Zimbabwe: A trail of violence after the ballot

June 3, 2008

Zimbabwe: A trail of violence after the ballot

Senior members of the Zimbabwean government have strong links with the "war veterans" organisation, for example, President Mugabe is the patron of the ZNLWA and other senior officials in the army, police and government are members of the association. Members of the ZNLWA were given preferential treatment during the government's land reform programme and receive a state pension in addition to other perks. The Zimbabwean government has also deliberately aligned state and ZANU-PF affairs making the two inseparable.2 This has enabled government to channel state resources to ZANU-PF and its allies, including "war veterans".


"War veterans" have pledged support to President Mugabe's candidature and are part of his campaign strategy for the presidential election run-off.3 Victims of human rights abuses have also reported that "war veterans" appear to work very closely with soldiers deployed in rural areas to mobilise support for President Mugabe. The failure by the state security organisations, as well as their alleged associations with "war veterans" suggests that the state is, at least, acquiescing in attacks by these groups. In some instances, authorities appear to have instigated the human rights violations committed by "war veterans" and ZANU-PF supporters. Amnesty International has also received reports of human rights violations perpetrated directly by soldiers and the police.


Victims of the state-sponsored violence, including women, children and elderly people, have been treated at various hospitals across the country for injuries sustained from torture and other ill-treatment, including beatings and injuries that result from arson. Several hundred have been admitted in hospitals. Human rights groups in Zimbabwe told Amnesty International that victims were being blocked from seeking help by soldiers, "war veterans" and other state security agents including the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Hundreds of families have been forced to leave their homes as their property was burnt down. Families have been separated. The United Nations Children's Fund states that at least 10,000 children alone have been displaced by the violence.4 The organisation was giving emergency support to more than 25,000 individuals affected by the violence.


The wave of state-sponsored violence is concentrated in rural areas, townships and farming areas where the MDC made significant gains during the elections held on 29 March 2008.5 The attacks appear to be aimed at displacing and intimidating MDC supporters as the country prepares for a run-off of the presidential election, scheduled for 27 June 2008. The situation of most victims is desperate and many are without shelter, food and in need of urgent medical care. Some schools have been forced to close as teachers flee from the state-sponsored violence.


Amnesty International is concerned about the failure or unwillingness of the Zimbabwean police to investigate human rights abuses or arrest suspected perpetrators. Eyewitness told Amnesty International that officers from the ZRP appear to be reluctant to arrest "war veterans" and ZANU-PF supporters who are perpetrating human rights abuses. However, police have been quick to investigate human rights abuses allegedly committed by MDC supporters creating an impression of partisan policing. In addition, police have further violated the rights of those in police custody, denying them access to a lawyer, food and medical care.