IV. Background

Organized Political Violence

In response to challenges from other political forces, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and its political allies have commonly used violence as a tool since the country gained independence in 1980. The main perpetrators have been ZANU-PF supporters, so called “war veterans,”1 youth militia2 and state security forces, including the police and the army.

For example, state security forces were involved in systematic and widespread atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s, aimed at destroying support for the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo, the most significant political alternative to ZANU in the war of liberation and immediately post-independence. In the 1997 report "Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace—A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, 1980 to 1988,"3 the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Legal Resources Foundation estimated that there had been more than 3,000 extrajudicial executions, hundreds of "disappearances," more than 7,000 beatings or cases of torture and more than 10,000 arbitrary detentions in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, and Midlands provinces in that period.4 The report presented evidence indicating that most killings and "disappearances" were committed by government forces, most notably the army's Fifth Brigade.

Since 1999, when the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerged as a strong political contender to ZANU-PF, violence around elections has intensified. The overwhelming majority of victims of violence during the country’s most recent elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005 were officials and members of the MDC, their supporters and anyone perceived to support the party, including ordinary Zimbabweans and civil society activists.

In the run-up to the parliamentary election of June 2000, international organizations such as Amnesty International documented extrajudicial executions, torture, beatings and abductions—the vast majority committed by supporters of the ruling party or government agents.5 Further state-orchestrated violence took place in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election, as documented and criticized by members of observer missions from the United States, Norway, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Commonwealth present during that election, as well as international nongovernmental organizations.6

Elections in 2005, although flawed, were significantly more peaceful in the run-up.7 However in the immediate aftermath, the government of Zimbabwe embarked on Operation Murambatsvina (Clear the Filth), an eviction campaign that left more than 700,000 people without homes or livelihoods.8 The evictions were carried out throughout the high-density urban areas of the country. Although the government claimed that the operation was carried out to remove criminal elements and clean up the cities, Human Rights Watch and others contended that one of the reasons was to punish those in the high-density suburbs who voted for the MDC during the 2005 elections.

Zimbabwe’s violent history of elections has also been accompanied by widespread impunity.9 Few of those implicated in grave abuses either in the 1980s in Matabeleland or during past elections have been brought to justice. This means that little has been done to discourage acts of violence during more recent times. Those who committed past abuses have remained free to carry out further acts of violence and intimidation.

Ongoing State Repression

Incidents of violence and intimidation carried out by the state have not been limited to election years. The government of Zimbabwe has long been intolerant of criticism, and this has intensified over recent years as the economic situation has collapsed and support for the MDC has grown. Attacks on opposition politicians, civil society activists and journalists, use of unnecessary or excessive force by police forces in quelling peaceful demonstrations, and the use of repressive legislation have remained serious human rights concerns. The brutal police beating of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and scores of other MDC and civil society activists on March 11, 2007, underscores the high levels of intolerance and intimidation that have affected the country.10

General Elections in March 2008

The run-up to the March 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections differed significantly from elections in 2000 and 2002 because there was far less violence. However, the serious flaws that marked those elections and the 2005 parliamentary elections remained, and included a partisan and inadequately prepared electoral commission, concerns about pre-poll rigging, unequal access to the state media, and government restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. ZANU-PF supporters were implicated in serious incidents of violence and intimidation against MDC activists, and the use of food and agricultural inputs as political tools against the opposition. 11

Prior to the March 29 elections, Human Rights Watch expressed serious concerns about the possibility of post-election violence due to the flawed nature of the electoral process and the failure of the government to address persistent political intolerance and impunity in Zimbabwe since the 2000 elections.12

Despite these pre-election conditions, ZANU-PF suffered an extraordinary and unexpected defeat at the hands of the MDC in parliamentary elections. The release of the results of the presidential elections, which took place on the same day, was delayed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) after the ruling party questioned the validity of both the parliamentary and presidential elections. The ZEC called for a recount in 23 constituencies,13 but this brought no significant changes in the results.

