Despite massive intimidation, widespread violence and state terrorism, Zimbabweans have turned out for the Presidential elections in record numbers – demonstrating overwhelming opposition to the ruling party.
The ZANU-PF government of President Robert Mugabe have placed their 70 000 man armed forces on high alert and cancelled all leave. Some military units have also been withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Mugabe’s forces have been helping to prop up fellow Marxist Kabila since 1998.
The African Defence Journal reports that an unprecedented two-thirds of the Army has been deployed. Even the mechanised battalion with 3 000 troops, tanks, armoured vehicles and mobile rocket units have left their barracks.
A senior ZANU-PF politburo member and Secretary for External Affairs, Didymus Mutasa, said on SABC television that there would be “mayhem” if the majority of voters chose the opposition MDC candidate. “Under these circumstances, if there were to be a coup, we would support it very definitely,” he said. Senior Zimbabwe military officers have also warned that they would not stand by and see Mugabe defeated in any election.
“ELECTIONS ARE A COLONIAL INVENTION”
Comrade Zhou, the leading ZANU War veteran in the Chinhoyi area was quoted in the Mail & Guardian, March 8 newspaper, as saying: “I do not understand why Comrade Mugabe has to have an election. He is our leader … and he should stay our leader until he dies and then our chiefs will choose a new leader. Who said we had to have elections? The colonialists. It is a colonial invention and Comrade Mugabe says we are getting rid of these colonial things ... we know who our enemies are. It does not matter if they are white or black. If they do not support Comrade Mugabe, then they are working with the colonialists. We will have to fight them …”
YOUR VOTE COULD KILL YOU
Comrade Zhou was also quoted as threatening: ”We will know if there is a single vote for the colonialists and that person will regret it … There is no law in a war. You try to kill your enemy ... he is your enemy and you must kill him, not put him on trial ... We had to beat one man because people heard him say it was the presidents’ fault there is no food."
RED BRIGADES MOBILISED
Last year, Mugabe created a ZANU-PF Youth Militia Brigade. Apparently the “War Veterans” were not violent enough and got too easily sidetracked into concerns to occupy and till the land and preoccupation with food. The Youth Brigade in contrast is only preoccupied with political terror – aimed at intimidating voters to cast their ballots for Mugabe.
Failing that, their secondary goal is to prevent those who determine to vote against their leader from making it to the polling booths.
ZANU-PF Minister of Youth Development and Employment, Elliot Manyika, claims that their controversial national service youths have only been trained in “peaceful skills such as carpentry, agriculture, bricklaying and technical services.” However, observers have pointed out that the 3 weeks these courses run are not sufficient for such training.
Numerous graduates of these Youth Brigade courses have testified that they only received political indoctrination and military training. This included physical fitness, gun handling and shooting lessons. About 20 000 of these ZANU-PF Youth Brigade militia have been deployed throughout the country. The MDC claims that there are 23 ZANU-PF militia bases in Mashonaland-West alone, from which violent attacks are being regularly launched to assault any opposition members or sympathizers.
THUGS FOR MUGABE
The militia has set up roadblocks throughout the country. Drivers and bus passengers are forced to show a ZANU-PF membership card or they risk a beating. In Chinhoyi, these ZANU-PF militia beat up passers-by and even assaulted foreign election observers!
At Nyamgomba farm, when a poster of Mugabe was found to be defaced, the Youth Brigade assembled the entire farm’s workforce and threatened to send them all to a concentration camp “for re-education and interrogation” unless the culprits confessed. A mechanic and the foreman were beaten to extract information. Eventually one of the farm workers came forward and confessed, implicating another man. They were both dispatched to a “re-education camp.”
“BEAT THEM UNTIL THEY ARE DEAD”
The local ZANU-PF Member of Parliament and party chairperson, Philip Chiyangwa, claims that the militia is merely there “to keep the peace.” However, there is a video which shows Chiyangwa instructing ZANU-PF supporters: “If you get hold of MDC supporters, beat them until they are dead. Burn their farms and their workers houses, then run away fast and we will blame the burning of the workers houses on the whites. Report to the police, because they are ours.” (M&G, 8 March 2002).
