6 September 2002

ZIMBABWE: Displaced fleeing to towns to escape violence

Political violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe's rural areas is forcing victims to flee to major towns and cities, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) warned in its latest report. Many of the displaced, who reportedly have escaped with little but the clothes on their backs, have become stranded in urban areas without food, shelter or medical care. ZimRights said supporters of both the ruling party Zanu PF, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have been victims and perpetrators of the political violence. However, "the majority of victims were assaulted, arrested, detained and chased from their homes by the police and Zanu PF supporters," the organisation noted. ZimRights had received "a plethora of political violence cases from Buhera North, Chipinge and Chimanimani [in the eastern Manicaland Province] during the months of July and August 2002".

Apart from the destruction of homes and property, "relatives and children of supporters of the MDC were tortured, assaulted and subjected to various forms of inhumane and degrading treatment". "Interviews with the victims who thronged ZimRights head offices in [the capital] Harare reveal that the problem has reached unprecedented levels," ZimRights said. In August alone, ZimRights helped 152 "cases" at its head office. The group called for urgent humanitarian aid to displaced persons in Harare, and other cities. It also warned that the level of violence was increasing as the country braced for local council elections to be held later this month. "Buhera North has been specifically targeted because it is the home area of the president of the MDC [Morgan Tsvangirai]. Police details operating in the area have been assaulting, arresting and detaining people for no just cause," ZimRights alleged. The police had also teamed up with Zanu PF youth militias and the perpetrators of violence were not being arrested, the rights group said. However, police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena denied that the police were acting in "cahoots with Zanu PF". "It's a false allegation. We go in to arrest people when they commit an offence, irrespective of their political allegiance. We don't need support from any groups of people," he told IRIN. (IRIN)

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