The delay in the announcement of the presidential results seriously heightened political tensions in the country.14 On May 2, more than a month after the general election, the ZEC finally announced the presidential results with Morgan Tsvangirai winning 47.9 percent of the vote and the incumbent Robert Mugabe winning 43.2 percent.15 Under Zimbabwe’s electoral laws, the failure of the leading candidate to win a 50 percent plus one vote majority necessitated a runoff between the two leading candidates,16 which the ZEC set for June 27.17

V. State-Sponsored Violence and Torture since the March 29 Elections

A Campaign of Violence

Human Rights Watch investigations since the March 29 elections show that ZANU-PF quickly responded to the loss of its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence and its leader finishing second in the presidential vote by unleashing a systematic and brutal campaign of violence against the opposition. Those leading the campaign have dubbed it “Operation Makavhoterapapi?”18 (Operation Where Did You Put Your Vote?).

There is overwhelming evidence that the organized pattern of abuses have been replicated throughout the provinces. In nearly all the areas affected by violence, victims and eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that it was usually conducted at night and was characterized by abductions, beatings and the looting and burning of huts and other property.

ZANU-PF officials and “war veterans” are beating and torturing suspected MDC activists and supporters in hundreds of base camps established across the provinces as local centers of operations. ZANU-PF supporters, government officials, “war veterans” and state security forces are conducting brutal daily “re-education” meetings in which they beat and at times torture local residents to force them to denounce the MDC and swear allegiance to ZANU-PF. Further, ZANU-PF and its allies have gone on a campaign of widespread destruction of property and looting, including the burning of homesteads, that has led to thousands of people being internally displaced. There has been a spate of abductions and killings of known MDC activists by suspected agents of the state, ZANU-PF supporters and “war veterans” in the province of Mashonaland East and in Harare.

Interviews by Human Rights Watch with more than 60 victims and eyewitnesses indicate that the violence has been concentrated in areas traditionally viewed by ZANU-PF as “strongholds,” in the provinces of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East, as well as the provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo and the capital Harare. Human Rights Watch has also documented other incidents of violence in Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces.

Reasons for the Violence

For the very first time in its history, ZANU-PF either suffered heavy losses or won by much narrower margins than it expected in its “strongholds” in the parliamentary elections. For example, in Mashonaland Central, one of the areas of rampant ZANU-PF violence, ZANU-PF actually won 16 of the 18 contested House of Assembly seats.19 In Mashonaland East, another area that has seen high levels of ZANU-PF violence (almost 50 percent of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch), ZANU-PF won 19 of the 23 contested House of Assembly seats.20 However, closer scrutiny of the polling station results indicate that the MDC made significant inroads in each of these provinces, losing by much narrower margins than ZANU-PF had anticipated. In other violence-affected provinces such as Masvingo and Manicaland, ZANU-PF lost constituencies that it had previously held to the MDC.

The violence appears to be intended to punish Zimbabweans who voted for the MDC on March 29, in particular those who voted in the “strongholds.” It is being used to deter people from voting for the MDC and to persuade them to vote for ZANU-PF during the presidential runoff. Finally, it is being used to change the political landscape of rural areas by effectively displacing and thereby disenfranchising the voting rights of known MDC members and supporters.

The scope and scale of the post-election violence far exceeds that seen during past election years of 2000, 2002 and 2005. Local human rights organizations have reported thousands of incidents of violence throughout the country since April. For example, on May 8, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) reported that it had documented 900 victims of organized violence and torture, including 22 deaths, in the post-election period.21 As of May 27, Human Rights Watch had confirmed at least 36 deaths and found that the number of confirmed victims of violence and torture across the country had risen to almost 2,000.22 Nearly all were MDC activists or people perceived to have voted for the MDC. Some have been observers from the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network.

ZANU-PF supporters and their allies have not found it necessary to prove that a person voted for the MDC before meting out “punishment.” Instead they have examined results posted outside polling stations to identify areas where people voted for MDC in large numbers, even if the MDC lost to ZANU-PF in those areas.23

For example, a 26-year-old man from Mudzi, Mashonaland East was beaten by ZANU-PF youth simply because they believed he was an MDC member. He told Human Rights Watch:

They surrounded my place around midnight on April 13. They were 30 ZANU-PF youth and war veterans. They broke down the door and tied my hands and took me. I was beaten with logs until 8 a.m. I was accused of being an MDC member and a sell-out.24

In Mudzi, Mashonaland East, victims told Human Rights Watch that ZANU-PF supporters accused MDC officials and polling agents of “bringing the disease of MDC into the area,” necessitating a cleansing process that would be achieved through beating people into repentance.25

