Ben Freeth’s letter – Zim

Ben Freeth
Dear all,
It has been quite a weekend.
We were made very aware of impending problems on our Mount Carmel farm before it even started.

Various letters came in as well as verbal warnings from concerned people all over the district. People were told that Mt. Carmel cattle and potatoes would be dished out to them. The election campaign is being fought on “one hundred per cent empowerment” ie. taking everything that belongs to people who are not black and giving it to Party faithfulls. The Party has got nothing else to offer the people…
People were told if they did not come they would be beaten.
President Mugabe arrived in our little town of Chegutu that afternoon and people were only informed that morning. Everyone had to suddenly go to his rally whether they wanted to or not. He apparently told the people that if the opposition got in it would be war. The unexpected Presidential rally must have thrown the organisation for the Mount Carmel “programme” [as it was referred to in a letter from one of the organisors].
That evening we only ended up with about 500 of the expected 1500 people that were to come. They were bussed in from all over on tractor trailers, lorries, car and busses. We even had one bus from Shamva hundreds of kms away.
The drums and chanting started soon after dark. Nearly fifty fires were lit all around. The leaders were waving guns around and had everyone doing their bidding. The chanting and sloganeering was military style – all in unison for hour after hour after hour all the way through the night. We could not sleep.
When dawn broke and the birds started to call the chanting broke into a noise that sounded like a terrible swarm of bees on the rampage.
We knew that the beating had then started and we prayed. It turned out that anyone who they believed had been polling agents at polling stations was covered in cold water. We had frost that morning and it was cold.
They were then told to beat each other with sticks while the crowd egged them on. The noise went on for a few hours. Some of them had already run away. Those people will not vote; still less be polling agents in the next election because you have to vote in your own ward I understand and they are designating which polling station too so that they can check who you voted for.
They had been searched for any cell phones so that they not relay any atrocities on to anyone. They were told that they would be killed if information leaked out. Everyone is tight lipped about what went on. Today they go through the day mechanically with terror written all over them.
A neighbor, Marius Erasmus, drove past on the main road and was stopped at a road block that they had set up on our road. He managed to get through that but at the next one they put burning logs on his bonnet and tried to get into the car. A couple of hundred people came out from the packshed where the indoctrination was taking place. He managed to reverse and turn around and get through the other road block taking some rocks on his windscreen and other places on the car.
Meantime Bruce [Laura’s brother] had been at the Chegutu police station trying to get police out. We had been there on five occasions the previous week trying to tell Chief Inspector Gunyani and Inspector Manyota and Assistant Inspector Bupera of what was to take place. We had given two letters for the attention of the officer in charge, Chief Inspector Gunyani.
Bruce waited for six hours at the police station but could not get a reaction to stop the beating and dismantle the road blocks. He saw Chief Inspector Gunyani, Inspector Manyota and Assistant Inspector Bupera amongst others. It is clear that they are under orders not to react.
Our electricity went down and both cell phone networks also ceased to operate. We were left with no communications and our way out onto the main road was sealed off by a road block. We prayed and read psalm 118.
Bruce eventually decided to come out himself. Miraculously, just before he arrived, the road blocks were dismantled and everyone disappeared. Shortly after the guards came to tell us of thieves in the maize – about 30 people were just helping themselves. We caught some of them and chased them off and recovered their booty.
Meanwhile the atrocities go on at the all night pungwes and the people tremble with fear. I read that the observers are officially not allowed out after dark because their safety cannot be guaranteed. They need to defy that and get out and see with their own eyes these things if they care at all.
We ask you to pray and send brave people and peace keepers to stop the atrocities before they get even worse.
Maybe I write this in vain; but I write this crying.
Ben Freeth

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