For the last month Gibson Severe and his wife, Merjury Severe, known opposition supporters from Hurungwe district in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West Province, have been hiding out in the country’s capital Harare. The Movement for Democratic Change – Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) supporters were forced to flee their rural home in Hurungwe district after Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) militias threatened them for encouraging people to participate in the recently-ended mobile voter registration. “It’s been a month since we left Hurungwe district after the Jochomondo militia, which has known links to Zanu-PF, besieged our rural home accusing us of encouraging people to register to vote for the MDC-T,” Gibson Severe told IPS. Since last year, the Jochomondo militia has allegedly terrorised residents in Zimbabwe’s northern Hurungwe district, a Zanu-PF-stronghold, making it almost impossible for opposition parties to campaign in the region.
Merjury Severe told IPS that elections in this southern African nation have become associated with threats and violence. “This is not the first time we have been subjected to intimidation. In the 2008 presidential runoff we were beaten up for being MDC-T sympathisers,” she said.
Zimbabweans will go to the polls sometime later this year to vote for a new president. Current President Robert Mugabe, 89, has been in office for 33 years in a reign characterised by corruption, oppression, forced land seizures and a failing economy.
However, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently told media that the date for the elections would only be set after voter registration was completed. Although mobile registration has ended, voters can still register at the Registrar General’s office.