SUSPECTED war veterans and Zanu PF militia have revived liberation struggle night vigils (pungwes) in Mashonaland East as politically-motivated violence spreads across the country to coerce the electorate to vote for President Robert Mugabe in the anticipated presidential run-off against the MDCâ€™s Morgan Tsvangirai.
According to statistics compiled by human rights organisations, more than 150 people have become victims of political violence since the March 29 harmonised elections.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) reported yesterday that war veterans had established â€œterror basesâ€ in Mutoko South where villagers were being forced to attend day and night vigils.
â€œAbout 10 war veterans using a new B1800 and two Toyota trucks, all armed, are moving around Mutoko beating up people suspected to have voted for MDC Tsvangirai,â€ read the ZPP report.
â€œThey are forcing villagers to attend meetings during the day and in the evening with the help of Zanu PF youths who beat up people.â€
The ZPP said the ex-combatants had established torture bases at Corner Store, Kushinga, Jari, Nyahondo and Rukanda.
At Mutoko Police Station, the ZPP reported, war veterans ordered police officers not to arrest Zanu PF members perpetrating violence in the constituency.
â€œOn Thursday, April 10 a police officer (name supplied) said war veterans visited Mutoko Police Station where they ordered the member in charge to call all police officers at the station for a meeting,â€ read ZPPâ€™s report.
â€œThey (police officers) were allegedly threatened with death if they arrested any of the perpetrators and were also ordered that during the run-off all police officers should cast their votes at the office before the member in charge.â€
In Mashonaland West province, the ZPP reported that four MDC members sought refuge in nearby mountains from a war veteran known as â€œBlack Jesusâ€ and a soldier identified as Thomas Ganure.
The human rights organisation reported that in Marondera East three houses were burnt down and people were being assaulted by Zanu PF supporters.
Last Friday three MDC activists were heavily assaulted at Rapid Farm and were being guarded by Zanu PF youths so that they do not access treatment.
The victims were assaulted by war veterans.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said they had seen and treated 157 victims of organised violence and torture.
As of Tuesday, the doctors said, 30 of the victims were still in hospitals.
Women, according to ZADHR, were the most affected victims as the political tension predominant in the former Zanu PF strongholds of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East and Manicaland continued to soar.
The doctors said the â€œcommonest injuryâ€ was extensive soft tissue injury of the buttocks.
â€œOne third of the patients are women, including a 15-year old girl who was abducted with her mother from her home, made to lie on her front and beaten on her buttocks. Her mother, who is pregnant, was similarly beaten,â€ ZADHR reported.
The doctors alleged that the suspected perpetrators were threatening medical staff in volatile areas not to attend to the victims of political violence.Â
The doctors appealed to other health professionals not to selectively attend to patients based on political affiliation.
â€œWe call upon all political parties to cease the use of intimidation, violence and torture as a form of retribution or victimisation,â€ the ZADHR said.
The ruling Zanu PF lost control of the House of Assembly in last monthâ€™s elections for the first time since Independence. Zanu PF won 97 seats against MDC-Tsvangiraiâ€™s 99. The Arthur Mutambara-led faction won 10 seats.
Zanu PF garnered 30 out of the 60 senate seats, while the MDC-Tsvangirai got 24 and Mutambara the remainder.
Independent election tallies revealed that the 84-year old Mugabe, who has been in office since 1980, lost the presidential election to Tsvangirai, although failed to garner the mandatory 50% plus votes to assume office.
The Zimbabwe Election Commission is yet to announce the result of the election.
Meanwhile, the United States government has condemned the recent spate of violence by suspected Zanu PF supporters against opposition members.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack accused members of Zimbabweâ€™s security forces and supporters of Mugabeâ€™s ruling Zanu PF of using violence and intimidation after the presidential, parliamentary and council polls.
â€œThese incidents appear to target individuals who voted against Zanu PF candidates during the elections,â€ McCormack said in a statement.
Urging Mugabeâ€™s administration to bring an end to the skirmishes and uphold human rights, McCormack said there was â€œno place for violence or intimidation in a democratic societyâ€.
The State Department also warned American citizens residing in Zimbabwe of a â€œcontinued risk of arbitrary detention and arrestâ€ when travelling to rural areas and high-density suburbs of Zimbabwe.
In contrast, South African president Thabo Mbeki, en route to last Saturdayâ€™s Sadc extraordinary meeting in Zambia, told journalists that there was â€œno crisisâ€ in Zimbabwe.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said perpetrators of political violence would be arrested.
â€œOur position is very clear, we arrest all perpetrators of violence,â€ he said without saying how many people had so far been apprehended.
By Bernard Mpofu