In Vhombozi village, Mudzi, Mashonaland East, ZANU-PF supporters went on a witch-hunt for those suspected of having voted for the MDC in order to punish them. A 41-year-old man told Human Rights Watch how a group of suspected ZANU-PF supporters attacked him in his home on the night of April 11:

l noticed that my neighbor’s hut was on fire, more people [ZANU-PF supporters] came from a maize field where they were hiding. They were more than 20 in number and dragged me about 500 meters from my hut. There they began beating me with wooden logs on the buttocks for at least 20 minutes. They burnt down my hut, together with a heap of maize and sorghum. They also stole my sewing machine and radio. They said l was a friend of an MDC activist and therefore must also be an MDC activist myself who must be punished for helping to betray the country. One of the people was shouting saying, “You sell-out, why did you vote for MDC?” Those who beat me said ZANU-PF would not tolerate sell-outs; among them were two women who also participated in beating me. As a result of the beatings l fractured my left arm and suffered badly swollen fingers.26

In Mutoko, Mashonaland East on the night of April 10, ZANU-PF supporters brutally beat about 20 men suspected of voting for the MDC before the entire village. A 45-year-old man told Human Rights Watch that the ZANU-PF supporters used whips, chains and iron bars to beat him and they broke his left leg below the knee. They repeatedly said that his “crime” was that he voted for the MDC during the elections.27

Incitement and Organization of the Violence

As in the elections of 2000 and 2002, the post-election violence in 2008 did not arise spontaneously. Human Rights Watch has credible evidence that senior security officers at the local and national level of government are organizing and inciting the violence. Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed more than 60 victims and eyewitnesses who implicated by name local headsmen, ZANU-PF councilors, MPs and supporters who were working closely with senior ranking army officers, police and prison officers, and agents from the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

The government has sought to hide its role in the abuses by using groups of “war veterans” and youth militias as proxy forces to commit violent acts. However, Human Rights Watch investigations uncovered links between the government and ZANU-PF, the youth militia, and “war veterans” involved in serious human rights violations. This includes evidence that those who directly committed abuses were acting under the orders or with the acquiescence or complicity of senior ranking army and police officers.

The Role of the Joint Operation Command

Human Rights Watch has information from credible sources in the police and prison services, as well as from victims and eyewitnesses that Operation Makavhoterapapi was planned and orchestrated under the direction and command of the government’s Joint Operations Command (JOC).28 The JOC is comprised of the heads of Zimbabwe’s security forces: the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, police, Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization and the prison services. Minister of Rural Housing Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was implicated in abuses in Matabeleland in the 1980s, is reported to be in charge of the JOC.29 According to the Zimbabwe Independent, Mnangagwa replaced Minister of State Security Didymus Mutasa as head of the JOC soon after March 29.30

JOC members have made clear their support for the ZANU-PF government rather than the Constitution. For example, General Constantine Chiwenga was quoted in the Standard newspaper in March before the elections as saying that “the army would not support or salute sell-outs and agents of the West before, during and after the presidential elections,”31 a clear reference to the MDC. On May 31, Chief-of-Staff Major General Martin Chedondo said, “Soldiers are not apolitical; only mercenaries are apolitical. We should therefore stand behind our commander-in-chief … If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform.”32

Although Human Rights Watch cannot link the JOC directly to specific acts of violence, our interviews of more than 20 victims and eyewitnesses from separate incidents named at least 10 senior ranking police, prison and army officers who report to the heads of the JOC as inciting or participating in abuses. Their participation could not have occurred without the knowledge and acquiescence, if not direct participation, of the JOC.

The Role of Police and Prison Service Officers

Human Rights Watch has also gathered information that some senior ranking police officers are ordering or inciting subordinates to commit politically motivated violence.

Human Rights Watch interviewed two police officers who reported that from May 6 to 9, 2008, different teams of senior police officers from Police Headquarters addressed members of the police force at all police camps in Harare province.33 The Officer Commanding Harare Province, law and order police Boyson Mathema reportedly called for the meetings, dubbed “Police Project Meetings,” which were addressed by senior police officers. According to the officers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, the message sent to the police camps was basically the same: MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would never rule the country and that the police should be ready to go to war if Tsvangirai won a second round of elections. They said that senior officers threatened the lower ranking officers and told them that they were aware that a significant percentage of the police forces had voted for the MDC, but they would not be allowed to “sell out” the country. According to the officers, this message was replicated at similar meetings throughout Harare.

