An alert of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO
& the Research and Advocacy Unit.
5 May 2008
This report is based on cases received as of 24 April 2008
Table of contents
Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………. 3
Background …………………………………………………………………………………….. 3
March 2008 elections ……………………………………………………………………...... 4
Cases brought for medical treatment in Harare………………………………………. 6
Cases seen by the Human Rights Forum ……………………………………………….. 8
Political Violence or crimes against humanity ………………………………………... 9
Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………….. 11
Appendix 1…………………………………………………………………………………….. 13
In the immediate aftermath of their defeat in the 2008 harmonised elections in Zimbabwe, shocked ZANU PF politicians are reported to have approached the “opposition” MDC with tentative proposals for a unity government. The inability of ZANU PF to accept and absorb its defeat is manifested in the fact their proposals insisted that Mugabe retain the presidency –
the real location of power in Zimbabwe. When this proposal was rejected outright by the MDC, ZANU PF abruptly abandoned the idea of a unity government, opting for a run off in the Presidential Election and the expectation of emerging victorious after a bloody and vicious campaign of intimidation in those areas and against those people that had supported the MDC in the 29 March election. This document, and the factual assertions herein, is based on reports of the ensuing violence received from civic organisations and those published in the
1press. These reports are available as an independent annexure on request from the Forum.
The ruling party in Zimbabwe has always refused to accept the core democratic principle that Zimbabweans have the right freely to choose whom to elect into government. It believes that only it has the right to govern Zimbabwe and characterises all its opponents as sell-outs and lackeys of the West.
Consistent with this belief, the ruling party previously has displayed complete intolerance of opposition and dissent and has set out to smash all opposition, using the state security apparatus for the purpose. A highly politicised police force has been employed as one of its main instruments of repression, backed up by the intelligence service (the CIO) and the
Although ZANU PF goes through the motions of holding elections, it is prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure that it will win these elections. During his election campaign ahead of the March 2008 elections President Mugabe said he regarded the campaign as a war against the opposition. In past election campaigns he has often used such bellicose language. Speaking at his party‟s congress in 2002 he is reported as having said:
1 The basis for the assertion that Zanu PF lost both the significant elections – Presidential and House of Assembly – are given in a recent report. See Idasa(2008), ZIMBABWE ELECTIONS 2008. Examining The Popular and Presidential SITO [IDASA]: PRETORIA. Choice - Hiding or Run Off?2 See Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (2003), Torture by State Agents in Zimbabwe: January 2001 to August HARARE: ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM; Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (2006), Who 2002, , December 2006, HARARE: Guards the Guards? Violations by Law Enforcement Agencies in Zimbabwe, 2000 to 2006ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM; Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (2007), At Best a Falsehood, At Worst a Lie? Shooting Oneself in the Foot? Comments on the Zimbabwe Republic Police Report “Opposition Politics in . June 2007. HARARE: ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM. Zimbabwe. A Trail of Violence
“This is total war. We will have a central command centre. This is war, it is not a
game. You are all soldiers of ZANU PF for the people. When we come to your
province we must see you are ready. When the time comes to fire the bullet, the
3ballot, the trajectory of the gun must be true.”
Ahead of the 2000 elections, the rejection of the government sponsored constitutional
proposals in a referendum gave a warning to ZANU PF that it had lost popular support. Its
response was to unleash upon the opposition a large scale campaign of violence and
intimidation. Because it then was able to emerge victorious in this and subsequent elections,
albeit by using intimidation and electoral manipulation, ZANU PF declared these results to be
indicative of its popular support.
In one of his last rallies before the March 2008 elections, President Mugabe was reported to
have told supporters in Chiredzi, that he would not concede defeat even if he lost the
election and would “go to the bush and use guns” to stop the opposition from taking over the
administration of his government. He went on to say,
“We used guns to liberate ourselves from the Rhodesian colonial government 28
years ago and we are going to use the same guns to stop the MDC or Makoni.”
