Thursday, June 19, 2008

Terror as an election tool in Zimbabwe

In March, the Zimbabwe election commission confirmed that Robert Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, had lost control of Parliament. The official results were published in May showing Mugabe receiving 43% of the vote to almost 48% of the vote case for the main opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) party. Despite evidence of widespread irregularities, the opposition agreed to a presidential run-off on June 27th.

As election day approaches, the authorities under Mugabe’s control and activists with the ZANU-PF, have been conducting nothing short of a reign of terror on the countryside to intimidate supporters of Tsvangirai and the MDC

Joe Trippi (via Mathew Yglesias) tells this story:
Today I spoke with a Police officer who has fled Zimbabwe. On June 11th his unit of 500 officers were called to Police HQ to vote their Mail Ballots. But he and many of the others had not applied for mail ballots. His commanding officer informed him that the department had applied on behalf of all its officers and that they all had to vote their mail ballots immediately.

He was brought into a room with one table and four chairs around it. Three chairs were occupied by senior police officials of high rank — he was told to sit in the 4th chair and was handed his mail ballot and ordered to vote in front of the three commanding officers. This brave citizen of Zimbabwe, a police officer who had served his community for years, slid his ballot under the table, voted quickly, folded his ballot, put it in its envelop and handed it to the officers who were monitoring his vote and left the room quickly.

They opened his ballot and saw that he had voted for Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC. He was followed by the Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) who attempted to kidnap him that night at his home. He has been on the run ever since. This officer told me another story of another officer in his unit who actually voted his ballot out in the open, on the table, in front of the three senior Police officers, and was immediately arrested and taken to one of the detention centers that are now being called “Reeducation Camps”.

I asked him what “reeducation” means? He told me “People are only taken there to be beaten”.
This post at Zimbabwe Today on the use of chemicals by the ZANU-PF to maim and kill opponents of Mugabe:
The terror campaign being waged by government militia in Zimbabwe has taken on a new dimension - the deliberate application of highly toxic chemicals to the wounds suffered by opposition MDC supporters.

I have evidence that at least seven people, who first suffered severe beatings, had their open wounds sprayed with the dipping chemical Tactik Cattle Spray and the herbicide Paraquat. A nine-year-old girl had Paraquat applied to slashes on her buttocks. The process radically increases pain, and can lead to death.

Yesterday, Tuesday, I saw four victims of this treatment in a private health care centre in Harare run by missionary doctors. All come from Manicaland, where Zanu-PF terror squads are known to be operating. One victim, Tonde Mondiwa, 24, is not expected to survive.

Tonde's arms and legs are covered in blisters, and the skin is peeling off. He told me: "I was beaten up first by the Green Bombers (a Zanu-PF youth militia). Then they poured water mixed with Paraquat on me."

One of the doctors told me: "The cell death in Tonde's skin tissue is rapid, his chance of recovery is now nil." She explained that the chemicals eat through flesh, leaving bones exposed. "This is nothing less than chemical warfare being waged against civilians," she said.

Paraquat is described as a quick-acting, non-selective herbicide, which is poisonous to humans if even a small amount is swallowed or enters the blood stream.

Meanwhile across the country more conventional terror tactics continue to be inflicted on those identified as supporters or activists with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
While Mugabe continues to threaten war and death to those who vote against him, more deaths are being notified. Farai Gamba, an MDC ward organiser in Rusape, was shot dead by militiamen, while the local chairman of a group of independent election monitors has disappeared.

Some militia are making no secret of their crimes. In Buhera South Mugabe's men first murdered MDC supporter Chokuse Muphango, then drove his body through town on a truck, announcing: "We have killed the dog."
And Norman Geras (via Jeff Weintraub) reports on the escalating numbers and severity of cases of systematic violent assault and torture during the past several weeks as part of the Mugabe re-election campaign.

You can learn more at Friends of Zimbabwe.

1 comment:

Paul Hammond said...

This is predicable and sad. Thanks for covering it.