Villagers in Chipinge and Chivi said they were living in fear following threats they were receiving from Zimbabwe’s war veterans and Zanu PF youth militia.
“Prime Minister, just behind these shops, there are orphans who lost their parents in the 2008 violence and the same people who did this visited them last week and told them that if you ever participate in the process (constitution reform process) we will come and finish what we started,” said one villager in Chipinge.
The constitutional outreach programme, to gather views for the constitutional making process is set to begin early next month but there are fears of disruptions of the meetings. There are also fears that the constitutional select committee may not gather accurate views from a terrorised public especially in the rural areas. Some members of the civic society have been threatened with death if they go ahead with civic education about the constitutional process, particularly in the rural areas.
Human rights defender and journalist, Jestina Mukoko, told an audience in Washington last week where she received a couragous award for women that she feared more violence in Zimbabwe and that she believed people will not be free to give their views to the constitutional out reach team due to intimidation and harassment. Her organisation, the Zimbabwe Peace Project, records human rights abuses in the country and Mukoko said she had noted an increase in cases of violence. Mukoko is herself a victim of violence following her abduction, torture and unlawful detention last year.
Villagers told Tsvangirai they were being threatened with death if they ever make contributions that are different from the ones Zanu PF is promoting. They said armed war veterans have stepped up the violent campaign reminding their victims that they were coming to “finish them off” if they ever so contradicted their views.
Zanu PF has been campaigning for the Kariba constitutional draft adopted by the three parties in the inclusive government just before the set up of the new government. The two MDC formations want the draft to be put to the people so that they can contiribute their views before a final draft constitution is adopted and put to a referendum.
In Zimunya, a well-known rogue war veteran identified as Mapuranga, who is armed has been harassing villagers. Mapuranga who is armed and is masquerading as an education officer, was leading the Zanu PF militia who terrorised villagers during the violent 2008 elections. Tsvangirai was told how Mapuranga visited one of the local headman and threatened him. Mapuranga is said to have shot thrice in the air to intimidate the old man.
In some cases, Tsvangirai was told that police and army officers were at the forefront of the terror activities.
In Chivi, villagers had been warned by the army and Zanu PF youth militia not to attend Tsvangirai’s meeting or face unspecified action.
“Give us names of police and army officers who are perpetrating violence and we will deal with them. Security establishments should not abuse people and this will be dealt with in the security council,” Tsvangirai said.
The police have refused to arrest perpetrators of violence who are still threatening their victims.
The villagers told Tsvangirai about the resurgence of torture bases in several parts of the country.
Tsvangirai said at the weekend that he did not see why MDC and Zanu PF supporters were still engaging in violence while he and President Robert Mugabe had a good relationship.
In Masvingo some of Tsvangirai’s supporters advised him to pull out of the shaky coalition government, saying Mugabe was negotiating in bad faith.
MDC’s spokesperson Nelson Chamisa has appealed to South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to assist in finding a lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s political crisis. Zuma, who is expected to arrive in Harare on Tuesday, is mediating in the Zimbabwean political situation on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Zuma is expected to assess the progress of the talks that have been going on between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations. Tsvangirai’s MDC has already declared a deadlock to the talks, aimed at resolving the outstanding issues that have stalled the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that brought about the formation of the untiy government.
Some of the outstanding issues from the Tsvangirai’s MDC include the appointments of the controversial Attorney General, Johannes Tomana and the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono as well as the swearing in of MDC deputy minister of Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett, currently facing terrorism charges. Tomana has been prosecuting in Bennett’s case. Both Bennett and his MDC party in which he is also treasurer general, have denied the charges, saying there are trumped up.
Zanu PF has been demanding the removal of Western sanctions on Zimbabwe and the banning of exiled Zimbabwean radio stations. Recently some western governments among them the UK and USA as well as the European Union, have extended Zimbabwe’s sanctions, citing human rights abuses and the lack of rule of law.
MDC says about 200 people lost their lives in the 2008 political violence while thousands others were displaced from their homes.