ABDUCTION AND TORTURE
Over 80 election observers for the opposition MDC have been abducted by ZANU-PF’s Youth Militia. These polling agents have been dragged off and beaten, some brutally tortured. By Thursday, ZANU-PF had cancelled or broken up 79 MDC opposition rallies and arrested over 1 000 MDC members.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (a network of human rights groups such as Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Amnesty International Zimbabwe) have compiled a report documenting 142 people tortured, 69 properties damaged and 31 people murdered. These figures are by no means comprehensive. Because of the great difficulty accumulating and verifying such information in such a climate of state-orchestrated violence, these incidents represent only the tip of the iceberg. (Last week 40 more homes of MDC supporters were destroyed by fire in just one Bulawayo township).
HIMALAYAN OBSTACLE COURSE
Since the 78 year old Mugabe came so perilously close to electoral defeat in the Parliamentary elections of 2000, he has erected obstacles of Himalayan proportions to prevent the opposition from translating their overwhelming popular support into votes.
Zimbabweans living abroad, about 2 million, have been denied the opportunity to vote. Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans of Malawian, Zambian or Mozambican descent and many white Zimbabweans have been stripped of their right to vote through a new citizenship law. The Electoral Act has also made it nearly impossible for young urban residents (some of the MDC’s most solid support base) to even get onto the voters roll.
NOT FREE AND NOT FAIR
Although these restrictions, which collectively disenfranchised over 2 million Zimbabweans, were nullified as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Mugabe used his new powers under the Electoral Act to reinstate them.
As one lawyer observed: “Mugabe has assumed the role of legislature and judiciary. He has abused his powers to make or break laws that have a direct bearing on his prospects as a candidate.”
Mugabe has also placed Zimbabwe’s army in charge of the elections and the vote counting process. The retired head of Military Intelligence, Colonel Sobusa Gula-Ndebele is the Chairperson of the Electoral Supervisory Commission. Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba is the Chief Elections Officer. (The government says he retired from the army “a few weeks ago”.Other sources say he is officially “on leave”). The Registrar General is Tobaiwa Mudede. All are Mugabe’s appointees who have generally ignored court rulings.
BLAME THE VICTIMS
MDC legal spokesman, David Coltart, has commented that given the manipulation of the Electoral Act, the elections are likely to be illegal as well as not free, nor fair. In addition to rigging the election, ZANU-PF have been beating up, torturing and murdering MDC members. More than 100 have been killed in politically inspired murders so far. When ZANU politburo member Didymus Mutasa was asked about the violence he responded with a smile: “When Adam was asked why he had sinned, he replied to God – if you had not sent Eve to be with me, I would not have sinned. So probably the same could be said: If there was no MC, there would be no violence in Zimbabwe!”
The Human Rights NGO Forum has identified 119 bases from which ZANU-PF militia gangs operate, kidnapping MDC members and torturing them. Even when the assailants and killers have been identified and brought to court, the authorities set them free. Some of the killers identified in court have been intelligence officers.
STEALING THE VOTE
One of the ZANU-PF militia’s most effective tactics has been to confiscate identity documents of assumed MDC supporters at roadblocks. As these identity documents are essential for voting, this effectively cuts down on the number of votes cast for the opposition.
Just before the election, the Registrar shocked everyone by announcing a Supplementary Voters Roll! It is not known how this “supplementary voters roll” was drawn up or who is on it! Then it was announced that the police and army had “already voted” – although nobody knows when, how or where. Nor were any observers present.
THE DEAD VOTE FOR MUGABE
Some observers have noted that the reported total for the voters roll of 5.2 million is mathematically impossible. Well over 60% of the population are under 18 years old. Some 2 million adults have been disenfranchised. Where then do over 5 million voters fit in when the total population is under 12 million? Zimbabwe has an annual death rate of 300 000. The vast majority of these deceased remain on the voters roll. Many Zimbabweans are predicting that all these corpses will have their votes cast for Mugabe.
