Political violence rising in Zimbabwe
ZIMBABWE’S civil society organisations have observed a marked rise in incidences of political violence and human rights abuses across the country, as the election mood slowly engulfs the southern African nation.
Despite the country’s elections being some three years away, reports compiled by human rights groups, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT), for the month of August 2015 give details of rampant violence.
ZPP recorded a total of 336 cases of political violence in August alone.
According to the report, ZANU-PF accounts for 82 percent of the cases for the month, followed by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), which accounts for eight percent while State security agents are responsible for seven percent of the cases.
ZPP also reported a surge in violent farm invasions, mainly in Mashonaland East and West provinces.
The report says the main victims of ZANU-PF violence were supporters of the MDC-T and allies of ousted vice president, Joice Mujuru, who has indicated plans to form a new opposition party.
In one instance in Wedza, the report says, a woman who was seen wearing a wrapping cloth with Mujuru’s picture was slapped on the face and had the cloth torn by a ZANU-PF member who took offence at the woman’s support for the former vice president.
In another incident, in Viko Village, Nyanga North, an MDC-T supporter allegedly had his lip cut with a knife by one ZANU-PF member who was irked by remarks that his party had destroyed the country.
In yet another incident in Muzarabani, the report says a ZANU-PF supporter, acting in cahoots with his father, allegedly uprooted a fellow villager’s vegetables because he was not attending the ruling party’s meetings.
The report also says one ZANU-PF district chairperson in Mudzi summoned villagers to a meeting where he openly told them that the country was already in an election mode and banned red clothing items in his area saying anyone seen wearing such attire would be labelled an MDC-T activist and thoroughly beaten.
He is also reported to have said all MDC-T supporters would be dealt with before 2018 and perpetrators would not be arrested since they were above the law.
ZANU-PF activists are also accused of torching a house belonging to an MDC-T district chairman in Gutu at Mupandawana growth point as punishment for mobilising vendors to resist eviction from the streets until proper vending stalls were put in place.
The ZPP report says ZANU-PF members around the country have been coercing people to pay contributions towards fundraising for events such as Heroes Day commemorations, often threatening violence to those who refused to comply.
“In a couple of reported incidences, some people who had contributed in cash were forced out of the celebrations on political grounds and when they claimed their money back, they were threatened with unspecified action,” reads the report.
In other places, villagers were forced to donate buckets of maize and other foodstuffs.
“By and large, ZANU-PF acts of harassment, discrimination and other types of violations continue to be perpetrated at three distinct ‘enemies’ namely MDC-T, MDC (led by Welshman Ncube) and, since last year, those perceived to be gamatox. Incidences throughout August confirmed hostile sentiments towards those groups,” the ZPP report said.
Gamatox is a derogatory term used to describe Mujuru allies.
In its report released on the International Day of Peace (September 21), HZT condemned the increase of political violence in the country.
“It is saddening to note that youths in Zimbabwe are seen to be at the forefront of perpetuating violence on behalf of political leaders. It is therefore essential that relevant authorities take all actions necessary in dealing with such conflicts as a way of deterring the upsurge of other similar incidents. HZT urges each person to have respect for and uphold the rights of all persons regardless of creed, colour, political affiliation or social status,” it said in its report.
ZPP and HZT also reported that some people in rural communities were being denied access to food aid, which was being distributed on a partisan basis.
The ZPP report gave the example of an incident which happened at Biriri business centre, Chimanimani, where MDC-T supporters were denied access to rice donated by government through the Grain Marketing Board, with a local councillor reportedly having told a gathering that MDC-T members would not benefit.
Spokesman for the newly formed People’s Democratic Party, Jacob Mafume, said his party’s nationwide membership recruitment drive was being affected by ZANU-PF sponsored violence and fear.
“It’s not an environment without fear as people are generally scared. The threat of violence from ZANU-PF is greater now as the factions are on shaky grounds and they are eager to resort to the only method they know,” he said.
MDC-T spokesman, Obert Gutu, said: “The default mode of ZANU-PF has always been violence. It feeds on threats, intimidation, blood and violence. It’s actually a miracle that the MDC is still in existence considering the formidable State-sponsored forces of repression, oppression and suppression that are daily unleashed on us.”
ZANU-PF spokesman, Simon Khaya-Moyo could not be reached for comment.
Many fear that the violence could increase as Zimbabwe inches towards the 2018 general elections.