As described below, members of the police force have been implicated in widespread post-election abuses around the country, including politically motivated arrests, beatings and torture. Victims informed Human Rights Watch that senior police officers in the provinces of Mashonaland East and in Manicaland were actively involved in inciting violence and carrying out attacks. For example, Human Rights Watch gathered evidence from three persons who were attacked by “war veterans” and police in unrelated incidents that Police Assistant Commissioner Martin Kwainona of the Presidential Guard was allegedly involved in inciting, leading and perpetrating violence in Mt. Darwin, Mashonaland Central.34

A 43-year-old man told Human Rights Watch:

I was an MDC polling agent. On April 17, Martin Kwainona came to my house at 10 a.m. and accused me of having insulted a member of ZANU-PF. He begun assaulting me saying he was going to clear all MDC from Mt Darwin. He arrested me and took me to Dotito police station where he instructed police to beat me. I was beaten by police for two days in police custody. I was set free on April 20 when I came to Harare.35

A 48-year-old man told Human Rights Watch that Martin Kwainona threatened all the people attending a gathering at Tsengurwe Secondary school in Mt. Darwin on April 18 saying: “All MDC members in Mt. Darwin must be made to disappear, we are busy training our youths to do just that.” According to the man, Kwainona went on to say that “MDC people surrender and rejoin ZANU-PF because we are going to vote again. If you don’t, we know you, and will come for you. We will never be ruled by Tsvangirai.”36

A 28-year-old woman on April 16 witnessed Martin Kwainona beating a person at Dotito police station in Mt. Darwin. She told Human Rights Watch:

Four police officers came to my home and arrested me and took me in a private car to Dotito police station. They beat me with batons for more than 30 minutes. At the police station the Officer in Charge Sergeant [name withheld] said, “Here we in Mt. Darwin South our commander is Martin Kwainona.” I was detained overnight and beaten again, several times during the night and was released on April 17. As I was leaving the police station I saw a person being brought into the station by Martin Kwainona. Martin Kwainona was beating him as he took him into the station. I heard him say to the police in the station, “Go and fix MDC members for the next 21 days, beat them till they reveal all their plans about betraying the country.”37

Victims and eyewitnesses named at least three other senior police and prison service officers as organizing and participating in violence in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central provinces.

Human Rights Watch also spoke to three officers from the Zimbabwe prison services who described the systematic deployment of senior prison officers to various provinces to oversee Operation Makavhoterapapi, under the direct command of the JOC.38 According to the officers, at least five senior prison officers from Harare Central Prison were deployed to provinces in Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Mashonaland East in the weeks after the March 29 elections.

Defence Force Involvement in Acts of Violence and Torture

Numerous victims and eyewitnesses described to Human Rights Watch the direct involvement of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (comprised of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Air Force) in acts of violence and torture. The army has been implicated in committing abuses such as beatings and torture, carrying out nightly raids in search of MDC activists and perceived MDC supporters, as well as providing logistical and other forms of support to “war veterans” and ZANU-PF supporters to enable them to carry out acts of violence. As described below, the army perpetrated much of the violence in the capital Harare in April.

In a May 8, 2008 statement, the army denied any involvement, stating the army “categorically distances itself and any of its members from such activities.”39 However, Human Rights Watch found numerous instances of army involvement in acts of violence and torture that could not have taken place without the knowledge of senior army officers. In some cases, senior serving and retired military officers themselves directly participated in the violence.

A court case brought before the High Court of Zimbabwe on May 19 highlights the army’s involvement in violence. In his petition Eric Matinenga, an MDC member of parliament for Buhera West, Manicaland, alleged that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces were in fundamental breach of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Defence Act because of unlawful activities they were carrying out in Buhera West and other rural areas. These included the alleged subjection of MDC supporters to harassment, assault and humiliation. Matinenga named the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Constantine Chiwenga and Major Svosve, a company commander in Buhera West. (Several local contacts and eyewitnesses who spoke to Human Rights Watch have separately identified Major Svosve as being present during attacks in Buhera.) On May 23, 2008, Justice C. Bhunu issued a provisional court order setting the following terms: 

1) Deployment of Zimbabwe Defence Forces in the rural areas particularly in Buhera West for any purpose other than that provided for by the Zimbabwe Constitution as read with the Zimbabwe Defence Act is hereby declared unlawful and has to be stopped forthwith.

