in the first round of the presidential poll on March 29.
Apart from the 2000 referendum, this was Mugabe’s first ever defeat in any poll since Independence in 1980.
His continued stay in power was in danger and his party decided to embark on a “military like” campaign to win the run-off for him.
Epworth, like many areas throughout the country, became a battleground to win the hearts and minds of voters.
State security agents and war veterans allegedly aided Zanu PF in the campaign of violence widely condemned by the opposition and the wider international community.
“Epworth was turned into a war zone soon after the March 29 election,” recalled a resident who requested anonymity. “Zanu PF militia rounded up residents for reorientation meetings which started daily at 9am and ended at 5pm. From 10pm until the following morning residents were forced to attend night vigils (pungwes).”
During the night vigils, the resident recalled, suspected MDC supporters were savagely assaulted and tortured and ordered to surrender party regalia in their possession.”
“Despite Tsvangirai withdrawing from the presidential race, the beatings and torture continued until the eve of the run-off,” the resident added. “After the results of the run-off were announced, bases established by the Zanu PF militia were disbanded while some perpetrators of the violence were arrested.”
As in Epworth, violence has reportedly gone down throughout the country with the police claiming that no fresh reports of political violence had been reported since the run-off.
Police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka said: “We do not have new reports of political violence since the presidential run-off. There is peace throughout the country.”
The police could not reveal political violence statistics since the March polls or reveal how far investigations into the alleged murder of MDC activists, among them, Tonderai Ndira, have gone.
However, the MDC this week alleged that low-level violence was taking place in some parts of the country.
The Tsvangirai-led MDC claims that 122 of its supporters were killed, over 10 000 injured and about 200 000 internally displaced by state security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans in politically-motivated violence since the March 29 polls.
The party claims that after the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on July 21 between Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC, at least two of its supporters have been killed.
This, the MDC said, was despite that the MoU, among other things, stated that violence should come to an immediate end.
Each party, the MoU read, would issue a statement condemning the promotion and use of violence and call for peace in the country and take all measures necessary to ensure that the structures and institutions it controls are not engaged in the violence.
“The parties are committed to ensuring that the law is applied fairly and justly to all persons irrespective of political affiliation,” read the MoU. “The parties will take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of political violence, including by non-state actors, and to ensure the security of persons and property.”
The parties also agreed that, in the interim, they would work together to ensure the safety of any displaced persons and their safe return home and that humanitarian and social welfare organisations were enabled to render such assistance as might be required.
But observers said the parties were yet to issue statements condemning violence and that humanitarian aid was yet to commence despite the signing of the MoU.
Reports from throughout the country indicate that the level of violence had reduced considerably with most militia bases allegedly established by Zanu PF youths and the military in the countdown to the June 27 presidential election run-off dismantled.
In a statement this week, MDC deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada said in spite of the Sadc-initiated talks, Zanu PF supporters had murdered two of their party members last week.
Mashakada, the acting party spokesperson, said its activist Fungisai Ziome was abducted in Glendale, Mashonaland Central, on July 23 by Zanu PF supporters who allegedly “mutilated, burnt and dumped” her body, which was discovered three days later.
“A report was made about the murder to the police, but no arrests have been made,” Mashakada said.
He also alleged that a police officer, Kingsley Muteta, died at Harare’s Avenues Clinic on July 27 from injuries he sustained after he was assaulted by Zanu PF supporters at his parents’ homestead in Mudzi, Mashonaland East.
Muteta, Mashakada claimed, was based in Harare and was attacked by the mob for allegedly visiting his mother who was a known MDC activist.
“The MDC has asked Zanu PF to show its sincerity to the dialogue process by stopping violence, disbanding all militia bases and prosecuting all perpetrators of political violence,” Mashakada said. “The deaths show that there is no sincerity on the part of Zanu PF.”
However, human rights monitors said the scale of violence had gone down.
In Buhera, Manicaland, human rights monitors said there were 25 paramilitary bases controlled by Zanu PF youths that were still operational.
In other districts, bases continue to be dismantled.
The monitors claimed there were a few places in Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Mashonaland Central where curfews were still in place.
Last week, police arrested the Midlands regional manager of Civic Trust for allegedly peddling “falsehoods” to the international media that political violence was escalating in the country after the one-man run-off.
Peter Muchengeti was arrested for allegedly authoring a document claiming that Zanu PF was still perpetrating violence in the Midlands.
Police reportedly recovered diskettes, one recorder with two microphones and cassettes when they arrested Muchengeti.
The document, titled “Blood by Tracks in Rural Midlands as Violence Continues”, was allegedly sent to the Voice of America’s Studio 7 and alleged that bodies of six people from Matshekandumba Village were recovered near a railway line 30km from Gweru.
This, the police said, was unfounded and the purported village was non-existent.
The police also claimed to have found another document in Muchengeti’s office which alleged that more than 600 people in Gokwe were assaulted by Zanu PF youths and the Minister of Special Affairs responsible for Land and Resettlement Florence Buka.
The police said they also found an exercise book in which Muchengeti further alleged that 184 people had been murdered by Zanu PF youths and security agents since March 29.
By Constantine Chimakure