ZANU PF has dismissed as “blatant lies” BBC reports that it has set up training camps to drill youths on how to torture and kill its opponents ahead of next year’s general election.
Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira said there was “no truth whatsoever” in the BBC documentary shown on Sunday saying President Robert Mugabe’s party was training youths as terror gangsters.
“Those are blatant lies by imperialist agents who peddle falsehoods about our country and government,” Shamuyarira said. “There is no truth whatsoever in that.”
The BBC showed in its Panorama programme what it called an undercover film. Its correspondent Hillary Andersson said the international broadcaster and human rights groups had talked to nearly 100 young people who had spent time at the training camps.
About half of the girls and women interviewed said they were regularly raped during the training at what Mugabe’s regime calls “job training centres”, the BBC said.
One woman, identified only as Debbie, said she was raped nightly for six months after being forced into a camp at the age of 20. She contracted HIV and fell pregnant before fleeing to South Africa.
“They said no one can complain because it’s part of training,” she told the programme.
A teenager whose name was not given said she was raped every night and ordered to take part in the murder of an elderly woman.
“She was screaming. She even messed herself until she died,” the teenager said. “I beat her also.”
The BBC said: “It is all part of a horrific process designed to mould youths loyal to Robert Mugabe and his party.”
However, Shamuyarira replied: “That is a lie which they are spreading worldwide.”
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and human rights groups have complained about youths trained at such places as the Border Gezi Training Centre whom they accuse of terrorising opposition supporters.
Some training centres are in Mount Darwin, Bindura, Masvingo,Zvishavane and Kamativi.
Government claims the centres are there to equip youths with vocational skills, while its critics say they are there to churn out “shock troops”.
The MDC has said the graduates from the centres, who are indoctrinated with Zanu PF anti-colonial propaganda to defend government, were responsible for the widespread political violence since 2000.
It has accused the militant youths, known as “Green Bombers” because of their green attire, of helping government to rig the disputed 2002 presidential poll.
The BBC said Mugabe had visited the camps and was aware of what was going on.
The documentary said six camps housed thousands of Zimbabweans aged between 11 and 30 and that an estimated 50 000 youths had already been trained.