The government crackdown on the opposition which was meant to assure victory for President Robert Mugabe in the 27 June presidential elections runoff continued unabated.
On 12 June Movement for Democratic Change president Morgan Tsvangirai was detained twice, bringing the total to four detentions in eight days.
His secretary general Tendai Biti was also arrested on his return from South Africa and charged with treason.
Tsvangirai said 66 MDC supporters had so far been killed in the violence. Another 200 were missing, 3 000 had sought medical treatment for injuries while 25 000 had been displaced.
Viewing cable 08HARARE512, ZIM VIOLENCE AND ARRESTS, IN DETAIL
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SUBJECT: ZIM VIOLENCE AND ARRESTS, IN DETAIL
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Mugabe regime’s political crackdown
ahead of the June 27 presidential run-off is increasingly
targeting opposition leadership. On June 12, presidential
candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was twice detained by police
while attempting to campaign, bringing the total to four
detentions in eight days. Tsvangirai was released late that
evening. Also on June 12, MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti
was arrested upon his return to Zimbabwe from South Africa
and charged with treason in addition to outstanding charges
of communicating statements prejudicial to the State; he
continues to be held incommunicado. On June 9, Tsvangirai
held a press conference denouncing the violence and
harassment in which he reported that 66 MDC supporters have
been killed, 200 remain missing, 3,000 have sought medical
treatment for injuries and at least 25 thousand have been
displaced during the ZANU-PF campaign. At least eight MDC
MPs have been arrested or detained in the aftermath of the
March 29 national elections in which the combined opposition
won a majority of seats in parliament. Women, children and
the elderly relatives of MDC officials have also been singled
out for beatings and even death in an ongoing attempt to
intimidate would-be MDC voters and shake the foundations of
the party’s infrastructure. Without a major shift in the
current environment brought about by mass domestic and
international monitoring delegations, chances for a free and
fair June contest are minute. END SUMMARY.
Top tier targeted
¶2. (SBU) On June 12, Morgan Tsvangirai and his election
staff were twice detained by police while attempting to
campaign in central Zimbabwe as part of a three week campaign
blitz through the countryside. Tsvangirai was first stopped
in Kwekwe at a police road block ahead of a planned rally; he
was held for several hours and then released. Tsvangirai and
staff were again stopped that evening in Gweru, where they
were taken to a police station. Police searched the two MDC
campaign buses before releasing the opposition members at
10:30pm on orders to return in the morning with paperwork for
the vehicles. On June 13, police reportedly found
“irregularities” with the paperwork for the campaign buses
(which were registered in South Africa) and impounded them.
MDC lawyers are currently working to secure the release of
the buses. These detentions mark the fourth time in eight
days that Tsvangirai has been stopped and held by police,
typically for the duration of what was intended to be an MDC
¶3. (SBU) Also on June 12, MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti
was arrested upon his return to Zimbabwe from nearly two
months of self-imposed exile in South Africa. Biti reported
from Johannesburg that he expected to be arrested upon
arrival on an outstanding warrant charging he communicated
statements prejudicial to the State by announcing that
Tsvangirai had won the March 29 contest ahead of the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission, as prohibited by the Electoral Act.
Biti was reportedly taken from the Harare International
Airport airplane ramp-way by plain-clothed security officers
to an unknown location. Biti has been charged with treason,
which carries the death penalty, in addition to the previous
charge; he is currently being held incommunicado. His
lawyers report they suspect he is in Harare and plan to file
an urgent High Court petition demanding access on June 13.
¶4. (U) At a June 9 press conference that followed the
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convening of the MDC’s national executive meeting, Morgan
Tsvangirai stated that the MDC “as a party” condemned the
government’s ongoing campaign of violence against opposition
supporters, noting that “the country has experienced a de
facto coup d’etat and is now effectively run by a military
junta.” Citing a “terror unleashed on the people,”
Tsvangirai stated that 66 MDC supporters have been killed by
government agents since the March 29 national elections and
that 200 remain missing, with some 3,000 having sought
medical treatment and at least 25 thousand displaced. Party
leadership, candidates and polling agents were particularly
targeted for attacks.
¶5. (U) Tsvangirai denied rumors of secret talks between the
MDC and ZANU-PF on a possible government of national unity
and insisted that the MDC was focused solely on the run-off.
