Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU-PF and community leaders from Masvingo province have reportedly promised to crack down on opposition supporters who attended a political rally held by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Gutu South on Saturday.
The leaders allegedly promised to find these suspected opposition supporters and kill them before the next general election slated for 2018. This comes in the wake of fresh political tension, which is slowly simmering ahead of 2018 polls.
In the recent past, at least seven homes belonging to supporters of Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe- Zimbabwe’s opposition party- have been torched by suspected ZANU-PF supporters.
On Wednesday, Voice of America’s radio station broadcasted an audio recording of Masvingo traditional leaders and ZANU-PF officials addressing discontented villagers of Chaitemura on Tuesday where they threatened to unleash terror similar to the 2008 bloodbath, which left more than 200 MDC-T supporters dead.
ZANU-PF official Joseph Musasiwa is reported to have read out a list of 30 villagers suspected to have attended the opposition rally and promised to kill them before the next general election.
“The government does not buy bullets so that we shoot trees. I will shoot people, not trees,” Masvingo youth leader Rabson Manzunzu told the crowd.
Manzunzu also directed that every village head must support ZANU-PF ahead of 2018 elections adding that they cannot afford to let the country be recolonized.
News Day reports that every speaker at the Wednesday meeting issued chilling forewarnings of the looming violence, urging the villagers not to complain as they attended the opposition’s rally on their volition.
History of Political Intimidation
During 2008 general elections in Zimbabwe, hundreds of opposition supporters were killed, forcing President Mugabe’s main political opponent in the presidential race Morgan Tsvangirai to drop out of the race.
Zimbabwe has a history of election violence dating back to the early 1980s after the country gained independence. The world has not forgotten the Matabeleland massacre where over 20,000 ZAPU supporters were killed by North Korean Fifth Brigade deployed by Robert Mugabe.
The killings only stopped after ZAPU decided to sign a unity accord with ZANU in 1987. The violence reemerged in 1999 following the formation of MDC- opposition party.
State security agents have also been accused of committing acts of violence against civilians, mainly opposition supporters and aid workers. The recurring violence mainly includes serious human rights abuses such as imprisonment, forced disappearance, rape, killings and torture.
According to Zimbabwe’s Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe faces great challenges like reconciliation, healing, sustained economic recovery and good governance.
Mugabe’s Refusal to Retire
Many observers believe Zimbabwe’s stagnating economy is as a result of lack of progressive politics. For over 36 years, the country has been under Robert Mugabe’s reign, whose style of leadership seems to clamp down on foreigners, particularly investors.
Mugabe’s insistence to hold on to power serves as the catalyst for political animosity between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition.
The latest cases of violence have come just a few days after ZANU-PF officials declared their support for Mugabe’s presidential bid in 2018 elections.