2008 violence leaves trails of psychological aftermaths

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Dumisani Mpofu wriggles on the ground, froth bubbling out of his mouth, his hair unkempt and he is clad in rags that leave part of his filthy body exposed.

Mpofu, from Mwenezi, allegedly fell mentally ill after the political violence that gripped the country in 2008. He reportedly participated in attacks on political opponents, some of whom died.

Simeleni Gumbo, Mpofu’s wife, says her husband started behaving strangely after his involvement in the political skirmishes.

“I don’t know what to do and I can’t stay with my husband anymore as he has become mad. All was well before 2008 then he joined militias attacking rival political supporters. He now behaves mysteriously, calling out names of people whose limbs he reportedly amputated during the 2008 upheavals,” said Gumbo.

Families in the area whose loved ones were allegedly murdered by Mpofu say he killed them in political clashes.

They claim that they made police reports, but the assailant has remained free. National Police Spokesperson, Wayne Bvudzijena dithered on responding to cases of political violence in 2008 and could not confirm if police made any arrests linked to the period.

“I can’t comment on that,” Bvudzijena said.
Ngonidzashe Chiparu, whose brother allegedly fell victim to Mpofu, seethed with anger. “Mpofu shall continue seeing the vision of my brother whom he killed until he dies. His avenging spirit shall perpetually haunt him,” he fumed.

“We will not rest until Mpofu’s family appeases the spirit of our departed relative,” said Simon Msipa who claimed that his uncle was beaten to death by Mpofu and his accomplices.

In another case in Mwenezi, three brothers reportedly fell mentally ill following alleged participation in the torture and mysterious disappearance of suspected political foes.

The brothers, Tongai, Isaiah and Misheck Muredzi are believed to have terrorised community members in areas around the district, where they beat up and killed their victims.

They are alleged to have become mentally unstable soon after the 2008 presidential run-off elections.

During a visit to the area where the three live, this reporter saw them conversing incoherently, acting as if they were conniving to attack people opposed to them and wielding logs, but surprisingly they would chase after unseen objects, shouting obscenities.

In Chipinge, a man called Mwazhiwa, who reportedly spearheaded an orgy of political terror is now mentally disturbed and dips his mouth in food when eating.

“My father started acting weirdly on July 16 2008 following his violent mobilisation of people to vote in the run-off elections. I appeal to any persons responsible for his illness to co-operate with us,” said Margret, his daughter.

“When we give him food to eat, he dips his mouth in the plate, saying he lost his limbs during clashes in election violence, but surprisingly he has both hands,” she said. Ironically, some people had their hands hacked off for “voting for the wrong party” in the 2008 run-off elections.

A family in Mt Selinda, which claims to have lost a relative at the time Mwazhiwa allegedly went on the rampage with his colleagues, said he was getting punishment befitting his deeds.

“We can’t be happy after this man murdered our relatives. He has to face the music,” said Augustine Ngorima, adding that he lost his only brother after he was fatally attacked by a marauding mob of young people led by Mwazhiwa.

A Dande family said they desperately needed to engage national leaders to resolve matters with a neighbouring family after their now mentally-disturbed relative allegedly killed the former’s son during the 2008 June run-off elections.

“We tried in vain to enter into talks with the family whose son our relative killed following a political dispute after the June 27 run-off elections, even to the extent of making police reports after my brother began seeing images of the person he killed. He screams and runs amok and has become afraid of everybody,” said Aleck Nhurupiro.

Reports of people who became mentally ill after the 2008 run-off elections across the country are on the rise, but skeptics have dismissed them as mythical.

George Kandiyero of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) said it was possible that people who killed in the 2008 elections could have gone mad.

“A person is not a hen as he or she has a spirit which does not die.

“There has to be compensation if one kills another person. In war situations, there are rituals performed to appease the spirits of those that may have been killed during fighting,” said Kandiyero.

He said it was possible that people who lost their loved ones in the 2008 violent run-off elections could bewitch those that they deemed responsible for the death of their relatives, resulting in suspected murderers going mad.

In a national report that detailed statistics about people who became mentally ill in 2008, the Ministry of Health showed that a total of 3 836 people became mentally ill during the period — a sharp increase from the previous years — with Mashonaland Central topping the list with 924 followed by Manicaland Province which totalled 545 as other provinces trailed behind.

Director for Epidemiology and diseases Control, Dr Portia Manangazira said the periods between 2007 and 2008 were very traumatic in Zimbabwe, resulting in strenuous psychological consequences.

However Mugabe protected his cronies who had unleashed a reign of terror in the Matabeleland region even long after the signing of the Unity accord when in 2008 Zanu PF militia targeted MDC sympathizers.

Their most target were civil servants whom they accused of working with the opposition MDC to unseat the Zanu (PF) government.

 A documented case is of a civil servant from Gwanda South, Shepherd Phida who lost his homestead and his chicken projects after Zanu PF militia burnt down his homestead during the 2008 re-run.

President Mugabe unleashed violence on Zimbabwe after losing the first race to Morgan Tsvangirai but he could not garner enough votes to form a government.

Phida who was coordinating MDC had to leave the country by skipping the border and is still unable to return home.