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Tens Of Thousands Said To Be Displaced By Zimbabwe Political Violence

  • Peter Clottey

More than a thousand Zimbabwean families have been displaced by an ongoing wave of political violence concentrated in the country's rural areas, according to civil society organizations who warn that the scope of the internal displacement is beginning to approach that of the government's 2005 eviction-demolition campaign.

That campaign, which Harare dubbed Operation Murambatsvina, or Operation Drive Out Rubbish in the indigenous Shona language, deprived 700,000 Zimbabweans of their homes or their livelihoods or both, according to the United Nations.

Non-governmental organization sources said many families are being accommodated in so-called safe houses around the country, making an accurate count of the number displaced problematic. But they said it is now in the tens of thousands.

Spokesman Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, or NANGO, said exact figures are hard to come up with but the scope of displacement can be compared with Operation Murambatsvina.

Ngirande noted that Harare has refused to allow the United Nations or other relief organizations carry out assessments of the impact of the violence.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change and most observers say that the violence is mainly aimed at opposition officials, activists and supporters in rural areas that were considered strongholds of the ruling ZANU-PF party until the March 29 elections in which the MDC claimed a majority in the lower house of parliament.

Observers say the violence, which has become increasingly deadly with victims taken from their homes and later found dead, is mainly perpetrated by ZANU-PF youth militia members and war veterans, with help from the army and other state actors.

Ngirande told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that many of those currently being displaced by violence in the current situation were driven out of the cities and into the rural areas by the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina.

Meanwhile, independent media are being targeted by the violence, with the hijacking and burning over the weekend of a truck carrying copies of the Zimbabwean on Sunday, a paper produced by expatriates and widely distributed in Zimbabwe.

Sources said the Zimbabwean truck was waylaid in Masvingo province. South African truck driver Christmas Ramabulana and Zimbabwean passenger Tapfumaneyi Kancheta were badly beaten and dumped in the bush, they said.

Zimbabwean Editor-Publisher Wilf Mbanga told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the loss of the truck set his organization back by some 25,000 British pounds.

In Mashonaland Central province, meanwhile, the unsuccessful opposition candidate for the Shamva North seat in the March 29 general election, Godfrey Chimombe, said he spent three days hiding in the mountains after an attempt on his life. He said he believed that his assailants were official state security agents.

Chimombe was accused of leading opposition resistance against youth militia earlier this month in the mining town of Shamva. He said opposition activists rescued him and five others today from their remote refuge after three days spent in hiding.

A source in Mashonaland East province said war veterans were intimidating workers at the Makumbe mission school and hospital in Goromonzi constituency, threatening them with unspecified punishment on the return of the veterans on Tuesday.

A source in in Mashonaland West said police in Kadoma failed to close torture bases in Muzvezve constituency from which ZANU-PF militia were operating.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC formation of Morgan Tsvangirai reported that the party's district chairman for Marondera, Portipher Bakayimani, and youth member Cainos Betera, were abducted Friday at gunpoint by security agent Sydney Hlomayi and ZANU-PF militia, and that the two men had not been seen since.

Reporter Peter Clottey of VOA English to Africa spoke with Chamisa about the impact the campaign of violence is having on the party, which must gear up for the presidential run-off election set for June 27.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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