2) Members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces unlawfully deployed in the rural areas particularly in Buhera West for any purpose other than that provided for by the constitution of Zimbabwe as read with the Defence Act be withdrawn forthwith.

3) The respondent should put in place immediate measures to ensure that army officers seconded to rural areas particularly Buhera West confine their operations within their constitutional duties in terms of section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe.40

In another case, five individuals told Human Rights Watch that a senior army officer from Harare was directing and inciting the violence from 3 Brigade, the provincial base of the army in Mutare, Manicaland province.41 Others said that “war veterans” and ZANU-PF youths and supporters were operating from 3 Brigade army barracks and were assisting the army by pointing out houses of MDC activists and compiling lists of MDC activists.42

One person, a prominent MDC activist in Mashonaland East, arrested by the police after “war veterans” abducted and tortured him in Mashonaland East, told Human Rights Watch that a military commander in the Zimbabwe Air Force, Bramwell Kachairo, came to the police station after he heard of the arrest. According the activist, Kachairo said, “I have come to see this MDC thug. I want to see his face.” He then told him, “When you get out of prison I am going to slaughter you and you will be removed from your home.” The man told Human Rights Watch, “Kachairo is the one causing the violence.”43   

Three other people in Mashonaland East named Bramwell Kachairo as being responsible for organizing and sometimes taking part in the beatings in the province. One told Human Rights Watch that he had seen Kachairo threatening people with groups of “war veterans” in Mashonaland East. He told Human Rights Watch, “He is the one leading the violence. He goes around with the youth militia and ‘war veterans’ and is always armed.”44 Another said, “I have seen him beating people in the area. He is very dangerous.”45

In Mashonaland West, seven persons who witnessed attacks on MDC activists in the towns of Chinhoyi, Kariba and Hurungwe believe that were being coordinated and directed by Air Marshall Perence Shiri.46 They said they had witnessed several senior military officers operating under Perence Shiri in these areas. They included a brigadier general and two lieutenant colonels. Human Rights Watch was also able to obtain the names and service numbers of three other senior ranking army officers operating in the area.

The following accounts gathered by Human Rights Watch point directly to army involvement in abuses in various provinces.

In Mashonaland East, a 26-year-old MDC youth activist told Human Rights Watch that on April 15 uniformed and armed soldiers descended on a safe house in Murehwa Town Centre for MDC activists who had fled political violence in rural Murehwa:

At around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, a pickup truck arrived at the gate of our safe house with about 15 soldiers in uniform; many of them had rifles and hand guns. One of them pulled out his gun and shouted, “We have found the people we are looking for, let us beat them!” and he began to advance towards the house.

We all ran in different directions. Unfortunately for me, l panicked and fled into the house where four soldiers followed me and began to beat me with the butts of their guns on the head, saying they were looking for me—but they did not know it was me they were beating. They also used batons to beat me. As l ran towards their truck at the gate, one soldier pulled out a gun and pointed it at my head and tripped me so that l fell to the ground. While l was on the ground more soldiers came to beat me and to kick me in the ribs and stomach, after some time l got up and began to run away towards a nearby village. I have a heavily swollen right hand, severe chest pains, as well as pain in my sides and legs. I also have some injuries on my head.47

In Zinoro Village, Mutoko North district, Mashonaland East a 32-year-old man who contested the March 29 elections as an MDC councilor, alleged that he was attacked by soldiers and police officers:

On Saturday April 12, around 9 p.m., six soldiers in uniform from Joko army barracks [the army barracks in Mutoko] came to Nyamuzuwe Township in four cars, with guns. They were in the company of a Senior Assistant Commissioner from Police Support Unit, Everisto Pfumvuti and “war veterans” from my village.

