The militia running the bases are said to comprise members of the military, Zanu-PF youths and war veterans. Systematic beatings of well-known anti-Zanu-PF activists have increased in the past week, especially in Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)-controlled areas of Budiriro, Mbare and Mabvuku in Harare.
Zanu-PF and military insiders confirmed to the Sunday Times last week that Mugabe was under pressure from hardliners to go for elections where they expect intimidation to coerce people to vote for them.
It is reliably understood that the military will take centre stage in intimidating people and there are reports that at least 150 soldiers will be deployed in every district of the country.
People in rural and urban areas have already reported spotting heavily armed soldiers moving around their areas without explanation.
The terror campaign is reminiscent of the 2008 post-March elections violence, in which at least 200 MDC supporters were murdered but to date no arrests have been made.
The MDC is wary of the threat of violence, with spokesperson Nelson Chamisa urging supporters to be vigilant. He called for intervention from SADC, arguing that police were not taking action against the perpetrators of violence.
“We are on our own, our people are being beaten up and when they go to make reports at police stations, they are the ones who are being arrested. We appeal to SADC to intervene and stop this nonsense because innocent people will be killed. For now we have to be vigilant because the police are failing to protect us,” said Chamisa.
“We will not participate in elections where people are killed, raped and beaten up. The elections road map must be clear so that we have a free and fair election which produces a credible result. We can’t go for elections where our people will be killed,” said Chamisa.
Zanu-PF officials have in the past been contradicting themselves on the issue of violence. Spokesperson Rugare Gumbo last week denied setting up bases, arguing that it was normal party business for members of Zanu-PF to conduct mini rallies and meet at their leaders’ homes.
“There is nothing like that (setting up bases). It is only that youths are always engaged in meetings with their various leaders, campaigning. We are always mobilising our members and educating them on various political issues concerning the party. It is an ongoing programme that we undertake frequently,” he said.
But this contradicts assertions by Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, who recently castigated Zanu-PF hardliners for perpetrating violence and killing people, saying this had to stop.
The party’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, told the Sunday Times last year that Zanu-PF resorted to violence when provoked.
An MDC youth leader, William Mukuwari, was assaulted and shot on the leg in Budiriro last Saturday. He alleged that Godfrey Gomwe, the Zanu-PF chairperson, was among those who shot him.
“We were walking home on Saturday at around 5pm, when a group of known Zanu-PF youths attacked us. As we were escaping from them, I got shot in the left leg and I fell down,” said Mukuwari, the MDC Youth Assembly Budiriro district treasurer.
“Gomwe came and further assaulted me, together with his gang and I sustained head injuries. He only stopped assaulting me after some of the Zanu-PF youths restrained him,” he said.
His leg was operated on and he is still having difficulty walking.
Gomwe has denied shooting Mukuwari.
“I don’t know what he is talking about,” he said on Friday.
In Mbare another youth leader, Barnabas Mwanaka, was also attacked by suspected Zanu-PF youths. “Last Saturday we were at our Mbare office when Zanu-PF youths came and attacked us,” said Mwanaka.
“However, we managed to drive them out but police officers from Mbare Police Station later came and broke down the locked door of the office and everyone was ordered to go to the police station,” he said.
The police ordered Mwanaka to remain behind guarding flea market goods and the Zanu-PF youths returned and brutally assaulted him.
Mwanaka sustained a broken right arm and head injuries. He managed to escape and made a report to police before he was admitted in hospital. The other 19 MDC youths were arrested and remanded at the Harare Remand Prison for a night before being granted $50 bail each.
War veterans leader, Jabulani Sibanda, has allegedly been intimidating villagers in Masvingo province for more than six months, allegedly forcing people to attend rallies where they are told to vote for Mugabe or there would be war in the country.
Sibanda told the Sunday Times last week that he was indeed in the rural areas but claimed he was just mobilising the people “against imperialism”.
In most of Harare’s high-density suburbs, Zanu-PF has set up militia bases where drunken youths are reportedly terrorising residents.
In Gokwe, in the Midlands province, Zanu-PF officials on Thursday reportedly forced villagers to sign a petition condemning targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his inner cabal.
Human rights groups have warned that Zimbabwe cannot hold elections now because of violence fears, while President Jacob Zuma, the mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis, is against early elections without a clear road map.
Trevor Maisiri, an analyst with a Harare-based think tank, said political violence was indicative of the stereotype among local political parties – especially Zanu-PF – on how elections need to be won: through violence.
“This violence is driven by the need to infuse psychological fear into the populace in order to coerce their non-deliberate vote. In that case the violence must send a message to the SADC, the AU and the world that if nothing substantial is done in Zimbabwe the stakes are so high that there is desperation to win the next election even if it is over dead bodies.”
Reverend Useni Sibanda, the co-ordinator of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, said the church was concerned about the resurgence of political motivated violence in Harare townships and the failure by the law enforcement agents to arrest the perpetrators.
“The failure by the Zimbabwe Republic Police to arrest the perpetrators of the violence is encouraging a culture of impunity,” said Sibanda.
Sibanda said the GPA, if implemented, would ensure that the law enforcement agents carry out their duties without fear and favour to create a peaceful environment for the citizens.
“As churches, we call upon the Co-Ministers of Home Affairs to ensure that the perpetrators of the politically motivated violence in Harare are immediately arrested. This should also include sections of the war veterans who have been terrorising communities in Masvingo,” he said.