I met up with my friend Benjamin in Bulawayo this week, and asked after his family. His mother and three sisters live in the Umguza district, where his mother grows fields of crops and the three girls go to school.
“You can ask them yourself,” he replied. “They’re all here in Bulawayo with me. They’ve had to abandon their life in Umguza, leave everything. It was a case of run – or be slaughtered.”
He then told me the details of what had happened. This is his story:
“My mother knew she had to do something. For some weeks she has realised it is not safe for her even to move around the locality. She is known to be a supporter of the MDC (Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition party), and she realised that fingers had been pointed at her. There was a definite threat in the air.
“Things came to a head last Friday. My two little sisters are in primary school. They’re only 11 and 13. But outside school they were confronted by a gang of men armed with axes and clubs. The men told them that they would be killed, and their bodies burned to ashes.
“Terrified, they ran home. My mother was trying to calm them down when my older sister, who is in Form Four, came in, just as upset. The same men had confronted her, waving their axes in her face and threatening to kill her on the spot.
“They told her that anyone who belonged to the MDC faced death if they didn’t run away.
“Next morning a group of men confronted my mother herself. She knew them. They are her neighbours. She trusted them. But they told her that if she stayed they would burn her home down during the night, and kill everyone in it.
“I myself went home. While I was there I listened to our local MP, Obert Mpofu, addressing his supporters. He told them, in my hearing, that ‘sell-outs’, as he called MDC supporters, must be driven out before the election, to stop them voting.
“So it’s clear the threats of violence have official backing. And I don’t need reminding that this is where Gloria Olds and her son were slain in cold blood by war veterans at the heigh of the land seizures in 2000.
“So I made my decision. I brought my mother and sisters into town, to be with me. Okay, it’s not safe here, either. But if we are to die, then we die together.”
That’s Benjamin’s story. His family’s experience is being repeated, in one form or another, all over Zimbabwe today.Post published in: News