Violence mars campaigning in Rhodesian poll

Mountains violence between Rhodesia's black political factions during the political campaigning here is posing a major threat to the fairness of the nationwide elections scheduled for Feb. 27 to 29.

Although the number of guerilla war casualties has fallen sharply since the cease-fire went into effect this year, other forms of violence have been escalating, particularly in the eastern half of the country.

The most recent instance was the apparent attempt to assassinate black nationalist leader Robert Mugabe Feb. 10 in the Rhodesian town of Fort Victoria. Mr. Mugabe emerged unscathed when his car was attacked while en route to the airport after he spoke at a political rally there. It was the second unsuccessfull attack on the former guerilla leader since his return from exile two weeks ago.

The air, meanwhile, is thick with charges and countercharges as the black nationalist parties contesting the forthcoming election blame each other for the growth of intimidation.

Lord Soames, the British Governor, along with Rhodesian security forces and the Common wealth cease-fire commission, have put the greater part of the blame for the deteriorating situation on Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

BNkomo, leader of the Patriotic Front (formerly the Zimbabwe African People's Union), are blaming the socalled security-force auxilliaries loyal to another black leader, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, for the use of terror tactics. A British spokesman observed recently that alongside the activities of Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) guerillas -- an estimated 8, 000 to 10,000 of whom are still active and have not reported to the assembly points designated by the cease-fire -- the auxilliaries "pale into insignificance."

But when a grenade was thrown at mr. Mugabe's new Salisbury home Feb. 6 by two blacks believed to support Bishop Muzorewa, the ZANU-PF leader lost no time in accusing the auxiliaries.

Some idea of the magnitude of the disturbances is shown in the following figures: 800 to 900 court convictions for intimidation already have been recorded this year.In the past week along there were 185 convictions, of which 56 percent were against ZANU-PF and 33 percent against Bishop Muzorewa's United African National Council (UANC).

In addition more than 250 breaches of the cease-fire have been reported to the cease-fire commission. It has considered 160 of these and attributed 48 to ZANLA, while another 21 occured in former ZANLA areas of operations. The Nkomo guerillas, known as the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), have been blamed for 14 breaches and 6 have occured in former ZIPRA areas of influence.

The security-force auxiliaries have been blamed for only one incident. Nine were attributed to "bandits" using communist weaponry, and the balance are unattributed.

These figures indicate that the main conflict is between Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the bishop's UANC, both parties hotly contesting the electoral districts in the eastern and central parts of the country.

This region holds the so-called Shona vote, which in the elections last April , went heavily in favor of Bishop Muzorewa. Then, of course, neither MR. Mugabe's radical wing of the former guerilla alliance (the Patriotic Front), nor MR. Nkomo's more moderate wing were contesting the election. (Both wings then were based outside Rhodesia.)

This time, MR. Nkomo is expected to sweep the western part of the country (Matabeleland), picking up all 16 Ndebele seats. This is his tribal stronghold. Mr. Nkomo himself is standing in the Midlands electoral province and is expected to win a few seats there, too.

Last April, Bishop Muzorewa swept to power with an overall majority by carrying all 30 seats in Mashonaland. (Parliament has 100 seats, 80 of them for blacks.) This time, it is suggested, he will be fortunate to hang onto much more than 10 of the 30.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Violence mars campaigning in Rhodesian poll
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today