Chitungwiza terror

By Chief Reporter

CHITUNGWIZA - By day, the narrow streets between Chitungwiza's ramshackle houses are filled with children playing.

After dark, they are roamed by heavily armed soldiers, who have beaten up hundreds of people in a brutal campaign against a Zimbabwean town that dared to oppose President Robert Mugabe in the March 29 poll.While the countryside has been particularly singled out for repression since handing Mugabe and his Zanu-PF his first electoral defeat since independence in 1980, the poorest people in the dormitory town are now suffering the most.

Last Thursday morning, four victims of this brutal campaign were found, brutally murdered after being abducted by gun-toting security agents.The four, Yuana Jenti, Archford Chipiyo, Ngoni Knight and another who has only been identified as Tyson – all of them known MDC activists – were found dead in the early hours of Thursday morning with grisly body injuries revealing that they were viciously tortured until they died.

Inside the Chipiyo home in Unit F on Saturday, women sang softly at a funeral wake, while stunned men sat around a bon fire, unable to cope with the shocking deaths.There was a sombre mood at the Chipiyos as they mourned their murdered son, Archford, a young MDC activist who was the son of Ward 19 MDC councilor Philemon Chipiyo.Mourners said they were struggling to come to terms with the shocking politically-motivated murder.

Two women, with tears in their eyes, were wailing violently while elder women were struggling to console them.In St Mary’s, the smouldering petrol-bombed home of the newly elected MDC MP in the area, Marvelous Khumalo, stood as a grim reminder of the price of dissent. The heavily armed troops and Zanu-PF militia are unleashing a reign of terror in this populous suburb of almost 800 000 people, populated mainly by jobless youths who live in overcrowded shacks.

During the March 29 general poll, they showed their discontent with Mugabe by electing candidates from the MDC in the three local constituencies.Soldiers who arrive in convoys of armoured vehicles are exacting a heavy price for this defiance in preparation for a presidential run off vote that had been due on Friday but which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said he would boycott.

One young resident, Mike, was dancing in the Mbizi nightclub when the doors were flung open at midnight and 20 soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms and red berets burst in, carrying assault rifles. They ordered everyone to lie on the floor and then set upon them with clubs, whips and sticks.

Mike, 22, said: They shouted, We are beating you because you voted MDC!’ They poured beer over us while we were on the floor. Then they started beating us. They beat us everywhere: on the back, the legs, the neck.After systematically assaulting all the patrons for about half an hour, the soldiers ordered them to leave the club and, for good measure, kicked and punched them as they fled. Mike still walks with a limp and is badly bruised more than a week after the attack.

He was too afraid to give his real name. He said: I still think they might come for me. It will take time for me to recover. Soldiers have raided at least six bars and nightclubs during the past three days. A pattern has emerged. They arrive in armoured cars, attack everyone in sight and tell their victims that they are being punished for backing the MDC.

They have a new slogan WW’, which The Zimbabwean was told means win or war.’ If Mugabe loses there will be war, the Zanu-PF youth militia have told the hapless residents. He has now been handed an uncontested victory by Tsvangirai that is set to make his regime illegal and totally illegitimate.

The Mugabe government sees Chitungwiza , Zimbabwe ‘s third-largest town, 25 kms south of the capital city Harare , as a security problem. All but a handful of its young men are jobless and fiercely pro-MDC.The residents of Chitungwiza say the army action is punishment for an area that backs the MDC, and shows that Mugabe was afraid of losing the June 27 poll, which he has now won by default.

Soldiers are increasingly seen as the uniformed wing of the defeated Zanu (PF) party, and the military action in the townships indicated that the army was at the disposal of the drive to guarantee Mugabe’s re-election.

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