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your mouth or else
Jairos Mukotosi, 50, is avoiding a team of consultants, sent as
part of a parliamentary outreach programme to the Rushinga area
of rural Mashonaland Central Province in northeastern Zimbabwe,
to find out what people would like included in a proposed new constitution.
But for the past two
months the members of the youth militia aligned to President Robert
Mugabe's ZANU-PF party - have been warning villagers to either shut
up or support ZANU-PF's view on the new constitution, which includes
no limit on the number of presidential terms that can be served.
They have dubbed their operation "Vhara Muromo", or Shut
Mugabe has ruled since
independence from Britain in 1980 and the new constitution will
replace the Lancaster House agreement, which has been amended 19
times. In 2008 ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first
time since independence, and Mugabe nearly lost the presidential
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader
of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), withdrew
from the run-off election in protest over the high levels of political
violence and intimidation. The MDC claimed that more than 4,000
people were killed, although the official figure is a hundred or
"I am a victim of
the June 2008 elections and still live in fear," Mukotosi told
IRIN. "Even though we were living in peace following the formation
of the inclusive government [in February 2009, when ZANU-PF and
the two factions of the MDC formed a coalition government], the
ghost of violence and fear is returning."
a draft constitution, commonly referred to as the Kariba
Draft, to be adopted. Apart from placing no limit on presidential
terms, it also gives the president wide-ranging powers.
"I am not
taking any chances; these militia stole and killed my cattle because
they thought I was a member of the MDC, since my son works in Harare
[the capital, an MDC stronghold]. Now I will not participate in
process because they might kill me and my family this time,"
Central Province is a traditional ZANU-PF stronghold, but wavered
in its support for Mugabe in the 2008 elections. Mukotosi said the
militia were re-establishing the torture camps set up then, and
forcing villagers to attend political rallies that ZANU-PF activists
call "political orientation" meetings.
At these meetings
"we are reminded of what
happened in 2008", and "warned that those that escaped
with maiming will die if they support imperialist views, like legalising
homosexuality and advocating for the post of a prime minister [currently
held by Tsvangirai]". Mukotosi said the militia recently assaulted
two young men for wearing anti-violence T-shirts donated by a non-governmental
A villager from Magaranhewe,
near Rushinga, about 200km from Harare, told IRIN the army presence
in the province was increasing. "Two of the soldiers are our
sons from this village, and when they returned we thought they were
on leave," said Samuel Mukarati, 43.
"However, they are
always in uniform and team up with their colleagues from the barracks
next to Rushinga police station to patrol the villages. Nobody has
been beaten up yet, but we fear there could be violence because
this is how things happened in 2008."
He said because of fear, few people were attending the constitutional
outreach programmes spearheaded by parliament, and that the youth
militia were approaching villagers to check whether they held ZANU-PF
Peace Project (ZPP), a human rights watchdog, noted that the
expectation of elections taking place next year and the deployment
of teams consulting on a new constitution were stoking political
Mugabe's announcement of possible elections in 2011, compounded
by speculations that the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee
[COPAC] consultations were to commence at the end of April or early
May 2010, has given rise to political tensions in the different
provinces as political parties jostle to control the events and
views on the constitution," the ZPP said in a recent statement.
an MDC parliamentarian and co-chairperson of the constitutional
parliamentary committee, told Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR): "We have heard reports
of intimidation, but we hope the police are ready to deal with those
unruly elements behind it, so that the outreach programme is finished
The ZANU-PF co-chairperson
of the committee, Munyaradzi Mangwana, who is also a parliamentarian,
told local media there were no cases of violence related to the
constitution consultation process.
Kumbirai Mafunda told IRIN his organisation and the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN) would send observers to monitor
the constitutional consultations.
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