3. March 2008 elections
The March 2008 elections took place at a time when economic conditions for ordinary people
were quite appalling. Nonetheless ZANU PF still believed it commanded considerable popular
support and did not think it necessary to engage in widespread violent intimidation to force
people to vote for it.
Only weeks before the March 2008 elections, however, the heads of the army, the police and
the prison service, all of whom participated in the liberation struggle, publicly proclaimed that
they would not serve any President other than President Mugabe and instructed those under
their command to vote for the ruling party.
The results of the March 2008 election came as a complete shock to the ruling party. It was
not prepared to accept the loss and has instead sought to reverse it. It has demanded a
recount of the results in a number of constituency elections. It has also demanded a recount
3 See Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (2007), Their Words Condemn Them: The Language of Violence, , May 2007, HARARE: ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM. Intolerance and Despotism in Zimbabwe
of the presidential votes, even though these results had not yet been published. It has caused the results of the Presidential Election to be withheld for a protracted period whilst it regroups and it is strongly believed that it is fraudulently manipulating the count in favour of President Mugabe to change the results so that Tsvangirai‟s vote is reduced to less than 50% and that the gap between him and Mugabe is narrowed or Mugabe is given a simple majority lead over Tsvangirai. ZEC commissioners seem to have been ousted from this process. Their command centre was moved to a secret location and opposition party agents were excluded from the processing of the final presidential figures.
At the same time, ZANU PF commenced a country wide campaign of violent intimidation to try to ensure that it will win the anticipated re-run of the Presidential Election.
Large numbers of police riot squad and army personnel have been deployed in Harare to forestall victory celebrations by the MDC and any popular display of support for the MDC. The show of force has included buzzing the city by fighter jets and the deployment of armoured vehicles and water cannon vehicles. Helicopters have reportedly been flying over the Mutoko district where some of the worst violence to date has been recorded.
ZANU PF has falsely alleged that the MDC intends to reverse the land re-settlement programme by allowing white farmers to re-occupy farmland. It has put out a false story that white farmers were returning to the country to take back their farms. Against this backdrop it has orchestrated a series of invasions of many of the small number of farms still in the hands of white farmers.
It has also disseminated a series of documents purporting to emanate from the MDC but which in fact are forgeries. One of these claims that the MDC hatched a plot to bribe polling officials to falsify results in favour of the MDC. Another claim that the MDC is exhorting the use of violence. These false documents are clearly aimed at providing an excuse to arrest MDC officials and to crack down upon MDC supporters.
The country wide terror campaign has been directed mainly against rural people suspected of having voted for the MDC in the election. The operation has been dubbed Operation
Mavhoterapapi (Where you put your 'X' i.e. how you voted in the election.)
A substantial number of senior army officers are the main organisers of this campaign, but war veterans and youth militia elements are being used as the main instruments of terror. Local party structures are also involved in organising the campaign. The violence is planned,
systematic, targeted and widespread. The perpetrators have lists of persons whom they are to target. The campaign is under the control of specific individuals in each area.
At least ten people have been killed so far and hundreds of people have been beaten. Many of those beaten were severely injured and some had broken bones as a result of the beatings.
The “war vets” have been supplied with vehicles to move around areas being targeted. In the
targeted areas armed gangs are moving from village to village terrorising people. They are forcing people to attend meetings at which known or suspected MDC supporters are brutally assaulted. Dire warnings are given to the people at these meetings such as:
"This is your last chance. You messed up when you voted. Next time you vote
you must get it right or you will die."
The perpetrators are attacking the homes of MDC activists, and assaulting them and their family members. They often burn down the homes of these persons. They are also driving MDC supporters out of the areas in which they reside. Bases have been set up to which some of the victims are taken to be tortured.
This terror campaign is intended to ensure that in the event of a run-off in the Presidential Election people will be too frightened to vote for the opposition and ZANU PF will therefore win this election. Many MDC party officials have been displaced from their own areas and will not be able to organise party support in these areas. Party supporters have been driven out of the areas in which they are registered to vote and will not be able to vote in areas in which they have sought refuge.
