Rural opposition supporters claim intimidation

OPPOSITION supporters in rural areas have claimed widespread intimidation by suspected State security agents and Zanu PF activists, forcing many of them to go into hiding as the post-election environment in the country remains tense.

BY OBEY MANAYITI

Violence broke out in Harare last week, culminating in the fatal shooting of seven people by soldiers called to help police quell the disturbances as opposition supporters protested alleged electoral fraud by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday confirmed receiving reports of widespread intimidation in rural communities, urging authorities to ensure the people’s safety was guaranteed.

“Human Rights Watch has received reports of widespread intimidation and a witch hunt of suspected opposition MDC Alliance supporters in Muzarabani South, Marondera, Hurungwe East and Seke,” HRW director for Southern Africa Dewa Mavhinga said.

“In Chivhu, groups of Zanu PF supporters two days ago went round to homes of known MDCA supporters singing songs of retribution and promising vengeance for voting wrongly. Many opposition activists spoke to Human Rights Watch while in hiding.

“The government of Zimbabwe should stop pretending there is no widespread post-election violence and take responsibility to stop the violence and hold accountable those responsible. Zimbabwe cannot be open for business when the leaders turn a blind eye to serious human rights abuses.”

In Muzarabani South, losing MDC Alliance parliamentary candidate Tapiwa Choruwa said several losing aspiring councillors and election agents had gone into hiding after suspected Zanu PF militia pounced on them.

“We have reports of such incidences in many places, especially ward 20. There is growing intimidation and people are afraid now. Some have chosen to flee, while those without anywhere to go are facing the risk of political victimisation. This must be addressed,” he said.

The losing ward 20 local authority candidate for MDC Alliance, Stephan Sado, said he had gone underground after receiving death threats.

He said some people wearing masks had visited several homesteads threatening opposition supporters, while instructing them to publicly dump the opposition and join Zanu PF.

“People covering their faces came in the middle of the night and start shouting and making many threats. We tried to establish who they were, but they were covering their faces.
What makes the situation worse is that these people have the support of the traditional leadership,” Sado said.

“This is very bad because our Constitution clearly stipulates that anyone can join his/her political party freely. We have a history of political violence in Muzarabani, but we were thinking it was a thing of the past. I hope this will stop soon and allow us to get back to our normal lives.”

However, the winning Zanu PF candidate Tapera Saizi dismissed the reports, saying the elections had been peaceful and no one was intimidated.

He urged those making allegations to report to the police.

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