Video shows 'intimidation' by Mugabe’s party ahead of election cycle

 
A video has emerged showing what appears to be evidence of intimidation on the part of members of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. With an election expected in the coming year, this video - along with reports of similar incidents - has stoked fears that the party is returning to the same intimidation tactics used in the run-up to the 2008 election.
 
A speaker in the video tells a crowd of people, “If MDC [the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party] comes here and you, as a ZANU-PF member, participate [in their meetings], I promise I will beat you.” Another speaker asks people gathered around him to each divulge a name of an opposition supporter they know. [Our Observer, below, explains that people who don’t necessarily agree with the party’s politics are sometimes pressured to attend these meetings].
 
The video, which was procured by a human rights organisation that FRANCE 24 has decided to keep anonymous for security reasons, includes footage of two separate political meetings, which were reportedly held in the central district of Chirumhanzu on May 17 and in the northern district of Chinhanga on May 23. We have shown this video to several of our Observers in Zimbabwe, who were able to confirm that the dialects spoken match those used in these areas.
 
 
FRANCE 24 has asked ZANU-PF for comment on this video, but we have not yet received a reply.
 
Incidents of intimidation against opposition supporters have been reported with increasing frequency as the next presidential election, expected in mid-2013, draws nearer. The outgoing US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, recently said that, judging by the recent atmosphere, he fears the coming elections could once again descend into violence.
 
During the last election, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew a week before the second round, claiming that a campaign of violence by Mugabe’s supporters had turned the process into “a sham.” However, under pressure from the international community, the two ended up at the head of a coalition government, with Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister. In 2013, both men will once again compete to become president.
 
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron first since 1987. Zimbabwe is currently ranked 154 out of 182 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index.
Contributors

“This sort of intimidation is quite typical of what’s happening all over the country”

Mugove (not his real name) is a Zimbabwean human rights activist. FRANCE 24 has decided to keep him anonymous for security reasons. [Activists are frequently the targets of harassment in Zimbabwe].
 
I am convinced this video is authentic, not only because meetings were indeed scheduled in these places on these dates, but because I recognized the dialects being spoken as belonging to these regions.
 
This sort of intimidation is quite typical of what’s happening all over the country these days; I have received many reports of similar incidents, both in cities and in rural areas. The threats of beating heard in the video are not mere talk – on May 26, an opposition supporter was lynched by ZANU-PF supporters. [Witnesses reported that the police on the scene did not intervene]. I believe this was a clear result of these types of intimidation tactics.
 
Intimidation can take multiple forms. The most common are direct threats to people who sympathise with the opposition or their family members, which includes threats of beatings and destruction of property. Many people are also forced to attend political meetings and buy party membership cards. Another common threat in rural areas is banishment – village leaders have the power to expel people from their communities. People who rent stores or stands in markets are also often required to pledge allegiance to a party in order to keep their spots.
 
“People who are threatened cannot count on the help of the police”
 
In Zimbabwe, people cannot count on the police if they are threatened by supporters of political parties. Police chiefs have openly expressed their support for ZANU-PF, so that makes it difficult for rank-and-file police officers to go against this party’s interests. Moreover, there is an atmosphere of impunity. Vigilante groups have been roaming the streets of cities causing violence; the police clearly have the capacity to deal with them, but it seems that they have decided to ignore it when it’s in the interest of the politicians they support. The policing system needs a major overhaul. Currently, too many people who took part in or allowed the 2008 violence remain in positions of power.
 
As we approach the elections, more and more political meetings are taking place, and tension is increasing. I think it’s quite likely that intimidation will once again give way to bloodshed.

 Post written by FRANCE 24 journalist Gaelle Faure.

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