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Zimbabwe Continues to Suffer After Sham Election

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC
July 31, 2008

Zimbabwe Continues to Suffer After the Election

State-sponsored violence continues following Zimbabwe's June 27 presidential runoff election, a contest in which Robert Mugabe ran unopposed in a climate of intimidation, claimed victory, and was quickly sworn-in. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff because of government violence and intimidation which threatened the safety of his supporters and made it impossible to campaign.

Targeted attacks by the Mugabe regime against MDC officials and their families continue, and pockets of violence still exist in northern and eastern provinces, despite the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Mugabe and the MDC to hold political talks conditional upon an end to the political violence. Many MDC parliamentarians have been arbitrarily arrested or detained and others have been forced into hiding in an apparent attempt by the Mugabe regime to impede the opposition's ability to function effectively.

While the perpetrators of violence enjoy impunity, tens of thousands of displaced Zimbabweans are scared to return home for fear of reprisal; others have no homes to return to. Thousands more have suffered crop and livestock damage. Despite the emerging humanitarian crisis, the regime has not provided a safe haven for these victims.

In addition to the campaign of terror inflicted by security forces upon civilians, Zimbabweans continue to struggle to survive in an economy that has been decimated by corruption and incompetence. With inflation at record highs, many residents and businesses have resorted to a barter system. Unemployment is the norm. Compounding the problems is the government's ban on NGO activities, which prevents desperately needed aid from reaching millions of people at risk following a poor harvest.

Murder

* 119 opposition activists and supporters have been murdered since the March 29 election.

* The mutilated body of MDC polling agent Gift Mutsvungunu was found on July 10. His body was badly burned and his eyes had been gouged out.

* The body of MDC driver Joshua Bakacheza was found July 7 on the farm of an army colonel. He was abducted along with Tendai Chidziwo on June 25 as they helped the widow of an MDC activist move to a safe location. Bakacheza had been tortured and shot three times. Chidziwo was shot in the head, but survived.

* MDC activist Reuben Muteke died on July 5. He had been hospitalized for five days following his abduction by ZANU-PF militia members who beat him with machetes, axes, and iron bars.

Attacks

* Although overall violence has decreased from the highest levels seen during the inter-election period, attacks on opposition supporters continue at significantly higher rates than seen before the March 29 election.

* Politically-motivated rape by ZANU-PF against opposition supporters has occurred. Some victims state they were raped multiple times a day. According to media reports, women have been held as sex slaves at ZANU-PF camps, even after June 27.

* On July 8, armed, uniformed men attacked a government facility in Ruwa, where almost 400 displaced Zimbabweans had been taken after seeking refuge at embassies in Harare, despite UN assurances that they would be protected. Many were beaten; eight were hospitalized as a result of their injuries, and 14 fled into the bush.

* Security forces have used rural hospitals as de facto torture centers for abducted opposition supporters and medical NGOs have been denied access, according to media reports. Patients in a Gokwe hospital in the MDC-stronghold of Midlands Province were reportedly attacked by a ZANU-PF militia on July 8.

* An average of 60 victims per day continue to seek medical treatment in the capital for injuries from politically-motivated attacks.

Illegal Arrest and Detention

* The MDC reports that over 1,000 of their activists remain in police custody on charges of inciting violence.

* Detainees have included parliamentarians and local officials. Twelve MDC parliamentarians have been arrested and charged with a range of crimes, including rape and inciting violence. An additional five MDC parliamentarians have been held by police without charge; one was beaten by security forces and then denied medical treatment during a week-long detention.

* At least ten MDC parliamentarians were on recent police wanted lists and many are in hiding. Twenty-seven have either been jailed or threatened with arrest since the March 29 election. Plans for additional arrests have reportedly been withdrawn as a result of recent negotiations between ZANU-PF and the MDC.

* MDC Secretary General and MP-elect Tendai Biti was released on bail on June 26, following his June 5 arrest. He faces charges of treason, publishing a document prejudicial to the State, causing disaffection within the police force and insulting the president; no trial date has been set.

* MP-elect Eric Matinenga was also released on bail on June 26 after almost a month's detention on charges of inciting violence. Although a magistrate initially threw out the charges on June 5, police re-arrested him two days later and refused to release him, in violation of a court order. A trial date has been set for August 18.

* MP-elect Naison Nemadziva was abducted on June 30 outside the High Court in Mutare by six armed men in military clothing. He was held incommunicado on charges of inciting violence until July 4, when he was released on bail; no trial date has been set.

Humanitarian Emergency

* The violence has displaced at least 33,000 people within Zimbabwe, where the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program report that two million Zimbabweans will need food assistance in the coming weeks. As a result of the ongoing ban on most NGO activities, many remain without assistance and are terrified to return home. The MDC believes thousands of its supporters remain in hiding in the eastern mountains. A poor summer harvest--UN estimates show a 28% reduction from the 2007 harvest-- hyperinflation, the lack of foreign exchange to import food and the ban on most NGO activities are leading to an acute food crisis.

* The number of hungry Zimbabweans will reportedly rise to over 5 million early next year. The winter harvest is forecast to be less than one tenth of the local consumption requirement and vegetable oil production levels currently meet less than half of local need.

* Access by aid groups to vulnerable populations remains limited. Without the assistance of banned NGOs, the World Food Program reports that it is able to reach only about 135,000 Zimbabweans, down from a pre-ban estimate of 300,000.

* The number of Zimbabweans seeking asylum in South Africa exceeded 2007's total figure in the first quarter of 2008 alone, according to experts.

* The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on July 11 that South Africa returned some 17,000 Zimbabweans to their homes in the 40 days prior, despite UN calls to suspend all deportations.

* According to UNHCR, entire Zimbabwean families are now fleeing political violence, some showing signs of being beaten. Prior to the March election, an estimated 90 percent of Zimbabweans crossing into South Africa were single, male economic migrants.

Economic Meltdown

* Inflation continues its unprecedented rise. In July, official regime figures placed it at 2,200,000%; in reality it may be as high as 50,000,000%.

* The parallel exchange rate widens daily; as of publication it is 10 billion Zimbabwe dollars to one U.S. dollar.
The unemployment rate is estimated to be at least 80 percent.

* Amid fuel shortages, gasoline prices have soared, raising the price of public transportation to more than an average daily wage.

* Power and water outages occur daily.

* Shop shelves are bare, as price controls do not allow retailers to recoup their costs or replace goods. Basic commodities are only available on the black market and at exorbitant prices.

NOTES

Black Market Prices Soar

Bread: Z$12 billion/loaf
Sugar: Z$30 billion/2 kg
Cooking Oil: Z$10 billion/750 ml
Gas and Diesel: Z$12 billion/liter

Kofi Annan:

"Africans hear all about Zimbabwe and are as concerned as the rest of the world. It shames us Africans. We all applaud the courage of the Zimbabwean people, they turned out en masse to express their will at the first election and we have to make sure that the Zimbabwean government understands that the will of the people has to be enforced."


ENDS

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