Zanu (PF) steps up reign of terror

HARARE Reports of abductions of MDC activists are increasing country-wide. In the past month, many have been abducted from their homes at night by armed assailants, and some in broad daylight by plainclothes police officers.

There is growing evidence of “massive violations of human rights” taking place amid escalating electioneering. Police sources say a “special taskforce” has been dispatched to seven provinces to help shore up Zanu (PF). Armed police raided the sleepy suburb of Richmond, Bulawayo Central, last week and rounded up scores of youths below 31 years of age. They have vanished. They are not at any of the police stations in Bulawayo, and the MDC fears the worst, says party spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

Ever since protests in North Africa toppled dictators that had overstayed in power, rights groups and MDC say gunmen have roamed pro-Tsvangirai neighbourhoods at night, kidnapping activists. Mugabe’s camp denies that abductions are taking place and accuses Tsvangirai of trying to soil its name and appeal for donor support.

As fear grips neighbourhoods, residents have set up early warning systems, and are fighting back. Youths have set up night watch checkpoints to defend their homes. Witness Dube, a well known MDC-T party activist, the driver for Thokozani Khupe, the MDC vice president, has been in custody since last week on charges of refusing to sign the Zanu (PF) anti-sanctions petition. On Monday he was transferred to Bulawayo Central Police Station but no charges have been brought against him. A jovial young man who loved to poke fun at Zanu (PF), everyone knew who he was.

“Now I have no idea where he is. I pray to God they didn’t kill him,” said his friend Matthew. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches has called on politicians to be more strident in their criticism of violence, railing against the occasional denunciation of violence. We believe it must become more regular and translated into reality, the church leaders said.

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