Zimbabwe: Violence reaches crisis point

Youths forced to fight; schools close as teachers flee violence

Violence in Zimbabwe is reaching crisis point warned Amnesty International as it revealed that ‘war veterans’ are forcibly recruiting local youths to attack perceived supporters of the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change).

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that large numbers of ZANU-PF supporters and ‘war veterans’ are assaulting perceived MDC supporters in Mberengwa district in Midlands province and Mazowe district in Mashonaland Central.

Amnesty International’s Zimbabwe researcher, Simeon Mawanza, said:

“Those who refuse to commit violence are assaulted and accused of being MDC supporters by the ‘war veterans’.”

In Mberengwa, a large gang of ZANU-PF supporters – mostly youths forcibly recruited by ‘war veterans’ – are attacking homes of people suspected of voting for the MDC in the recent elections.

An eyewitness in the Chiweshe area in Mazowe district reported a similar gang.

Police appear to be unwilling to stop the violence, only acting to arrest MDC supporters suspected of carrying out attacks on perceived ZANU-PF supporters.

Simeon Mawanza continued:

“We are particularly worried about people living in more remote rural areas, where violence is taking place away from the spotlight.

“The situation for these victims of violence is dire. Humanitarian organisations and local non-governmental organisations are being targeted for helping victims, who are being blocked from receiving medical assistance.”

In rural areas victims of attacks walk long distances to escape the violence and seek refuge in towns and cities.

Some schools in rural areas have been forced to close as teachers perceived to be MDC supporters have fled the state-sponsored violence.

Since the 29 March elections, at least 22 people have been killed and more than 900 people have been treated for injuries sustained from the violence. Several hundreds have been hospitalised.

Hundreds of families have been forced to flee after gangs of ‘war veterans’ and ZANU-PF youths burned down their homes.

Some observers of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) have been attacked in Mt. Darwin in Mashonaland Central province. Their homes were vandalised and looted. Six of the observers were hospitalised after sustaining serious injuries. Several families were forced to take shelter in surrounding hills and bushes.

Individual cases:
· Amnesty International fears for the safety of Tonderai Ndira, a supporter of the MDC who was reportedly abducted from his home in Mabvuku, a low-income suburb of Harare on 14 May in the early hours of the morning. Reports indicate that nine armed men in plain clothes assaulted him before driving him away while he was still naked in a white Toyota truck. He has not been seen since. Tonderai Ndira is one of the 32 MDC members who were tortured by state agents while in detention in 2007. He was detained for more than two months in Harare Central Remand Prison before the charges against him were dropped.

· Amnesty International has also received a report of the alleged abduction of Sinoia Pfebve (79) and his wife Serena Pfebve (76) on 13 May by people believed to be ‘war veterans’ in the Mashonaland Central province. They are believed to have been taken to Nyakatondo Primary School where the abductors are camped. The Pfebve family have political connections to the MDC: the couple’s son was an MDC candidate in the parliamentary election in 2000 and a by election in 2001.

Amnesty International has called on the Government of Zimbabwe to:
· Publicly denounce all acts of violence by ZANU-PF supporters, ‘war veterans’ and soldiers, as well as by any other party, and work with other political parties to end political violence immediately.

· Ensure that police arrest all suspected perpetrators of human rights abuses. Police should operate in a non-partisan manner in executing their duties.

· Ensure that access to humanitarian assistance, including medical care, shelter and food supplies, is not restricted.

· Immediately invite international human rights monitors to investigate the current human rights violations.

· Immediately set up an independent and impartial body to investigate all acts of political violence. The investigation’s findings should be made public. Suspected perpetrators should be brought to justice in proceedings that meet international standards of fairness and victims should be awarded full reparations in accordance with international standards.

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