Rights Groups Claim Violence Persists

AN international human rights organisation has claimed that Zanu PF and state security organs are still perpetrating violence, undermining the party’s credibility in the ongoing talks with the two formations of the MDC for a negotiated settlement to the country’s decade-long crisis.

 

In a 19-page report Human Rights Watch (HRW) said thousands of MDC activists who fled violence before the June 27 presidential election run-off were still in hiding, while armed Zanu PF supporters and government-backed “war veterans” and “youth militia” continued to terrorise villagers in the rural areas.

“The government has made little effort to dismantle the torture camps and bases established by Zanu PF and its allies since the first round of elections on March 29,” the report said.

“In the past four months Zanu PF and its allies have been implicated in the killing of at least 163 people and the beating and torture of more than 5 000 others. Thirty-two of these people were killed after the run-off and two since Zanu PF and the MDC signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on July 21.”

In the MoU, the parties agreed to stop all forms of politically motivated violence.

The MDC claims that 122 of its supporters were killed before the run-off.

The HRW report titled They Beat Me like a Dog: Political Persecution of Opposition Activists and Supporters in Zimbabwe, describes ongoing abuses, including killings, beatings and arbitrary arrests, by Zanu PF and its allies against MDC members of parliament, activists and supporters.

“Zanu PF and its allies are still committing violent abuses, undermining the party’s credibility as a political partner,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at HRW, in the foreword of the report.

The report said the presence of torture camps and of armed Zanu PF supporters, militias and war veterans highlights the precarious nature of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

“The ongoing tragedy has been exacerbated by an increasingly dire humanitarian situation,” the report says. “Severe government restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian assistance, including food aid by local and international agencies, have had a devastating impact on people in the rural areas of Zimbabwe.”

According to the World Food Programme an estimated five million people are in need of food aid.

The report was published amid claims by the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC that its supporters in Buhera South, Manicaland, were being intimidated and abducted by suspected Zanu PF war veterans and youth militia believed to have been sent by war veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba.

Chinotimba lost the Buhera South parliamentary seat to the MDC’s Naison Nemadziwa in the March 29 elections.

Nemadziwa told the Zimbabwe Independent that Zanu PF still had bases in the constituency.

“Last week, the wife of MDC activist Killion Chirawo was abducted and beaten by Zanu PF youths who were looking for her husband,” Nemadziwa alleged. “They went back to Chirawo’s house and when they did not find him they chased after his brother Moses Chirawo. Fortunately he managed to escape. The police tell us that they do not have powers to help us because of Chinotimba’s position in Zanu PF and in the war veterans association.”

Efforts to get a comment from Chinotimba were fruitless.

The violence claims come just weeks after Zanu PF and the MDC issued a joint statement condemning violence nationwide and pledging to work on the matter.

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said he wanted to verify reports of the alleged politically-motivated violence.

Meanwhile, MDC refugees at Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre staged a demonstration on Monday protesting against the presence of a Zanu PF activist at the centre whom they accused of causing terror in Ruwa, Epworth, Mabvuku and Tafara before the run-off.

The refugees accused Zanu PF activist Teacher Kadumbo of beating up MDC supporters, destroying their houses, looting their property and displacing them.

According to MDC Epworth councillor for ward seven, William Mapfumo who was at the scene, Kadumbo came to the centre as part of the Reserve Bank team compiling data on the Bacossi facility.

“When the refugees spotted Kadumbo they protested saying he was one of the Zanu PF activists behind political violence,” Mapfumo claimed. “The chairperson of the refugees, Tangai Takaruza, approached the centre’s authorities demanding to know what Kadumbo wanted and he was told that he was on central bank business.” The refugees, Mapfumo alleged, started singing demanding that Kadumbo be arrested for the crimes he committed against them.

“Kadumbo was handed over to Ruwa police and we wait for justice to be delivered,” he said.

By Wongai Zhangazha