The month of September saw the holding of council elections for 1 397 rural district council and 27 urban wards over the weekend of 28 and 29 September 2002. It was reported that militant Zanu PF youths unleashed a reign of terror in the area forcing many MDC supporters to withdraw their candidature. In the race, only six hundred and forty six seats available were contested by the opposition, due to, among other factors, the ongoing victimisation and persecution of opposition party members.
Zanu PF saw this to mean that their popularity had returned and that the electorate had realised their mistake in supporting the opposition, MDC. On the other hand, the MDC alleges that most of their candidates withdrew from contesting in the elections after threats and intimidation by Zanu PF supporters and in some cases by state agents.
In Shurugwi, Herbert Mhlanga was reportedly forced to withdraw his candidature by Zanu PF youths and was forced to surrender all his MDC t-shirts and cards following unspecified threats from Chief Mapendere. Joshua Tongogara and Anthony Musindo were also allegedly forced to withdraw their candidature for the Shurugwi rural district and council elections after persistent visits and unspecified threats of intimidation by Zanu PF youths and CIO agents. Leornad Mhlanga, former Zanu PF chairman for Bubi-Umguza who defected to the MDC three months ago citing mismanagement by the Zanu PF, was allegedly barred from contesting in the urban ward on an MDC ticket, on the basis that his father was Malawian. However, according to the Urban Councils Act, he qualified to stand as a candidate in the elections.
In Chivi North, Charity Vimbainashe Zvidza, the daughter of Elson Zvidza, MDC candidate for Ward 13 in the September 2002 rural district council elections, reportedly fled to Zvishavane with her brothers after more than fifty Zanu PF youths stormed their homestead in Hapazari Village in Chivi, wielding sticks and clubs. In Chegutu, Stephen Nyikadzino was allegedly assaulted by Zanu PF youths who then confiscated the MDC nomination papers that he had. He was on his way to the nomination court in Chegutu. In Seke, TS claims that he was severely assaulted by Zanu PF supporters for intending to contest in Ward 15 on an MDC ticket.
War veterans have allegedly been supplemented by army personnel in the wave of land evictions in some parts of the country. It has been alleged that well-known military personnel are behind the latest wave of ultimatums and evictions taking place in Mashonaland West, East and Central. Mr Cochraine, who owns a farm in Karoi, was reportedly approached and forced off his farm by a group of about sixty to seventy suspected army officials, armed with automatic shotguns and rifles. In another related incident at Wicklow Farm, Selous, the farm owners were forced leave the premises temporarily for security reasons following a 24-hours notice to vacate the farm from the police, army officers, and the CIO agents. At Chakoma Estates in Goromonzi, General Constantine Chiwenga, his wife Joselyn Chiwenga and a T. Mautsa have been reportedly implicated in the forcible take over of Chakoma Estates in Goromonzi and produce from the farm valued at $125m.
Forced evictions appear to have spread to companies in some parts of the country. Reports were recorded of company officials that have been subjected to threats and intimidatory visits at work and at home by CIO agents, as well as humiliation before their workforce.2 In one case, Chikerema and Hamadziripi of the ZNLWVA are allegedly trying to forcibly take over a $230m Bindura Engineering Firm, Hammond Engineering (Pvt) Ltd, in defiance of a High Court order issued on the 4th of September 2002. Chikerema reportedly led a group of about 50 Zanu PF youths to evict the company’s owners, George Hammond and his wife Elaine.
In comparison to the month of August, cases of political intimidation in September declined to twenty from thirty-five and cases of assault rose from twenty three to thirty-eight. One case of murder was reported to the local press. Nikoniari Chibvamudeve was allegedly hacked to death by Zanu PF supporters in Hurungwe West ahead of the two day by-election which was held on 28 and 29 September 2002. He was reportedly brutally murdered by youths suspected to have been deployed by Zanu supporters to drum up support for its candidate.
The majority of the evidence recorded by the Human Rights Forum point to the Zanu PF as the main instigator of violence in the just ended September 2002 rural district and council elections. However, this is not to say that the MDC had no involvement in political violence.