By Lloyd Mudiwa
TWO young girls aged 10 and 17 watched in horror as their mother was
brutally murdered by having her head chopped off at the neck. Brandina
Tadyanemhandu, 53, was butchered inside her hut by about 20 youths,
suspected to be Zanu PF supporters, in Magunje on Sunday.
The reason for Tadyanemhandu’s grisly murder was the accusation by the
youths that the deceased was a supporter of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC). Tadyanemhandu will be buried today at Magororo
village in Magunje, Hurungwe East.
She was the mother of MDC youth activist Tichaona Tadyanemhandu, 20, who
went missing in Hurungwe in June 2000. His body was found six months later
in the mortuary at Harare Central Hospital. Brandina Tadyanemhandu’s
attackers, who were allegedly led by a war veteran known as Cde Chifamba,
also burnt the family’s main house, destroying property worth thousands of
Tadyanemhandu’s husband, Enos, 63, yesterday said: “They killed my only son
in a family of eight children and now they have killed my wife. Why are they
fighting us after they won the election? I will not be silenced. I will
speak out against this evil.”
A distraught Tadyanemhandu said it seemed like a normal day when he drove
his herd of cattle to the dip tank at Magororo township at about 6am on the
fateful day. On his way back, at about 10am, he said he was surprised when
his 17-year-old daughter, Chipo, weeping, approached him.
“She was crying,” he said. “My first thought was that she had been assaulted
by a friend. She struggled to tell me that her mother’s head had been cut
off by Zanu PF supporters.” Tadyanemhandu said Chipo told him that her
mother’s alleged killers had called at the house looking for him, saying
they wanted to rid the area of MDC supporters.
He said his wife had apparently asked them why they were still bothering
people when they had won the presidential election. This question, it seems,
incensed the youths who declared Tadyanemhandu would meet her husband in
heaven before they attacked her and chopped her head off.
He said his other daughter, Tendai, aged 10, also witnessed the gruesome
murder. “When I saw my wife’s remains, the head and the body were cleanly
separated,” Tadyanemhandu said yesterday. “I had to push them back
together.” He said a postmortem report had confirmed his wife was
decapitated with a sharp object.
He said when he reported the murder at Magunje police station, the officers
asked him if the assailants were known to him. “When my daughters told them
that they were supporters of the ruling party the officers asked us to bring
the suspects to the police station,” Tadyanemhandu said.
“I don’t know how they expect us to follow the youths back to their base,
when they are hunting for me so that they can harm me as well.”
Tadyanemhandu said there were about 500 Zanu PF supporters camped near
Sanyati Bridge who were terrorising villagers in Magunje.
The youths, who are reportedly receiving food provisions from the Magunje
Rural District Council, are allegedly waiting to receive payment in return
for campaigning for President Mugabe in last month’s election. Efforts to
confirm this with council officials were not successful yesterday.
Dramatic rise in Zimbabwe violence, torture: doctors
HARARE (AFP) — Levels of organised violence and torture have escalated dramatically in the last fortnight in Zimbabwe amid mounting tensions over the country's disputed elections, a coalition of doctors said on Friday.
"Since the last report on 25 April, our members have reported a dramatic escalation in incidents of organised violence and torture with the number of victims documented in the post election period now standing over 900," the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said in a statement.
"This figure grossly underestimates the number of victims countrywide as the violence is now on such a scale that it is impossible to properly document all cases."
The association said that the number of cases appeared to have risen particularly sharply in the last week, blaming the security services and hardline supporters of veteran President Robert Mugabe for the attacks.
"In the last 24 hours alone, 30 victims have been treated for limb fractures in Harare hospitals and clinics and supplies of plaster of Paris bandages are reported to be exhausted in most health centres," it said.
"The current pattern of organised torture and violence being perpetrated by state security agents in the rural areas of Zimbabwe is similar to that documented prior to the 2002 elections" when Mugabe was last re-elected.
"However, the current violence is dramatically more intensive and unrestrained. The level of brutality and callousness exhibited by the perpetrators is unprecedented and the vicious and cowardly attacks by so called war veterans on women, children and the elderly shames the memory of all true heroes of the liberation struggle."