The soldiers fired their guns into the air and we all fled in different directions. They ran after us, I was caught and beaten using whips, but was later rescued by my MDC colleagues who had regrouped to carry out a rescue operation. We ran for more than 20 kilometers to Mutoko Centre. There I sold my mobile SIM card to raise money for transport to Harare where we were admitted at [a] clinic on 16 April. I have no idea how my family is now, they were threatening to burn down my house. I fear for my family.48

A 32-year-old man from Zihute village, Murehwa North, Mashonaland East, told Human Rights Watch:

I was at Murehwa Centre together with many other displaced people at a safe house when on April 15 at 6 p.m. four uniformed soldiers came, armed with guns, and said, “We want to see your leader here.” People started to flee when they saw raised guns.

We jumped over a security fence, but we were caught by the soldiers and put, two of us, in an unmarked car and driven along Mutoko road towards Joko army barracks in Mutoko. Before we got to Joko army barracks, one of the four soldiers in the car took out a knife from his pocket and aimed to stab me in the chest, I blocked the knife with my open palm and I kicked the door and jumped out of the moving car. I sustained a deep cut inside my right hand—got three stitches, got bruised when I fell from car. The other person I was abducted with did not manage to escape. I do not know what happened to him. I am not going back to my home, it is too dangerous.49

Army Assistance to ZANU-PF Supporters, Youth Militia and “War Veterans”

Human Rights Watch also gathered information from more than 20 victims and eyewitnesses that indicate the army’s involvement in providing guns and transportation to abusive “war veterans” and ZANU-PF supporters. Armed “war veterans” and ZANU-PF supporters have been implicated in shooting incidents in Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central. “War veterans” and youth militia have reportedly been operating from army bases and camps in Manicaland and Harare. Victims also reported that in some incidents the “war veterans” were using army trucks and pickups to carry out raids on the homes of MDC activists and supporters.

In some cases “war veterans” have masqueraded as soldiers by wearing army uniforms. In one incident a man told Human Rights Watch that he knew that some of the uniformed men who beat him were not soldiers, even though they were dressed as such, because one of the men had “dreadlocks” and not the customary short hair that all soldiers are required to have in Zimbabwe.50

Human Rights Watch documented several cases where victims and eyewitnesses saw civilians armed with rifles and handguns, in some cases firing at MDC supporters. For instance in Murehwa, a 33-year-old man from Munemo Village in Murehwa North, Mashonaland East province was shot by a member of ZANU-PF at Murehwa Centre on April 14. He told Human Rights Watch:

On Monday, 14 April as we walked to our MDC offices at Murehwa Centre, at Mwamuka turn off, a car with a ZANU-PF logo and marked “ZANU-PF” but without number plates came towards us at full speed. The passenger in the car brought out a gun, then the car deliberately attempted to run us over, and hit three of my colleagues in the legs.

Our MDC youth leader, Shingi Nheweyembwa shouted “Boys get down!” when he saw the passenger in the car pulling out a gun and preparing to fire. I was slow to go down and was shot in the head with a gun. Immediately after being shot I fainted. I do not what happened to me—I have no recollection of events that followed. I understand police officers manning a traffic roadblock about 200 meters from where the incident occurred came to our assistance. I do not know the person who shot me, but l know the driver of the vehicle. I was fortunate in that the bullet grazed the back of my head but did not affect the skull, leaving only an open wound on my head.51

In another incident in Makoni-West, Manicaland, armed “war veterans” opened fire and shot at a group of MDC supporters, injuring three. One of the female supporters, Tabeth Marume, subsequently died from her wounds. The “war veterans” had set up a makeshift base at Chiwetu Rest Camp from which they abducted, beat and tortured known MDC supporters. On April 23 the war veterans abducted 12 MDC members and took them to the camp where they were beaten. In response, 22 other MDC supporters including Marume went to the camp to negotiate the release of their colleagues.52 

One of the MDC supporters told Human Rights Watch what took place when they got to the camp:

When we got to the base, we were confronted by more than 50 war veterans and ZANU-PF youths, 12 “war veterans” had guns, AK-47 guns [military assault rifles]. They ordered us to sit down. We refused and said we had come to seek the release of our colleagues. I went into a room where our colleagues were being beaten, with hands tied at the back, lying facing the ground, l only managed to untie one colleague when the “war veterans” fired into the air. Most of my colleagues began to run away, some escaped. The second round of fire was directed at us, and Tabeth Marume was shot in the stomach. Two of my colleagues were also shot, one in the thigh and the other in the calf.

