Election Violence 2008 – here is the evidence

The Zimbabwean newspaper published numerous verified reports of election violence in 2008. Here is a selection from our archives for anyone whose memory needs jogging.

ZANU PF torture campaign ahead of run-off

Published : 17.5.2008
Six Presumed Opposition Supporters Die Under Torture During ‘Re-Education’

(Johannesburg, May 16, 2008) – Supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party in

Zimbabwe tortured more than 70 people, including six men to death, in a

“re-education” meeting on May 5, 2008 in Mashonaland Central, Human Rights

against the political opposition is continuing despite agreement to hold a

presidential runoff election.

“Political compromise over the runoff election has not reduced government

atrocities against the opposition,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director

at Human Rights Watch. “With the setting of a June 27 runoff, concerned

governments have a greater obligation than ever to press the government to

bring the violence to a halt.”

Human Rights Watch field investigations confirmed the deaths from torture of

six men punished for their real or presumed support for the opposition

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and the torture of more than 70 others

on May 5. Many were MDC supporters, but one who died was tortured because he

owned a radio, which raised his attackers’ suspicions. Retired Major Cairo

Mhandu with ZANU-PF youths, members of a youth militia and “war veterans,”

held a “re-education” meeting in Chaona primary school in Mashonaland

Central in which some 300 villagers from Chiweshe and three neighboring

villages were forced to attend. Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that

Mhandu addressed the meeting saying, “This community needs to be taught a

lesson. It needs re-education. We want people to come forward and confess

about their links with the MDC and surrender to ZANU-PF.”

When no one came forward, a ZANU-PF youth grabbed a 76-year-old woman and

forced her to lie on her stomach in front of the crowd and started beating

her buttocks with logs. After a few minutes, three men intervened, saying

they were MDC, to stop the beating. Mhandu encouraged more to come forward,

saying, “This is what we want.”

Participants at the meeting said the organizers had drawn up a long list of

suspected MDC activists, 20 of whom were singled out for torture. As they

were beaten, the abusers taunted each to reveal names of at least five other

activists. Some of the victims shouted out names of people, who were then


Eyewitnesses said the torture continued throughout the day. The ZANU-PF

youth and “war veterans” would beat three or four people at one time. Legs

tied and handcuffed, women were stripped naked or down to their underwear

and forced to lie on their stomachs together with men. Their mouths were

bound to prevent them from screaming. Standing on either side of each

victim, three youths with thick sticks took turns to beat them on the legs,

back and buttocks. Some men also had wire tied around their genitals and

suffered severe damage. More than 70 people were beaten and some 30

hospitalized, many requiring skin grafts. Human Rights Watch has confirmed

that two men died on the spot, one died at home of injuries, and three

others died later at the hospital. Three of those who died had severely

mutilated genitals and one had crushed testicles. Medical reports confirm

the deaths were a direct result of the injuries sustained under torture. The

authorities have not arrested anyone for these criminal acts. These

‘re-education’ meetings are still taking place.

In March 2008, the MDC decisively defeated the ruling ZANU-PF in the

parliamentary elections. The MDC also won the presidential elections, but

the official results did not give MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai an absolute

majority, necessitating a runoff election. On May 16, the date of the runoff

was set for June 27, 2008.

In the wake of the elections, ZANU-PF and its allies set up torture camps in

opposition strongholds and areas where the opposition has gained significant

support (http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/04/19/zimbab18604.htm). On May

7, the Zimbabwean army acknowledged the existence of torture camps and has

tried to distance itself from any responsibility. Shortly after, the police

stated their intention to dismantle them. The government, however, has taken

no action against any perpetrators, but has merely sought to portray without

any evidence that responsibility for the torture camps also resides with the


Human Rights Watch called upon the Southern African Development Community

(SADC) to take all available measures to provide for the protection of all

Zimbabweans in the period before the runoff. Should SADC be unable to

fulfill this role, the African Union should do so.

“For any runoff to have credibility, this escalating government-sponsored

violence must stop, investigations must lead to the arrest of key suspected

perpetrators and human rights monitors must be deployed throughout

 Zimbabwe,” Gagnon said. “African election observers are desperately needed,

but they will accomplish little if the rampant violence continues.”

Human Rights Watch

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