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.
(Page 2 of 3)
Violence spreads to cities
The spread of violence to cities is a recent phenomenon, and a dangerous turn for Zimbabwe politics. In previous election years, political violence was mainly concentrated in those rural areas where ZANU-PF still commands some support.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In the past week, scores of MDC supporters were injured in Harare’s high-density slums after they clashed with ZANU-PF supporters, who are in most cases backed by armed uniformed soldiers, police, and war veterans.
Presently, at least two MDC supporters are in an intensive care unit at a private clinic. One of them was shot by unidentified soldiers in Budiriro, a suburb of the capital that is touted as Zimbabwe’s own “Baghdad” and is a popular support base for Tsvangirai.
An MDC activist, who identified himself only as Amon for fear of victimization, says he saw his colleague being gunned down by a group of soldiers in Budiriro.
“I saw one of them pointing a gun and I thought he wanted to shoot me so I started running,” he says. “I heard William’s loud cry and I knew he had been shot but I continued running, fearing that they will fire another one.”
In a scene reminiscent of the violent June 2008 elections, 150 MDC supporters huddled together at the party’s headquarters in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD) this week after they were chased out of their homes by ZANU-PF youth militia, soldiers, and war veterans.
'You could have another bloodbath'
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena denies that the police are Mugabe partisans, saying instead that it is the MDC that has provoked ZANU-PF supporters. “In most cases, MDC activists are the ones who provoke and rush then to the police to report,” he says. “The police are never partisan. We are a professional force.”
The surge in politically motivated violence comes barely a week after the MDC secretary-general, Finance Minister Tendai Biti, warned that Zimbabwe could face a “bloodbath” at elections this year if the international community does not help to prevent the crisis.
“The tell-tale signs are already there that you could have another bloodbath,” said Mr. Biti.
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa says ZANU-PF is trying to provoke his party so that the violence degenerates into anarchy.
“Whenever there is an election, ZANU-PF starts a campaign of violence against the country’s innocent citizens,” says Mr. Chamisa, who also heads the Ministry of Information Technology Communication in the coalition government. “It is not a civil way of transacting politics in this day and age.”
Why violence started now
The current wave of violence started when ZANU-PF mobilized and bused in youths from rural areas to demonstrate against the slashing of maize crop by Harare City council recently.
Incidents of political violence have continued to rock the country since last month when Mugabe, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for the past three decades, announced his determination to hold elections this year.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha says that by unleashing soldiers and militia, ZANU-PF was trying to measure its ability to destabilize the MDC ahead of both the referendum and elections.