Zanu's grip starts to weaken

Birgit Kidd is having lunch with her torturer. The 60-year-old still bears scars from the attack by agents of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the feared Zimbabwean security police, last year. Despite a dislocated shoulder, cuts requiring 16 stitches, and severe bruising to her knee, the diminutive blonde activist has not been cowed into submission.

In a curious twist of fate, Kidd is sheltering one of her attackers from the wrath of the ruling Zanu-PF after he defected to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) during the run-up to the parliamentary elections held last Thursday.

“I supported Mutezo in the [Zanu-PF primary] election,” explained Lazarus Shave, who acknowledges that the CIO employed him to attack Kidd and other MDC supporters in the rural constituency of Chimanimani.
“He was not the candidate that the government wanted so five men came to me and beat me three weeks ago. Now I want to work for the MDC and I will not beat anyone any more.”

Shave is not the only former enforcer who has abandoned his employers.

“There are a few war veterans who were very much with Zanu but now they come up to me and say, look, this is a photo of my wife. Then they pull out the photo and behind it is an MDC card. They are too afraid to show it openly,” Kidd said.

The rivalry that accompanied the primaries to elect Zanu-PF candidates for the election, best illustrated by the decision of Jonathan Moyo, President Robert Mugabe’s erstwhile spin-doctor, to stand as an independent, split the ruling party during the electoral campaign.

According to Shave, the dominant faction within Zanu-PF tried to reassert control with a series of beatings, rigged elections and denial of food more commonly used against supporters of the opposition.

In the run-up to the controversial elections, the Mail & Guardian conducted clandestine interviews with security policemen, former youth militia, and war veterans who have become disillusioned with the ruling party. All said that hunger, lack of jobs, and the infighting resulting from Joyce Mujuru’s election as party vice-president over Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa meant they were no longer willing to fight for the government.

“They used to give us pills before we went to beat people, but never food,” recalled one former member of the notorious Green Bomber youth militia, hiding his distinctive olive vest under a sweater. “We beat up one old man, he must have been in his 60s, Moses Mpande, for criticising the lack of development in the area. He kept apologising but none of us stopped. If you were not enthusiastic enough, you would be the next victim.”

The ex-militia member, who begged to remain anonymous, was so terrified of retribution that he insisted the interview take place in a moving car before dawn. However, he confirmed that although many thousands of young Zimbabweans who had been forced into the militia training camps have fled the country, others have remained outwardly loyal but have pledged to cast their vote for the opposition.

“They promised us jobs if we went through Border Gezi [youth camp], but we never got anything,” he said. “I registered to vote last year and I am going to vote MDC.”

Another youth, who asked only to be identified as Sikhumbuzo, agreed. “[In 2002] Zanu used to get us to stay outside polling stations to frighten away the opposition. If the MDC came we would chase them away. But we never got the money or jobs that they promised us; all we got was beer.”

After he was spotted talking to election monitors earlier this month, Sikhumbuzo was told that he would be unable to buy maize in his village because he was an MDC supporter. The incident severed his last links with the ruling party and now, he says, he has been campaigning for the opposition.

Forty-two-year-old Ben Ncube, who participated in the liberation struggle during the 1970s, has also switched allegiance in his Matabeleland constituency. “I used to support the government and they made a lot of promises about land and money during the 2000 elections, which were repeated in 2002. Now I know because of my tribe I will never get land,” he said in a Bulawayo safe house.

“Just after Moyo’s Tsholotsho declaration, Mr [Jabulani] Sibanda [the leader of the war veterans] was suspended for six years ... the suspensions made us realise this is a dictatorship,” exclaimed Ncube.

Yet after all the snatched conversations, the most succinct comment came from a conversation overheard in a bus queue. Discussing the appointment of vice-president Mujuru, the subsequent suspensions, and the intense infighting in Zanu-PF in the lead up to the election of its candidates for the 2005 poll, one Harare citizen said disgustedly: “We all know what goes on. But we never thought the government would rig a vote against its own party.”

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