In the towns the army is carrying out a large scale reprisal operation in which many people are being subjected to severe beatings at the hands of soldiers.
4. Cases brought for medical treatment in Harare
As at 18 April 2008, 323 casualties of post election retribution had been examined and treated since Election Day, 29 March 2008 [see Appendix 1]. Those with severe injuries were hospitalised. At the time of writung this report 18 casualties remain in hospital, with fractures and severe soft tissue injuries. Some victims have been hospitalised in district hospitals. Information relating to attacks is continuing to come in from various districts around the country. Many of the MDC party co-ordinators are under threat of violence or arrest and are
in hiding, so communication with victims is difficult, and there are reports of many more victims than those that have reached medical treatment to date. Doctors in the district hospitals are under threat.
Perpetrators include ZANU PF “war vets” ZANU PF youth and supporters, riot squad police and uniformed soldiers. The identity of many of the perpetrators is known and has been recorded. The police have acted appropriately in several cases, taken reports from the victims and requested medical affidavits of injuries sustained by them.
The victims are from many different districts, including Harare, Beatrice, Chinhoyi, Chipinge, Gweru, Karoi, Hurungwe, Marondera, Masvingo, Matepatepa, Mudzi, Mutoko, Mutoroshanga, Mutare, Penhalonga, Nyabira,Nyanga.
The number of casualties reported and seeking treatment daily has increased substantially, and although initially the majority of casualties were in the rural areas, the violence in the high-density areas of Harare has increased greatly, with many people in high density areas being set upon and severely beaten by soldiers.
The majority of the victims are from the rural areas. Over 90% are active members of the MDC and were targeted for their activities during the run up and during the elections e.g. they are party officials or polling agents, or their spouses and children. Observer cards and ID cards have been taken from polling agents by perpetrators, and election observers have also become a frequent target. Farm workers have been targeted during farm invasions.
In the rural areas, many of the beatings have been administered in front of the victim‟s whole
village, and some victims were forced to simulate sexual acts in public. In several instances gunshots were fired in the air, and, in Gokwe, one casualty was shot. Rifle butts are being used as weapons of torture. In one incident four victims were deliberately rundown by a motor vehicle bearing ZANU PF logos. The casualties were then prevented from seeking medical treatment for over twelve hours. In Karoi, one man was stabbed to death on 13 April, and his brother was brutally assaulted. It is made very clear to the victims that they are being punished for voting “incorrectly”. Victims report being forced to chant ZANU PF slogans after beatings. During the torture many of the victims report receiving death threats unless they vote correctly in the next round of the Presidential Election.
Many of the victims also had their homes, food reserves and livestock destroyed, and are displaced. On one day alone, over 80 victims of displacement required shelter in Harare.
Several victims from the Mutoko area have reported that people have been taken from their
villages by air-force helicopters, and subsequently held in Mutoko prison. Their medical
condition is unknown.
Most of the victims are threatened with further retribution if they report their injuries or loss
of property. There are several reports of people being prevented from leaving their areas to
seek help, and prevented from reaching medical facilities.
5. Cases seen by the Human Rights Forum
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum lawyers as of 24 April 2008, have taken statements
from 64 victims since the post-election violence began. As can be seen from the table below,
the majority of these came from the three Mashonaland Provinces, and the majority of these
from Mashonaland East Province. A significant number also came from Harare itself.
Mash Mash Mash
Harare Cent East West Manicaland Masvingo
18 5 32 6 1 2
28.13% 7.81% 50.00% 9.38% 1.56% 3.13%
Most [81%] were male. The violations reported were serious, as seen in the table below, and
accord with the types of violations frequently seen in Zimbabwe.