Other “war vets” caught me before l could escape and began to beat me with iron bars, one blow was delivered on my left arm and l heard my arm snap and knew straight away that my arm was broken. The bone was protruding through the skin but l forced myself to run away. The next day we organized transport to take us to Mutare Provincial Hospital because there was no medication at Rusape hospital. At this point Tabeth was alive but her bleeding was too much. In the truck that we used to travel to Mutare l held Tabeth’s head in my lap, she was in great pain. As we approached Mutare, about 20 kilometers from Mutare she asked me for a glass of water. I gave her just a few drops, then she began to roll her eyes. An old woman with us in the truck simply said, “She is gone,” and that is how she died.53

The MDC supporter and two others who were involved in the incident identified the “war veterans” who allegedly had guns as Retired Colonel Daniel Romeo Mutsvunguma, Mapfumo, Chikata, Madondo and Noah Mahwata. Mutsvunguma allegedly fired the shot that killed Tabeth Marume.54 MDC chairperson Stephen Chigori told Human Rights Watch, “Retired Colonel Daniel Mutsvunguma shot her. I saw Mutsvunguma fire his gun. I know him very well.55

1 Many of the “war veterans” implicated in recent abuses are believed to be individuals hired by the government to commit abuses under the guise of “war veterans.” Many are too young to be genuine war veterans or have fought during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle in the 1970s. However, Human Rights Watch’s evidence indicates that these fake “war veterans” are being led by genuine war veterans who fought during the struggle for independence.

2 The youth militia, also known in Zimbabwe as “green bombers” because they often wear olive green military fatigues, are part of a government-run National Youth Service Program. According to the government, the program is aimed at training youths to be good citizens and to take part in community services initiatives.

3 See Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Legal Resources Foundation, Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, 1980 to 1988 (Harare: Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Legal Resources Foundation, 1997).

4 Ibid.

5 Amnesty International, “Terror tactics in the run-up to elections,” June 2000, (accessed February 28, 2008).

6 See Commonwealth Observer Report, “Preliminary Report of the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Zimbabwe Presidential Election, 9–10 March 2002,” March 14, 2002, (accessed February 28, 2008); “Preliminary Statement on Presidential Elections by the Norwegian Observer Team,” Oslo, March 13, 2002, (accessed February 28 2008); and “Statement on the Zimbabwe Elections,” SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Mission, Harare, March 13, 2002, (accessed February 28, 2008).

7 Human Rights Watch, Not a Level Playing Field: Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary Elections in 2005, March 21, 2005,

8 Human Rights Watch, Zimbabwe – Evicted and Forsaken: Internally Displaced Persons in the Aftermath of Operation Murambatsvina, vol. 17, no. 16(A), December 1, 2005, 

9 Zimbabwe’s long history of impunity for perpetrators of violence and torture is well documented by Human Rights Watch and by organizations such as Redress and Amnesty International. See for example, Redress and the Amani Trust, “Torture in Zimbabwe, Past and Present,” June 2005, (accessed March 11, 2008); Redress, “Zimbabwe: From Impunity to Accountability: Are Reparations Possible for Victims of Gross and Systematic Human Rights Violations?” March 2004, (accessed March 11, 2008); Amnesty International,  “The Toll of Impunity,” June 25, 2002, (accessed February, 2008); and Human Rights Watch, You Will Be Thoroughly Beaten: The Brutal Suppression of Dissent in Zimbabwe, vol. 18 no. 10(A), November 1, 2006,

10 Human Rights Watch, Bashing Dissent: Escalating Violence and State Repression in Zimbabwe, vol. 19, no. 6(A), May 2, 2007,

11 Human Rights Watch, All Over Again: Human Rights Abuses and Flawed Electoral Conditions in Zimbabwe’s Coming General Elections, vol. 20, no. 2(A), March 19, 2008,

12 Ibid.

13 “ZEC accepts vote recount,” News 24, April 10, 2008,,,2-11-1662_2303398,00.html (accessed May 27, 2008).

14 After tallying the polling results, the MDC declared that Morgan Tsvangirai had won the vote by a majority of 50.3 percent. The delay in publishing the presidential results left the government open to allegations of attempting to manipulate the vote, and reduced the credibility of the results.

