Election whistleblower living in fear after death threats

Shepherd Yuda, the 38 year-old former prison officer, famed for exposing how Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party rigged the ballot in the 2008 Presidential run-off, revealed on Wednesday he still receives threatening letters and phone calls.

The clandestine footage Yuda shot inside jail gave incontrovertible proof of how the military hierachy stole the elections for Mugabe by forcing rank and file members of the armed forces to vote for him in front of their superiors.

After the expose, Yuda fled to the UK where he’s now in his second year at university studying applied science and forensic investigations. Speaking on the programme, The Hidden Story, he admits paying a price for his actions. He has been receiving torrents of abusive and threatening e-mails since 2008, and his family and close friends have not been spared either.

“I am very concerned about the harassment of relatives and friends in Zimbabwe,” Yuda said, adding that “there were threats sent to my e-mail and made to my mobile phone – death threats. I’m still getting hate mail and some phone calls.” He added; “They are truly stomach-turning and show what sort of venomous monsters we are up against as pro-democracy activists. At times the messages and hate mail left me shaken up and terrified, but I worry much when the same people turn against my family and friends who had nothing to do with what I did,” Yuda said.

Some of the texts were ‘graphic’ and made him fear for his life and were considered so severe that security has been stepped up around him and his family. Though the police keep a discreet distance, Yuda is safe in the knowledge that all his movements are shadowed, and home closely monitored.

“I have changed homes twice now in the last year, and changed my mobile number a couple of times, but you still get a sense that there is a baying mob hunting you down out there – like a pack of wolves. Personally, I can fend for myself but I am worried about those near me,” Yuda said.

The original plan for the secret filming was to show what life was like inside Zimbabwe’s prison system but, by chance, Yuda was present with his hidden camera when a senior prisons officer organised vote-rigging by getting fellow prison officers to fill in their postal ballots in his presence. He also obtained footage of ZANU PF rallies where voters were told to pretend to be illiterate so that an official could fill in their ballot paper for them in favour of Mugabe. Since then state security agents and ZANU PF supporters have hunted him down obviously without success.

Last week at a funeral wake for his young sister who passed away in Chikangwe, Karoi, his home town, CIO agents visited his family thinking he would fly from the UK to attend the burial. “I was warned in advance that I would put myself in grave danger if I went to the funeral in Karoi. My family is still under surveillance and the minute my sister died, state security agents knew about it and went looking for me. I would have loved to have gone but because I have refugee status in the UK, laws don’t allow me to travel to Zimbabwe,” Yuda said.

“I don’t regret doing what I did. I wanted the world to know that Mugabe rigs elections and I’m happy they saw it. I have an uncle who lost a leg during the electioneering period, and I know of many people who died because Mugabe used the military to kill unarmed civilians,” Yuda added.

swradio africa

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