“No one can change the process for the run-off,” he stated,
“unless Mugabe steps down or collapses.” Despite ZANU-PF
infiltration of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with loyal
security forces and attempts to abuse the postal voting
system by forcing the army and police to vote for Mugabe,
Tsvangirai called the ruling party’s campaign a “doomsday
strategy,” and remained confident that the MDC would win:
“Even if I stay home from now until the election, Mugabe will
still lose. The people have spoken.”
Eight MDC MPs arrested/detained
¶6. (SBU) Despite securing a majority of seats in the House
of Assembly, numerous MDC MPs and one senator have been
arrested, detained or gone into hiding since the announcement
of presidential election results on May 2. These accounts
illustrate a pattern of charging MDC officials with inciting
violence, the State automatically appealing bail when it is
granted, and police who do not follow court orders when bail
is granted. Cumulatively, these eight MPs from seven
provinces have spent more than 45 nights in jail.
Eric Matinenga, MP-elect from Buhera West
Arrested: May 31, 2008
Charges: Inciting public violence. In his court hearing on
June 4, 2008, the magistrate refused to put him on remand,
saying the State had failed to provide any evidence against
him. She dropped the charges against him.
Released: June 5, 2008
Re-arrested: June 7, 2008
Charges: The same public violence charges that the magistrate
dropped days earlier.
Ordered released: Monday June 9, 2008. However, as of June
11, Matinenga remains in jail as police refuse to comply with
the court order.
Norman Mpofu, MP-elect from Bulilima East and
Lutho Tapela, Senator-elect from Bulilima-Mangwe
Detained: May 24, 2008 in Plumtree with two local activists.
Accused of holding an illegal meeting.
Charges: None filed
Released: May 27, 2008
Amos Chibaya, MP-elect from Gweru
Detained and Released May 21, 2008
Charges: “Undermining public confidence in the police force”
for comments he made at a rally about police officers having
voted for MDC.
Iain Kay, MP-elect from Marondera Central
Arrested: May 20, 2008
Charges: Inciting violence. Kay is accused of masterminding
violence in Mashonaland East. He was held for more than 48
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hours before being formally charged. When he did appear in
court, the State appealed bail, which was eventually granted.
Released on bail: June 2, 2008
Heya Shoko, MP-elect from Bikita West
Detained and Released May 12, 2008 after being held for four
Charges: Public violence. He was accused of involvement in
violence and arson.
Misheck Shoko, MP-elect from Chitungwiza South
Detained and Released May 12, 2008
Charges: Inciting violence. Accused of planning to raid a
ZANU-PF youth militia base in Seke.
Trevor Saruwaka, MP-elect from Mutasa Central
Arrested: May 11, 2008 at Penhalonga Police Station.
Saruwaka had gone to the station to look for an MDC youth
abducted by war veterans. He was ordered arrested at the
Charges: Inciting violence
Awarded bail: May 14, 2008
Released from jail: May 20, 2008
Lower- and mid-level activists murdered
¶7. (SBU) In addition to targeting of high-profile MDC
officials and MPs, there are reports of a plethora of
attacks, including torture and murder, on lower-level
candidates and activists as part of the Mugabe regime’s
systematic attempt to collapse the opposition’s grassroots
network. The following are just some examples:
On May 22, Shepherd Jani, the MDC treasurer in Mashonaland
East, was abducted from the sidewalk in Murehwa and pushed
into a truck by four men suspected of being intelligence
officers. Jani’s mutilated body was found two days later,
Tsvangirai attended his funeral in Murehwa on May 28.
Beta Chokururama, a member of the MDC national youth, was
found dead in Chikwaka village, Mashonaland East on May 14.
He and two other MDC activists, Cain Nyevhe and Godfrey
Kauzani, had been abducted on May 13 by two full Toyota
trucks with no license plates. Nyevhe and Kauzani’s bodies
were found on May 18 in Goromonzi; at their funerals in
Harare on May 21, ZANU-PF supporters attacked some of the MDC
On May 14, Tonderai Ndira, MDC Secretary for Security in the
Youth Assembly, was abducted from his home in a high density
suburb of Harare. His mutilated body was found on May 21 in
Goromonzi. Ndira was a well-known MDC activist who had been
arrested more than 30 times. Tsvangirai attended his funeral
in Harare on May 25.
In Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central, a group of 70 villagers was
beaten and tortured on May 5; six were killed, One of the
men killed, Joseph Madzuramhende, was allegedly told that his
crime was having a radio where villagers came to listen to
Studio 7 (the popular Voice of America radio program). He
was severely beaten and tortured for several hours by six
ZANU-PF youths before he died.
MDC activist Tabitha Marume was shot and killed on April 25
in Manicaland when a group of war veterans opened fire on a
group of MDC supporters. Marume and 21 other MDC supporters
had gone to a torture camp to seek the release of 12 MDC
members who had been abducted by war veterans on April 23.
When they attempted to release their colleagues, they were
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confronted by 50 war vets and ZANU-PF youths, 12 with AK-47s.
As they attempted to flee, three, including Marume, were
shot. According to eye witnesses, retired Colonel Daniel
Romeo Mutsvunguma, the former Zimbabwean Defense Attache in
Washington, fired the fatal shot that killed Marume.
¶8. (SBU) The targeting of family members and others close
to MDC leaders appears to be increasingly employed as a
tactic of intimidation and coercion. In both rural and urban
areas, women, children and the elderly have not been exempted
from ZANU-PF’s campaign of murder, beatings, and displacement
in an attempt to further weaken the opposition’s structural
framework ahead of the run-off. The following are confirmed
recent attacks carried out on those in the MDC orbit:
On June 10, the home of MP Blessing Chebundo in Hurungwe,
Karoi was set on fire by ZANU-PF supporters. Chebundo’s
family members were injured in the blaze and his younger
brother is missing.
On June 7, a ZANU-PF mob murdered the wife of Patson Chipiro,
Chairman for Mhondoro Ngezi, by cutting off her hands and
legs, dragging her body into the kitchen and setting it on
fire. The attack was reportedly ordered by Deputy
Information Minister Bright Matonga, the ZANU-PF MP for
On June 6, the home of Brian Mamhova, the District Councilor
for Ward 1 in Harare South, was set on fire by ZANU-PF
supporters who arrived in four packed vehicles. The mob was
reportedly promised Z$25 trillion (approximately US$12,500)
to kill Mamhova, who escaped unharmed with his brother and
nephew. However, Mamhova’s pregnant wife and six-year-old
son perished in the fire and his neighbors were beaten.
Police were uncooperative when asked to investigate and
Mamhova remains in hiding.
On June 1, the family of Piniel Denga, the MP Elect for Mbare
in Harare was attacked by a group of ZANU-PF supporters.
Denga’s brother, nephews and nieces were force-marched from
the family homestead in Chivu to a torture camp in Chipisa,
where they were told to denounce the MDC. They were then
beaten with logs; Denga’s brother suffered a broken leg, his
niece a broken hand and others received lacerations to their
On May 30, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa’s 78-year-old
grandmother, mother and brother were assaulted by armed
soldiers who raided their home in Gutu South. The attackers
then beat other family members living in the area. Major
General Englebert Rugejo was reportedly responsible for
ordering the attack.
On May 26, Mabel Penisara, the wife of MP Iain Kay’s campaign
manager, was abducted and tortured by 20 ZANU-PF thugs. She
was left naked by a roadside, where she was found alive on
On May 13, war veterans abducted the parents of exiled MDC
official Elliot Pfebve in Nyakatondo village in Mt.Darwin.
Pfebve’s 79-year-old father and 76-year-old mother were tied
up with wire and taken, along with several other family
members, to a reported torture camp at Nyakatondo Primary
School. Amnesty International stated it would help
investigate the case; however, there is no further
information available at this time. The Pfebve’s have been
the target of politically-motivated violence before: In 2000,
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during one of Elliot’s campaigns, his brother Matthew was
abducted from the family’s home and killed, and Pfevbe’s
father was injured, both allegedly by armed ZANU-PF
¶9. (SBU) COMMENT: The confirmed cases above, though just a
few of the myriad incidents reported since the March 29
elections, demonstrate the breadth and depth of the
government’s effort to eliminate political space for the
opposition. ZANU-PF supporters act with total impunity to
carry out the orders of, in many cases, senior level
officials. Free and fair elections are impossible under
current conditions and we have no sign that in the coming
days things will improve. The arrival and active engagement
of a full contingent of domestic and international observers
remains imperative if Zimbabwe is to have any chance at a
credible run-off. END COMMENT.