I copied the following report from a South African online newspaper
on 21 April 08
By Peta Thornycroft
Harare – Details of a widespread brutal campaign by the military to keep President Robert Mugabe in power have been revealed to The Sunday Independent.
Central to the plot are hundreds of “command centres”, led by war veterans and youths in police uniform, which are being established across Zimbabwe to wage a national terror campaign.
Zimbabwe’s top military authority, the Joint Operational Command, made up of service chiefs, has established a chain of command to ensure that Mugabe and Zanu-PF remain in office even though they both lost the elections three weeks ago.
The command centres are waging a campaign of intimidation, violence and ballot rigging. In this way, the regime plans to guarantee victory for Mugabe in a second round of presidential elections.
The network will probably not cover the cities, all strongholds of Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader. Instead, they will be concentrated in the rural areas where 70 percent of Zimbabweans live.
Three weeks after the poll’s first round, no official results have been announced, but the regime has publicly acknowledged that Mugabe fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off.
A senior army officer and a police chief described the president’s re-election plan to The Sunday Independent. They attended a meeting in a rural province on Monday morning. It included traditional chiefs and local politicians and was addressed by two senior members of Mugabe’s regime.
They said each command centre would consist of three police officers, a soldier and a war veteran who would be in charge. They would dispatch militias, comprising war veterans and members of the Zanu-PF’s youth wing, to assault and torture known opposition supporters. They would also control the local police to ensure that the militias were immune from arrest.
The generals have called on the four security services – army, police, intelligence and prisons – to ensure that people are terrorised into voting for Mugabe in the expected re-run of the presidential poll.
The results of that poll have still not been released, arousing suspicions of vote-rigging and provoking growing domestic and international pressure on Zimbabwe’s authorities.
The victor has to win 50 percent plus one vote of the votes cast or face a re-run. The result, when it is finally announced, cannot be recounted, according to the Electoral Act.
The Sunday Independent has heard evidence that the announcement of the results has been postponed deliberately to allow Mugabe’s government to falsify votes to close the gap between him and Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai is widely believed to have won the election with about 49 to 51 percent of the vote, against Mugabe’s 42 or 43 percent. Independent candidate Simba Makoni won the rest.
Mugabe’s strategy appears to be to close the gap so that his rigged victory in the expected run-off election will be more credible.
Apart from doctoring the presidential votes, Mugabe’s officials have also needed the delay to replace votes cast for MDC candidates in the parliamentary poll on the same day to try to ensure that the rigging cannot not be detected, according to sources.
All the results for the four elections – parliamentary, senate, local government and presidential – that took place on March 29 were posted outside more than 8 000 polling stations by midnight April 1.
Zanu-PF narrowly lost its parliamentary majority to the MDC and the presidential results had to be transferred to Harare for collation.
Generals who report directly to the Joint Operational Command have explained in a series of closed meetings how people will be terrorised and beaten into voting for Mugabe in a re-run.
The details released by our two informants were from one of the planning sessions. They rushed to Harare from a remote rural area this week to reveal the plan. They disclosed the names, ranks and even the cellphone numbers of those people from one province who have been ordered to join the campaign.
Wilfred Mhanda, one of Mugabe’s senior commanders from the 1970s war against white Rhodesia, said yesterday: “The report you have shown me is true. What is explained in the report is typical of what is already happening in various parts of the country, and those who know Zanu-PF as I do will not be surprised. What worries me is there seems to be no way out of where we are going.”
The scores of names in the report – several familiar to many Zimbabweans who have been victimised for their political beliefs – and the province where the meeting took place cannot be identified to protect the identity of the two men.
A senior politician told security personnel at one provincial meeting: “You have to defend the revolution. If you don’t and [it] is sold through the ballot, we will go back to the bush and fight. Is that what you want? I don’t think so.”
Select groups have been told how victory for Mugabe will be achieved in the run-off and in the recount of 23 constituencies, which the partisan Zimbabwe Election Commission began on Saturday. State media said the results on the recount were expected in a few days.
According to reliable sources, sealed ballot boxes have been opened and new seals have been forged. Votes for the MDC have been taken out and replaced by votes for Zanu-PF.
It has been done so carefully that no one will be able to detect the fraud – the bogus votes have the same numbers as those issued to voters on polling day and the number of votes in each box has been carefully reproduced. Also new pale-blue forms, V11, which were posted outside polling stations with results of the four elections, have been recreated with forged signatures of the polling agents and different tallies, favouring both Zanu-PF in the parliamentary contest and Mugabe in the presidential poll.
Chiara Carter reports that the campaign of terror was verified yesterday in a report by the Human Rights Watch organisation, which said Zanu-PF was using a network of informal detention centres to beat, torture and intimidate opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans.
A statement issued on Saturday provided a chilling account of systematic intimidation and violence, including the abduction and savage beating of opposition supporters in several areas. In the past two days, researchers interviewed more than 30 people who had been tortured and, because of it, sustained serious injuries, including broken limbs.
Human Rights Watch, a respected non-governmental group that monitors human rights across the globe, called on the African Union to step in immediately to address the crisis and protect civilians.
The organisation said its researchers had heard from victims and eyewitnesses that, in the wake of last month’s election, Zanu-PF had set up detention centres in the opposition constituencies of Mutoko North, Mutoko South and Mudzi in the province of Mashonaland East, and in Bikita West in Masvingo. Opposition supporters were being tortured at these camps.
The organisation said Zanu-PF officials were calling the crackdown Operation Makavhoterapapi (“Where did you put your cross?”). The aim appeared to be twofold: to punish people for having voted for the MDC, and to intimidate them to vote for Zanu-PF in the event of a presidential run-off.
One victim told Human Rights Watch: “They told me, ‘next time you will vote wisely; now you know what we can do’.” – Foreign Service