Violation Number [%]
Death threats 1 [2%]
Intimidation/victimisation 52 [81%]
Property violation 28 [44%]
Torture 7 [11%]
Unlawful arrest 4 [6%]
Unlawful detention 8 [13%]
The perpetrators were again similar to those frequently reported in Zimbabwe, especially
during elections when Zanu PF supporters tend to be the most commonly reported group of
4perpetrators. However, there is the unusual feature of a very high percentage of members of
the Zimbabwe National Army [ZNA] reported, which is uncommon and accords with the press
reports of the ZNA being intimately involved in the violence.
Perpetrator Number [%]
CIO 2 [3%]
War veteran 5 [8%]
Zimbabwe National Army 12 [19%]
Zimbabwe Republic Police 11 [17%]
Zanu PF supporter 50 [78%]
The victims gave a large number of names of their alleged perpetrators, with a total of 167
individuals being named at least once, and a significantly high number [13%] being
mentioned more than once. This strongly supports the allegations of a planned and
systematic campaign of violence. The names of the perpertators and the districts from which
they operated are available on request from the authors of this report.
6. Political violence or crimes against humanity
Whilst it is evident that political violence has been taking place in the aftermath of the 2008
election, it is important to examine this carefully. There are some reports of violence being
perpetrated by supporters of the MDC – the Zimbabwe Herald alleges that 75 supporters of the MDC have been arrested for political violence- but the reports nonetheless suggest that
these are largely of two kinds: violence occasioned by the frustrations experienced due to the
non-release of the results of the Presidential poll, as well as retributive violence for the
attacks being made on MDC members.
However, it is the reports of the involvement of the army, militia, war veterans, and the
police that gainsay any view that this is mere political violence, and indicate the following:
4 See Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (2000), Who is responsible? A preliminary analysis of pre-election , HARARE: ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM.; Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum violence in Zimbabwe(2001), Who was responsible? A consolidated analysis of pre-election violence in Zimbabwe, HARARE: ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM; Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (2002), “Are They Accountable?: Examining , HARARE: ZIMBABWE alleged violators and their violations pre and post the Presidential Election March 2002”HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM.
? all reports show that the violence has been disproportionately one-sided,
and against the MDC and other groups not supporting ZANU PF; ? all reports show that the violence attributed to ZANU PF is different from
the violence attributed to the other groups, both in the scale and in the
? the violence attributed to ZANU PF shows evidence of systematic torture,
abductions, disappearance, summary executions and extra-judicial killings,
and this is very rarely the case with violence attributed to other groups
such as the MDC;
? the systematic torture shows a strong association with officials of the State
– members of Parliament, the police, the CIO, and other officials – as well
as an association with groups closely affiliated to the ZANU PF political
party – “war veterans”, youth militia, ZANU PF youth, ZANU PF supporters,
ZANU PF party officials, etc;
? the evidence shows there are plausible allegations of the involvement of
senior party and government leaders, and there are many statements from
victims implicating such persons;
? there is no, or very little evidence, of any attempt by the Executive or
organs of the State to proactively deal with the violence; ? the evidence suggests, to the contrary, that there are an enormous number
of examples of hate speech, and encouragement to violence and
lawlessness by virtually all members of the Executive, the Parliament, the
party, and the supporters of the ZANUPF party.
This is no new pattern, as it has been observed previously in the 2000 and 2002 elections,
and before that in the violations that took place between 1982 and 1987 in Matabeleland.
Thus the allegations that the ZANU PF government has committed crimes against humanity
are nothing new, and indeed were alleged in respect of the forced removal of over 700 000
civilians that took place in 2005 under the government‟s so-called Operation Murambatsvina.
However, apart from a few international human rights bodies, such as the International Bar
Association, there has been little inclination to address these very serious allegations, and
African countries have been obstructive where attempts have been made to obtain an
audience for these allegations: the South African government, for example, has repeatedly
blocked attempts to discuss Zimbabwe‟s human rights record at the United Nations both in
the Human Rights Council, and the Security Council.
Here it is relevant to point out that the Southern African Litigation Centre has submitted a
dossier to the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa in respect of the torture that
took place in 2007. This dossier alleges crimes against humanity, and reportedly seeks to