In the period leading up to elections violence, threats and intimidation were used extensively to coerce voters. Politicians of the ruling party and their supporters made statements indicating that the ballot would not be secret and that reprisals would be taken if people voted in certain ways. Some had been warned that the ruling party had ways of finding out which party each voter had voted for and those that did not vote for the ruling party would ‘face the consequences’. Voter education came too little too late, thus those voters that were brave enough to go to the ballot were not aware of their right to a secret ballot in which the choice of who should govern them was theirs.
Many of the victims have been severely injured, some maimed for life. Along with pain and fear, some have either lost their jobs or are unable to return to them. Others live with the emotional trauma that the threats and intimidation caused them. None of the victims have been left unscathed by political violence. It is something that most of them will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum – the “Human Rights Forum” – has previously issued a number of reports in connection with the widespread violence that has characterised this general election. These reports were based upon both the evidence of actual victims of violence as well as the evidence from secondary sources such as journalists and other eye witnesses to the violence.
This present report deals with the area of Mberengwa in particular. However, it is indicative of the huge scale of targeting of members of opposition parties and non-politically connected persons throughout the country. Office holders and supporters of parties in opposition to Zanu (PF) were the primary targets of political violence, in particular those belonging, or suspected of belonging to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). People whose political affiliation was unclear were not spared. Few Zanu (PF) members were exposed to any violence.
The following report will go into great detail about the nature of violence and intimidation that characterised the run up to elections in Mberengwa (both East and West constituencies). This report contains observations and factual material on the violence and intimidation extracted from first hand reports of the victims of political violence in Mberengwa.
The data from the report is based on an epidemiological approach, and a household survey was conducted throughout the constituency in nearly every ward. By the end of the election the Human Rights Forum had received only 22 cases from Mberengwa East, whilst over 300 cases emerged from the community survey. It is thus clear that there are significant differences between the “passive” capture of data from persons seeking help and the “active” capture of cases from a community survey. The difference between “passive” and “active” is roughly 1:30, and this needs to be appreciated when assessing the scale of the election violence nationally.
A small team of researchers were trained in interviewing techniques, and all interviewers used a standard human rights reporting form developed by the Human Rights Forum. Although many individuals did not wish to be interviewed, a large number did, and more data continues to come in. The large number of arrests of perpetrators of violence in the pre-election period following the elections helped considerably in allaying peoples’ fears and facilitated this research. However, the Amnesty recently granted to most of these perpetrators will clearly re-create a climate of fear and will make future data capture very much more difficult.