BURNINGS AND BEATINGS
ZANU Secretary for External Affairs, Didymus Mutasa, whose area, Rusape, he proudly claims is a no-go area for the MDC (“There is not one MDC supporter in our area” he beams) has publicly stated on TV that they will give up their Bibles in order to get the land. Recently 12 homes belonging to MDC sympathizers in his area were razed to the ground. Anybody even seen with the only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News, is beaten up by his ZANU militia. When magistrates were hearing cases of assaults by his men, Mutasa danced on their cars with an AK47 in his hands and a bandolier across his chest to intimidate them outside the courthouse.
THEFT AND DEATH
Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Information, denies that there can be any more private ownership of property: “The land belongs to the people.” To emphasize this, ZANU militia have even come onto private game reserves and shot rare and endangered wildlife for meat for ZANU-PF party rallies. A whole herd of 35 Eland were slaughtered on one farm, just to feed party supporters. It had taken the farmer decades to build up these eland for his game reserve. ZANU didn’t even leave one alive.
ZANU HELPS VOTERS DECIDE
ZNA soldiers, ZANU militia and war veterans responsible for the 2 year government orchestrated campaign of farm invasions and violence, were inside almost every polling station. In some cases they were “helping” voters to mark their ballots.
ARRESTED FOR A BOTTLE OF WATER
The government drastically cut the number of polling stations in urban areas by 40% (where the opposition has most of its support), thereby guaranteeing long and frustrating queues. Some voters waited in queues over 12 hours before being able to cast their votes. Some people were arrested for bringing water bottles for those standing for hours in the sun. Tempers flared at some polling stations in Harare and police hit voters with sticks and batons. At one polling station they only processed 20 votes in a single hour despite thousands being in line. In Harare, tripartite elections (for the Mayor, City Council and President) increased paperwork and delays. The Mayoral election was overdue by 2 years!
VIOLENCE, INTIMIDATION AND DECEIT
Out of the 12 000 who sought to be election observers, only about 500 were officially allowed to be observers – completely inadequate for the number of polling stations. Logistical confusion reigned in some areas with excessive delays and running out of ballot papers. Skirmishes were fought between ZANU-PF and MDC supporters outside some polling stations.
Independent monitors and opposition party election agents were not allowed to travel in the same vehicles as ballot boxes transported to and from the polls, raising fears that the boxes could easily be switched. Some observers complained that ballot boxes were not even sealed before leaving the polling stations.
Incredibly, even amidst all this violence and deceit, some South African journalists and observers pretended that a basically free and fair election took place in Zimbabwe. One SATV commentator described Robert Mugabe as “the man who brought his people liberation, education, health, relative prosperity and now land.” Such patently puerile propaganda smacked of Gobbels in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.
Zimbabweans have more accurately described Mugabe as “the man who engineered one of the most spectacular economic collapses in history.” What was once the most successfully and peaceful country in the world, with no unemployment, the lowest crime rate in the world, thriving tourism and a currency stronger than the US dollar, now officially has 60% unemployment, 120% inflation, no tourism and it now takes Z$400 to purchase just one US dollar. Starvation is rife - now that the once thriving farming sector has been destroyed by ZANU’s farm invasions.
All this is part of what Mugabe calls “The Third Chimurenga” or third revolution, fought in the name of the witchdoctor Murenga.
PREPARING FOR WAR
Many observers are expecting severe upheavals and violence to erupt after the election results are made known. Most western diplomatic missions have prepared contingency plans to evacuate their citizens in the event of a civil war. South Africa has plans to receive up to 50 000 refugees at Messina near the Beit Bridge border post. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Red Cross are preparing for Zimbabweans to flee the expected violence or hunger over the next months.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of Zimbabweans reject Mugabe and his disastrous Marxist policies. There is also no doubt that Mugabe has no intention of being removed from power, even by an overwhelming electoral defeat. These elections have been rigged from the beginning and have been hijacked by ZANU-PF. However, the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe have reached breaking point. If they are not able to get rid of the tyrant who is oppressing them by the ballot box, many will resort to bullets. The scene is being set for a violent confrontation in Zimbabwe.
“Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets.” Psalm 55:11
“Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.” Psalm 21:11
“Evil will slay the wicked …” Psalm 34:21
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord …” Psalm 33:12
Dr Peter Hammond