15 “Zimbabwe announces poll results,” BBC news online, May 2, 2008,, (accessed May 27, 2008).

16 Electoral Laws Amendment Act, 2007, Amendments to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act [Chapter 2:12] (No. 22 of 2004), the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] (No. 25 of 2004) and the Traditional

Leaders Act [Chapter 29:17] (No. 25 of 1998).

17 “Zimbabwe names date for run-off,” BBC news online, May 16, 2008, (accessed May 27, 2008).

18 In various Human Rights Watch interviews across the country, in Harare, Masvingo, Mashonaland East, Central and West as well as in Manicaland, victims repeatedly mentioned this operation by name, suggesting a central origin of the operation.

19 Kubatana , “Results - 'Harmonised' elections 29 March 2008: House of Assembly and Senate,”, May 15, 2008, (accessed May 27, 2008)

20 Ibid.

21 Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, “Statement concerning escalating cases of organised violence and torture, and of intimidation of medical personnel,” May 9, 2008. On file with Human Rights Watch.

22 Human Rights Watch interviews with medical personnel documenting cases of beatings and torture in Harare, April, May and June 2008.

23 Human Rights Watch interviews with victims from Mudzi, Mashonaland East, Harare, April 17, 2008.

24 Human Rights Watch interview with 26-year old man, Harare, April 17, 2008

25 Human Rights Watch interviews with victims from Mudzi, Mashonaland East, Harare, April 17, 2008.

26 Human Rights Watch interview with 41-year-old man, Harare, April 17, 2008.

27 Human Rights Watch interview, Harare, April 17, 2008.

28 For instance, Human Rights Watch interview with victims and witnesses, Harare, April and May, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with victims in Mutare, April 28, 2008; and Human Rights Watch interview with Biggie Haurobi, MDC official, Karoi, Mashonaland West, April 30, 2008.

29 See “Mnangagwa Running ZANU-PF Campaign,” Zimbabwe Independent, May 8, 2008; “Mujuru Opposes Violence,” Zimbabwe Independent, May 22, 2008.

30 Ibid.

31 “Army chief warns of coup if ‘sell outs’ win,” zwnews online, March 11, 2008, (accessed March 12, 2008).

32 “Troops 'must back Mugabe or quit,’” BBC news online, May 31, 2008, (accessed June 2, 2008).

33 Human Rights Watch interviews with police officers and prison services officers, Harare, May, 2008.

34 Human Rights Watch interviews with victims, Harare, April and May, 2008.

35 Human Rights Watch interview with 43-year-old man, Harare, April 22, 2008.

36 Human Rights Watch interview with 48-year-old man, Harare, April 22, 2008.

37 Human Rights Watch interview with 28-year-old woman, Harare, April 22, 2008.

38 Human Rights Watch interviews with police officers and prison services officers, Harare, May, 19, 2008.

39 “ZNA not linked to political violence,” Letter to the editor, The Standard, May 11, 2008.

40 Case no: HC2624/08, May 19, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.

41 Human Rights Watch interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, Mutare, Manicaland, April 28, 2008.

42 Human Rights Watch interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, Mutare, Manicaland, April 28, 2008.

43 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mapengo Mapengu, Harare, April 18, 2008.

44 Human Rights Watch interview with Togarepi Manuchi, Harare, April 17, 2008.

45 Human Rights Watch interview, Harare, April 18, 2008.

46 Human Rights Watch interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, Karoi, Mashonaland West, April 30, 2008.

47 Human Rights Watch interview with MDC activist, Harare, April 17, 2008

48 Human Rights Watch interview with 32-year-old man, Harare, April 17, 2008.

49 Human Rights Watch interview with 32-year-old man, Harare, April 17, 2008.

50 Human Rights Watch interview, Harare, April 18, 2008.

51 Human Rights Watch interview with 33-year-old man, Harare, April 18, 2008.

52 Human Rights Watch interviews with three MDC activists, Mutare, Manicaland, April 28, 2008.

53 Human Rights Watch Interview with Stephen Chigori, Mutare, Manicaland, April 28, 2008.

54 Human Rights Watch interviews with three MDC activists, Mutare, Manicaland, April 28, 2008.

55 Human Rights Watch interview with Stephen Chigori, Mutare, Manicaland, April 28, 2008.