Suspected Zanu PF youth militia have revived what local residents call a terror base at Damara in Chitungwiza’s Unit N suburb, where they have embarked on a reign of terror intimidating, beating and maiming MDC-T activists, including the elderly.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Children have not been spared either.
The resurfacing of the terror campaign has heightened fears among residents, especially those perceived to be MDC-T activists or sympathisers, ahead of next year’s general elections. Damara was used as a torture chamber during the bloody 2008 presidential election runoff.
Sixty-seven-year-old Theresa Chinodakufa, who looks after four orphans, had bricks and stones thrown at her house by the youths last Thursday, resulting in the windows of her house being destroyed.
Chinodakufa and her grandchildren are now exposed to the harsh winter freezing nights as they are living in a house with shattered windows.
Chinodakufa was attacked after she and some residents resisted attempts by the youths to grab a piece of wetland used for marketing gardening purposes. The youths want to parcel out the wetland for residential purposes.
“They arrived around 9pm after we had just gone to bed. We heard some noise and before we could react stones were thrown onto the roof, windows and doors,” Chinodakufa said.
The onslaught on Chinodakufa’s house comes a month after 70-year-old MDC-T activist Anna Mutara had the asbestos sheets, windows and doors of her house destroyed by the youths.
An Ordinary Level student Leeroy Sanyika also spent a week in hospital after sustaining broken ribs in an attack.
Mutara, who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, now lives in a home with shattered windows, leaving her exposed to the harsh winter.
“I am the MDC-T vice-chair of the district women’s organ. On June 17, I had five MDC-T youths and nine women at my house. Three of the women had babies and they were preparing to board a bus that was hired for them to attend a party function in Mhondoro. At exactly 10am, Zanu PF youths descended on my house,” Mutara said.
“. . . They asked why there were MDC people at my house, before threatening to burn us inside. We kept quiet and they left.”
Mutara said the youths returned a few minutes later in larger numbers.
“They threw bricks and stones and one of our youth members rushed to lock the doors. I hid in one of the bedrooms with the women where we put the children in a wardrobe fearing they would be hit by the bricks. It was very scary we were afraid the bricks would hit us,” she said.
“After smashing the windows, they attempted to enter through the back door but retreated after damaging the door. Our neighbours could not intervene as they were afraid. The youths will be under influence of drugs and crossing their path is not safe.”
Mutara reported the case at Makoni Police Station, resulting in the youths being arrested and taken to court. They were released on bail.
“Had it been MDC-T youths who have caused such terror they would be behind bars now. But these youths are still roaming free and continue to threaten us, saying they will make us disappear in acid,” said Mutara.
Another victim, Leeroy Sanyika, a Form Four pupil at a private school in Chitungwiza, suffered broken ribs and swollen gums. His mother, Abigail Veremu, who was a victim of the 2008 political violence in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, said she was devastated that her son was assaulted because she is an MDC-T activist.
“Leeroy was coming from a dance group session. He loves dancing and he does that during his spare time with his friends. He met a group of Zanu PF youths and they started beating him, telling him to walk towards Damara base. At the base, they assaulted him while asking him why I support MDC,” Veremu said.
“A lady who resided close to the base rushed to my home and informed me that my son was being beaten. I had to seek the intervention of some people to rescue my son. He spent almost a week at Chitungwiza General Hospital being treated for broken ribs and swollen gums. We were then helped by a private counselling organisation to get further treatment at a private hospital in Harare. Leeroy, who was traumatized, is receiving counselling.”
Residents say drug and alcohol abuse are rampant at the terror base. The base has been revived at a time violence is on the rise.
A human rights organisation, Heal Zimbabwe, in a statement on Wednesday said it recorded a total of 28 human rights violations from 18 districts between June 27 and July 7.
“The organisation recorded human rights violations that fall into 6 categories that include intimidation with threats of violence, threats of withdrawal of food aid or agricultural inputs, forced participation (in political meetings, financial or material contributions), unfair food aid distribution, arson and assault,” read the statement.
“Cases of intimidation in local communities are on a rise recording 57,1% (16 cases) compared to the previous week where 48% was recorded (13 cases). Forced participation or contribution in political party activities seconds the list of the most violations recording 25% (7 cases), followed by unfair distribution of food aid recorded at 7,1% (2 cases). Arson, assault and threats of withdrawal of food aid recorded 3,6% each (3 cases).”