The Anatomy of Terror
BackgroundIn February, 2000 ZANU PF’s first ever loss at the polls in a nationwide referendum precipitated a political crisis, which has continued to the present. For ZANU PF he most alarming aspect of this loss was that it was apparent that many rural voters, on whom ZANU PF could usually rely, had withdrawn support. A significant proportion of these voters, who were commercial farm workers, were perceived by ZANU PF to be farm labourers in the thrall of their white commercial farmer employers. With a general election pending in June of that year, ZANU PF moved swiftly to re-establish complete control over the country side. Under the guise of land reform, white commercial farms were invaded, farm workers killed, beaten, raped and displaced and militia bases established on the occupied land.
These Bases were used as the spring board for a reign of terror in the countryside. Opposition supporters were brought to these Bases by the militia (comprising ZANU PF youth activists, the lumpen-proletariat and veterans of Zimbabwe’s Independence War) and subjected to protracted torture which they often did not survive. The Bases served the same function in subsequent elections.
The impetus for this research arose from claims that the Bases were being re-established and re-activated (notwithstanding the formation a “unity government”) with reports in this regard being received from Manicaland in January 2010. The re-establishment of the Bases was apparently in response to a proposed parliamentary outreach programme (COPAC) to solicit views nationwide on the contents of a new constitution and the referendum and possible general election that would follow. The objective of the research project was to test these claims, to analyse precisely how militia Bases are established and used as an instrument of terror and intimidation, and to identify possible interventions to avoid a repetition of widespread human rights abuses during forthcoming elections.
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