Who is responsible?: A preliminary analysis of pre-election violence

The Human Rights NGO Forum as well as its member organisations and other organisations have been documenting political violence since May 2000. In that time the Forum has taken more than sixty statements from victims of human rights abuses as well as many accounts from witnesses. We have seen and recorded the wounds which are a consequence of torture and brutality, among them burns, axe cuts, whip lashes and beatings. In the process we have been able to establish certain facts about the nature of the violence and who is responsible. These cases are only a small sample of the attacks and intimidation which have become a part of daily life in some parts of the country, but in their detail and consistency they tell a damning story.

Every victim who reported to the Forum said they were assaulted by Zanu (PF) supporters except two, who named the police as responsible. Many blamed militia-style groups led by war veterans, Zanu (PF) officials, agents of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) or in a few cases, army personnel. The leaders and instigators of violence are generally well known locally, although the youths who carry out the violence have often been brought from elsewhere. Certain prominent individuals are named time after time by victims from the same area. In an interim report: “Who is Responsible: A Preliminary Analysis of Pre-Election Violence” the Forum present the evidence that violence is being sponsored by high-ranking Zanu (PF) officials to wipe out opposition support in advance of the parliamentary elections.

Militia bases have been established nationwide on farms in offices, homes and businesses. While there are local variations in the way the militia are operating there are also many standard practices. Zanu (PF) youths have been offered financial incentives to join the campaign and are being transported from bases into the surrounding area to attack opposition members and others whose loyalty to Zanu (PF) is in doubt, particularly farm workers and teachers. The bases have become second homes to the militia in many places and they eat, sleep and are supplied with drink there. Some bases are situated near to polling stations and here we can mention the rural district council offices in Gokwe and Shamva, the Country Club in Mutoko and St Paul ’s Mission in Musami, Murehwa.

This report studies the pattern of the violence in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East. It documents the massive scale of the violence in these provinces. In many areas within these provinces, opposition candidates and their supporters have been relentlessly hunted down and attacked, together with members of their family. Women have been raped during these attacks. Some candidates have been forced to flee from their home areas as a result of the violence. Many of their houses have also been set on fire.

The campaign of violence has been carried out on an organised basis and there have been repeated allegations made that some Zanu (PF) candidates have been involved in the violence. Unless these allegations are disproved, these candidates are obviously unsuitable to be members of parliament.

In its report, the Human Rights Forum calls upon government to take steps to curb the violence by its supporters. It also condemns any acts of violence that may have been committed by supporters of opposition parties. Finally, it calls for the immediate establishment of a credible, independent commission of inquiry to investigate further all allegations of violence.

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Design and development supported by HURIDOCS.