Robert Mugabe clamps down further in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is warily eyeing the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Some analysts say those are prompting him to speed up elections and intensify an intimidation campaign against the opposition.
In a normal country, preparations for an election look a bit like this: dozens of eager young activists put up posters, candidates meet with community leaders to seek their support, and middle-aged party members walk door-to-door to meet the voters.Skip to next paragraph
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In Zimbabwe, election season means violence.
For months, President Robert Mugabe’s supporters in the military and the police have terrorized villagers in rural areas where many in 2008 supported opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and propelled him into the seat of prime minister.
And in the past few weeks, the violence has spread to urban areas with the seeming intent of intimidating those who would vote for Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
While such tactics long preceded the recent coup in Tunisia that instigated massive antigovernment demonstrations this week in Egypt, analysts say Zimbabwe's strongman president is taking note of North African events as he strengthens his grip. Indeed, President Mugabe, says political analyst Takura Zhangazha, may speed up plans for parliamentary elections to capitalize on a current wave of violence and voter intimidation – conditions he sees as favoring his party.
Mugabe loyalists seen behind unrest
MDC members say the offensive, which started last week in Tsvangirai’s political strongholds of Harare and Chitungwiza, involves the police and the military, war veterans of the liberation struggle, and youth militia from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party. All the assailants are known for their unwavering loyalty to Mugabe.
Chitungwiza, a dormitory town of more 2 million people, is 25 kilometers southeast of Harare.
ZANU-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo denies that his party is spearheading political violence or that it is working with security forces to decimate the MDC. “We have heard that before every time there is talk of election,” he says. “They are afraid of losing an election.”
The violence is just the latest sign that not all is well with the coalition government, put together in February 2009 after months of political stalemate. Mugabe’s cabinet meetings are reportedly more and more fractious. Meanwhile, MDC members are decrying breaches in the coalition’s powersharing agreement, which divided control of several ministries but left Mugabe in charge of the military and security agencies.
The political squabbling is nothing compared with the violence faced by those on the front lines in villages and towns.