Elections in Zimbabwe are still months away, but already President Robert Mugabe’s party is intimidating its opponents and threatening violence, human rights and pro-democracy groups say. Witnesses say Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has begun deploying youth militia groups in some of its strongholds. A young mother in the Harare township of Mbare said militants of a pro-Mugabe youth group known as Chipangano, or “the brotherhood” in local slang, have started door-to-door visits in the neighborhood and told residents to attend night meetings where names and identity particulars of participants were written down. “They are watching me every day,” she said, refusing to give her name because she feared violent retribution. If she doesn’t go to the meetings with family members and friends her absence will be noted down on another list of suspected Mugabe opponents, she said.
Mugabe party officials say the logging of names is merely part of regular campaigning to keep supporters up to date with the party’s activities in the runup to polling.
Rugare Gumbo, the party’s spokesman, denied a campaign of intimidation was under way. He has accused Mugabe’s opponents of making “sensational” allegations to garner sympathy in the face of electoral defeat.
“We have become more and more aware of their machinations,” he said.
The independent Zimbabwe Peace Project, which monitors political intimidation and violence, reported in its latest bulletin Mugabe militants are also marking with stickers the homes of their supporters and new converts.
“There is no doubt those with stickers would be used to identify people (without them) who would then be victimized before and after elections,” the group said.