HARARE – Robert Mugabe has been accused of stepping up a campaign of mutilating torture, extrajudicial killings and starvation of ordinary Zimbabweans ahead of the June 27 presidential election run-off, which he wants to win at any cost.
An independent inquiry by human rights doctors in Harare says the attacks appear to be aimed at destroying support and structures for the government-in-waiting, the MDC, and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The upsurge in anti-MDC violence follows an explicit warning by Mugabe immediately after his unprecedented electoral loss on March 29. He reminded his supporters of the modus operandi at a rally in Harare last weekend.
You saw who our opponent really was after the announcement of the results, Mugabe told a Zanu (PF) rally last Sunday. You saw the crowds of Rhodesians who had left the country coming back into the land and even demanding that the people who had settled on the land quit? You saw the joy the British had, the joy the Americans had and you saw through their representatives here as if Zimbabwe was an extension of Britain or an extension of America.
We should make them run. If they haven’t run before, we will make them run now, he told his supporters at the Zanu (PF) headquarters.
On Tuesday the top UN human rights high commissioner, Louis Arbour, expressed shock at the extra judicial killings and called on the authorities to punish the perpetrators.
The doctors’ report accuses Mugabe’s supporters of also denying food to tens of thousands of people in drought-stricken areas, where millions are facing food shortages because they backed the MDC.
While estimates vary of the number of people who could starve – between 600,000 and three million – the report’s authors estimate a shortfall of supplies of maize, the staple food, of between 400,000 and one million tonnes.
People in rural areas have three main ways of getting maize: through government ‘food for work’ programmes; buying it from the government-controlled Grain Marketing Board and through donor schemes for school pupils and the under-fives.
All three sources are being manipulated politically to deny food to the families of opposition supporters, the study says.
Those who do not carry a Zanu (PF) card are not allowed to purchase maize from the board, and known MDC supporters report having maize stolen from them if they are lucky enough to buy it.
The researchers have documented cases of MDC families told they cannot take part in the ‘food for work’ schemes.
The most serious allegations about maize, however, concern denial of supplementary food to children. In one area of the Midlands, visiting doctors found evidence of the deliberate starvation of under-fives from MDC families by local Zanu (PF) headmen.
Tsvangirai told The Zimbabwean: They are implementing a systematic campaign of violent retribution against all those suspected of voting for the MDC.