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Widespread Political Violence Reported in Zimbabwe's Rural Areas


Zimbabwe's private hospitals are full of people who have suffered violence since results of parliamentary elections were announced early this month. Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that the victims, mostly from President Robert Mugabe's traditional political strongholds, say that the people who attacked them accused them of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Tafadzwa Chinogure, a 31-year-old peasant farmer, lies in a Harare hospital [Sunday]. His right leg is broken, his left leg has a deep stab wound, his left arm is broken, and he has heavy bruising across his back.

Chinogure says his attackers were ruling Zanu PF supporters who came just after midnight one night last week and beat him and his wife, who is also in the hospital.

He said the Zanu PF broke into his home and accused him of being MDC, and started beating him with big sticks, and they used a knife on his leg. He said they broke the window and door of his house and took away his ground-nut (peanut) harvest.

Chinogure, who is married with two children, comes from a village about two hours drive northeast of the capital. He can name his attackers, among them the local winning Zanu PF councilor. He says after destroying his home, they took all his property including his summer harvest, which was in a shed.

Chinogure is one of hundreds of people from deep rural areas hospitalized in Harare as a result of similar attacks. Without exception they say that their attackers, and they can name many of them, were local Zanu PF political personalities, youth militia, sometimes soldiers, and groups of men calling themselves war veterans.

Most of the attacks have been in the northeastern part of the country in the Mashonaland East province, which has been a ruling Zanu PF stronghold since the 1970's, in the latter years of Zimbabwe's liberation war.

The best known Zanu PF legislator in this region is long serving Health Minister David Parirenyatwa. Numerous attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Mutare, in the east, was also busy as people streamed into urban areas for help. Reports from independent sources in different parts of the country indicate political violence is spreading across many parts of the southeast, north and western parts of the country.

The Movement for Democratic Change says that at least 10 of its supporters have been killed, hundreds hospitalized and about 3,000 displaced. MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said at a press conference in South Africa that Zimbabwe resembles a war-zone.

"By yesterday (Sunday), at least 500 people one way or the other ... had actually been hospitalized," Biti said. "As we sit here, hundreds of huts and houses are being burnt. And a case of internal refugees has developed, internally displaced people have developed in Zimbabwe."

Relatives of a 55-year-old MDC activist who was killed last week near Karoi, about 200 kilometers north of Harare, say his attackers were driving vehicles supplied by a well-known Zanu PF politician in Mashonaland West, who is living on a confiscated white-owned farm he was given in 2003. The politician did not answer his mobile phone last week.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told VOA he did not know about the incidents because he was off duty. There was no one else available from the police to comment. No one has been arrested in connection with any of the violence across the country.

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