900 tortured and assaulted in Zimbabwe
Doctors' Report; 30 opposition figures killed since poll
Peter Goodspeed, National Post Published: Saturday, May 10, 2008
Howard Burditt, Reuters
Violence has been the hallmark of Robert Mugabe's career. The former school teacher, who is inordinately proud of an academic record that includes seven graduate and postgraduate degrees, has often publicly boasted he also "has a degree in violence."
Now, as he clings to office despite a March 29 election defeat, he is once again resorting to violence and intimidation on a grand scale.
More than 30 opposition figures have been murdered, critical journalists have been jailed and 40,000 farm workers who dared to vote against the man who has ruled Zimbabwe since its creation 28 years ago have been beaten, terrorized and driven from their homes.
Yesterday, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights said its members have treated more than 900 victims of torture and assault since the presidential poll.
The doctors estimate they have seen only a fraction of the real number of victims since many cases of intimidation and assault go unreported.
John Worsley-Worswick, head of the Justice for Agriculture Trust, an advocacy group for Zimbabwe's farmers, says attacks on farm workers who supported opposition parties in the election have escalated in the past week.
There have been reports of beatings, burned huts and intimidation, he said. The attackers are usually young men wearing military clothing.
In one case, a farm worker was beaten with iron bars and sticks, while another was strangled with wire.
The advocacy group says since the election 142 farms have been invaded, with Mashonaland, the northern region that used to be the backbone of Mr. Mugabe's rural support, the hardest hit.
This week, members of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum and a farm workers union said Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwean African National Unity-Patriotic Front party (ZANU-PF) has launched "a countrywide terror campaign" to discourage opposition voters from voting against him in a runoff election.
Up to 40,000 farm workers and their families have been forced to flee their homes by armed youth militias loyal to Mr. Mugabe, Gertrude Hambira, head of the General Agriculture & Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe, told a news conference in Johannesburg.
"We have had security agents going out to the farms, addressing the farm workers. Some of them have said, 'We need to discipline you because you voted for the opposition,' " she said. "It is really bad."
If the farm families are not in their home districts when the runoff is held, they will be unable to vote.
According to Zimbabwe's constitution, the runoff should be held on May 24, three weeks after results of the March 29 election were officially announced.
It took the election commission more than a month to make the announcement, which officially showed Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, beating Mr. Mugabe with 47.9% of the vote to 43.2%.
The MDC insists Mr. Tsvangirai won the election outright, with more than 50% of the vote, and says there is no need for a runoff.
A week after the results were announced, the MDC still has not said if it will participate in a runoff election. Opposition groups insist Mr. Mugabe's supporters may have launched the latest wave of attacks simply to discourage the MDC from challenging him again.
"It will be very difficult for them to win the runoff because the people have been thoroughly intimidated," said John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe.
"A lot of people have been displaced. The political field is grossly uneven and ZANUPF is using all this extra time to rig the elections. They are already marking ballot papers for Mugabe. They are likely to rig this election in overdrive so the MDC has little chance of winning."
Before he will agree to take part in a runoff, Mr. Tsvangirai is calling for international observers to monitor the poll. He has been backed by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General.
Mr. Mugabe banned Western observers from the first election, accusing them of bias after they said there had been widespread fraud in previous Zimbabwe elections.
Now, amid reports of mounting violence and growing uncertainty, Harare is starting to lash out at other critics.
On Thursday, police arrested Davison Maruziva, editor of the independent weekly newspaper The Standard. He has been charged with "publishing false statements prejudicial to the state" for printing an article critical of Mr. Mugabe by an MDC leader, Arthur Mutambara.
At the same time, police arrested Harrison Nkomo, a prominent human rights lawyer, for "insulting or undermining the authority of the head of state."
After bailing two other journalists out of jail, Mr. Nkomo apparently told a staff member in the attorney general's office Mr. Mugabe should quit. Unfortunately for him, the civil servant was a nephew of Mr. Mugabe.
A 2002 law made it a crime to criticize the president or his office.
Georgette Gagnon, Africa director of Human Rights Watch, says the two sets of arrests "may signal the government's escalation of its crackdown on perceived opponents."
It may also be an attempt to intimidate Mr. Tsvangirai into conceding the runoff before it is even announced. Officials with the MDC have said Mr. Tsvangirai will make a "definitive statement" on his intentions during a news conference in South Africa today.