They are recruits of Zimbabwe’s notorious “youth national service” militia, which has thoroughly terrorized this place. They are on their way to the nearest militia base, an abandoned commercial farm 12 km distant, for “re-education”.
Their practical lesson last week claimed the life of Crispen Mbano of Ward 18 and Washington Nyamwa of Ward 6. They were murdered last week by the trained recruits, say local MDC district officials. They were the fifth and sixth MDC sympathisers to be killed in this area. The new militia can claim responsibility for more of those deaths than any other branch of President Mugabe’s murderous political machine.
It is Mugabe’s contribution to the tradition of African dictators coercing or bribing unemployed and under-educated youth into service as instruments of savagery against opponents.
“Youth national service” is recognised as a branch of the country’s security forces, paid, trained, provisioned and clothed by state finance.
Since Mugabe’s stunning electoral loss to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on March 29, the youths in crisp olive-green fatigues and caps have been appearing in MDC strongholds all over this province.
Zaka rejected Mugabe and his party in the March 29 harmonised election. They are now being punished for it. The militia have been given Mugabe’s campaign T-shirts, Isuzu pick up trucks, Toyota Vigo vehicles, and AK-47 rifles.
They carry out their task of identifying and brutalising suspected MDC supporters with single-minded dedication.
“The strategy is fully militarised,” a human rights agency official who asked not to be named said.
“The militia have secured this area with illegal roadblocks, and on the inside they go to work with lists of local MDC organisers.”
They came for Mushonga X, 41, an MDC official in a communal area here, ten days ago. He woke with two petrol bombs exploding on the floor of his house. He fainted, was dragged out and beaten with metal rods. His wife had been stabbed in both thighs and beaten, but was alive.
In hospital this week, he has severe burn marks on his ears, lips, nose and shoulders. On his back are the black criss-crosses of the beating. Despite her injuries, his wife told him to flee because the militias had threatened to come back.
Possession of a Zanu (PF) membership card is indispensable. Travellers alighting at the local bus terminus at Jerera are searched for MDC material. At the rural business centre, they keep watch for strangers.
Being young and urban is dangerously conspicuous. Deserters describe training, by men with military background, in parade ground drill, party obedience and intimidation techniques.
“We don’t know anything about the numbers,” the human rights worker said. “But when they are deployed to other areas, their job is also to train local youths. So you have a massive multiplier effect. There seems to be some systematic teaching in torture techniques. Someone is teaching them how far they can go, otherwise they will end up with corpses all over the place.”
Norman Z was seized by militiamen at the poor Jerera township last week. He had one set of electrodes clamped to his hands and his inner thighs and the other ends to a car battery while the engine was revved. A doctor who examined him the next day said: “His hands and his thighs were still in spasm. They could have killed him.”Post published in: News