THE ruling Zanu PF has been identified as the main perpetrator of organised violence and torture during the pre-election and post-election periods, amid calls for the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to acknowledge that the political climate in Zimbabwe is marred by significant conflict.
Zimbabwe, which held a chaotic general election in August, has been cast into further turmoil with abductions and attacks on opposition members on the rise as the Zanu PF government seeks to consolidate power.
This month, cleric Tapfumaneyi Masaya was abducted, tortured and killed in Mabvuku, Harare, while campaigning for the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) candidate Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, who was recalled from Parliament by self-proclaimed secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu. Kufahakutizwi was barred from contesting the polls after the High Court set aside his nomination on Friday.
Findings in a report titled “A Consolidated Report on Pre and Post Organised Violence and Torture During the 2023 Harmonised Elections in Zimbabwe” by human rights watchdogs, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum), Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), Counselling Services Unit (CSU), Veritas and Heal Zimbabwe show that members of the opposition have been the main victims of targeted organised violence and torture at all stages of the electoral process.
According to the report, Zanu PF supporters had the highest frequency of perpetrating violence, with 116 reports in the pre-election period, and 67 in the post-election era, while its youth wing had a tally of 74 and 12 in both periods.
There has also been a 100% fluctuation in election violence, with 102 cases of intimidation being recorded in the pre-election period, increasing to 126 in the post-election period. In the same period, 37 cases of violence were recorded in the pre-election period, with 44 being recorded in the post-election period.
Of the recorded cases, police did not take action on 18 cases of violations in the run up to the general elections, and did not take action on 16 cases in the post-period period.
Cases of exclusion increase in the pre-election period, with 44 being recorded, which slightly decreased after the election to 39.
“The category, no action by police, refers to only reports where a violation — usually violence — was reported to the police and the report was refused or no one was charged.
“Exclusion refers to reports where communities were informed of denial of food aid or agricultural support due to non-support of Zanu PF. It also refers to cases where people had to go into hiding due to threats or were told to leave the area,” reads the report.
The report has also shown that sticks and poles were the main weapons used against victims, with 93 instances being recorded in the pre-election period, which dropped to 29 in the post-election period.
Other weapons used against victims include fists, with 131 cases being recorded in the pre-election period, whilst four cases were recorded after the polls.
The data has shown that Harare, an opposition stronghold, has been the major hotspot of violence accounting for 82 and 53 cases in both electoral periods.
Violence is also spilling into ruling party strongholds, with Manicaland recording 73 and 19 cases in the pre- and post-election periods, while Mashonaland Central, where Zanu PF recorded a 100% win, was ranked third with 27 and 44 cases being recorded in both electoral periods, showing the ruling party’s waning popularity in the rural areas.
“Firstly, there is an obvious trend towards violations increasing in frequency as the polling days approach, and, although they decline after the poll, it is also clear that they decline but not disappear: political violence aimed at members of opposition political parties continues even today as the reports of abductions and torture persist.
“The victims are overwhelmingly members of the opposition political party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), whether pre-election, post-election, or even on polling days. Hence, the violence can only be described as intentional and targeted and conforms to the patterns seen and reported upon in every election since 2000. The alleged perpetrators are overwhelmingly supporters of Zanu PF, whether general supporters, Zanu PF youth, or traditional leaders.
“There are also a number of senior party officials, candidates and even MPs mentioned in the direct victims’ testimony, and the presence of so many named preparators should require legal and judicial action. Finally, the reported violations on the polling days should cause serious additional doubt on the validity of the election and should be considered in any subsequent discussion by Sadc and other political groupings in their acceptance of the election outcome.”
Organised violence and torture cases have been increasing, with more cases being recorded against prominent opposition members.
For instance, in November main opposition CCC legislator Takudzwa Ngadziore was saved by a seven-minute-long Facebook Live video he was recording after learning that he was being followed by AK47-wielding assailants.
Ngadziore was found tortured, battered and naked, also allegedly injected with an unknown substance before being dumped in the Christon Bank area near Mazowe, a few kilometres from Harare.
A sack was placed over his head, after which the assailants proceeded to thoroughly beat him as the vehicle drove away.
After the car stopped, a knife was used to cut off his clothes from his body, and was later injected with an unknown substance, after which he was again physically assaulted and beaten again.