Joshua Bakacheza’s mutilated body was buried deep in Robert Mugabe’s heartland on Tuesday, in a funeral which indicated that political violence continues but that tensions might be easing slightly.
Movement for Democratic Change activist Bakacheza was found dumped on a farm south of Harare after weeks of searching.
The funeral was held in Banket, Mashonaland Central, a staunchly pro-Mugabe province and the scene of some of the worst violence after the June 27 runoff.
Numerous MDC supporters were given safe passage to the town, even though they were dressed in party regalia and chanted party slogans. The funeral was turned into an emotional anti-Mugabe rally.
In many rural areas displaced villagers are returning to what remains of their homes, while in the townships police are dismantling militia bases and arresting members of gangs accused of violence.
A police spokesperson said ”a number of criminal gangs” were being rounded up in farming areas to stop attacks on farmers and workers.
But this is a deceptive picture, the MDC says, insisting that it still has the almost weekly task of identifying the charred and disfigured remains of its activists.
Ten of its newly elected officials are in hiding, while more than a thousand activists and supporters are in police cells on violence charges.
Last week Zimbabwe’s United Nations mission helped stave off security council sanctions against Mugabe’s regime by warning that they would ”most probably start a civil war”. But the MDC says that a state-orchestrated war continues, aimed at beating it into a political agreement that would see Mugabe retain power.
Some calm has returned to the hard-hit northern Mashonaland and eastern Manicaland provinces. But it is uneasy, an aid worker told the Mail & Guardian.
”One area goes quiet and then somewhere else flares up. The worst places are where people have tried to organise and fight back.”
The MDC denies it is encouraging its supporters to retaliate and is angered by a new report accusing it of complicity in the violence, which has killed more than 100 people since the March 29 election.
Peter Kagwanja’s report for the Human Sciences Research Council, ”Saving Zimbabwe, an agenda for democratic peace”, claims ”incipient retaliatory violence by the opposition”.
The report alleges the MDC is losing control of young activists who have organised ”democratic resistance committees”, received military training, armed themselves and launched ”retaliatory attacks”.
Police and state media have long claimed these ”committees” are trained gangs of MDC youths mobilising violence.
But last year a judge accused police of ”fabricating fictitious evidence and witnesses” after the state failed to prove a claim in charge sheets that MDC supporters were being trained on farms in South Africa.
State media continues to show footage of villages it claims were destroyed by MDC militia and of Mugabe donating food and blankets to the alleged victims. It has also published names of Mugabe supporters who have allegedly been killed.
Reacting to a stream of gory pictures of murdered opposition members released by the MDC, Zanu-PF accused its rival of ”premeditation, planning, stage management and exaggeration of this violence — as part of a grand strategy aimed at inviting foreign intervention in Zimbabwe”.
This week a coalition of church groups warned that violence could flare anew if talks between Zanu-PF and the MDC fail to secure a deal that eases tensions and leads to stable government.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports the MDC saying that at least 13 of its members are lying in a special ward of Gokwe general hospital after being horribly injured in a Zanu-PF ”torture centre”.
The party says that on the orders of the army, they are denied painkillers and treatment. ”They have all been heavily assaulted,” said one of the staff. ”Some are burned beyond recognition. Some have broken limbs. They have no drugs. They are not allowed to leave.
”When doctors from the outside tried to bring the medicines they were turned away. So were ambulances to take them to private hospitals with drugs. It is all on the orders of the army and Central Intelligence Organisation.” Zimbabweans with first-hand knowledge of Ward B3 say that an army major called Ronald Mpofu and a war veteran, David Masvisvi, ordered medical staff not to allow the injured men to be moved or given access to outside doctors or visitors.
The MDC says that more than 20 badly injured opposition activists are being held prisoner in similar conditions in four smaller hospitals in the area.
At least nine people have been murdered around Gokwe — traditionally a Zanu-PF stronghold — since the election and scores are missing.