By John Chimunhu|
Now Daily News Analysis|
At every election that takes place in Zimbabwe, president Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF sends its bands of militias to terrorise the population. Among their preferred methods of terror is the mass rape of opposition supporters. This includes married women, who often find themselves ostracized by their families, and young girls who sometimes lose the vital support of parents and relatives, who may accuse them of being ‘naughty’, especially if they happen to fall pregnant or are infected with diseases.
Contrary to popular belief, these atrocities are not only taking place in remote mountain villages. They are taking place in cities, in government offices, army barracks, police stations, municipal offices and even churches. In fact, wherever Zanu PF exercises control, women are not safe. In workplaces, schools, colleges, marketplaces and border crossings, there is rampant sexual abuse. The perpetrators are often characters who get protection from Zanu PF. Victims are mostly opposition supporters or their relatives, who are deliberately ‘punished’ for their political choices.
For example, Carter House, a Harare city council lodge in Mbare has been taken over by Zanu PF’s Chipangano militia and transformed into a terror base. According to parents and residents in Mbare, Chipangano regularly rounds up women and girls in the area for night meetings where many are raped.
Right now, there are more than 230 rape cases pending in a South African court against Magabe hooligans who went on a rampage in 2008, raping and looting. The cases could not be heard in Zimbabwe because the justice system is fraught with irregularities, including rampant corruption and blatant partisanship.
During the 1970s civil war, Mugabe’s Zanla guerillas went from village to village kidnapping girls and women, Boko Haram-style, and turning them into sex slaves known by the derisive term ‘chimbwido’. Since the end of the war in 1980, Zanu PF has never acknowledged the existence of these sex slaves. The party has done nothing to help these women. They suffer in silence for getting mixed up with the wrong gang. Government minister and Zanla war veteran Oppah Muchinguri was quoted recently saying female combatants were raped as a matter of course by their commanders and tortured or killed if they refused. Muchinguri wrote a book detailing the abuse she went through but its publication by Mambo Press was banned by Mugabe at the last minute. Mugabe’s messenger, General Vitalis Zvinavashe threatened Muchinguri with death if she talked about the war-time rapes.
Today, Zimbabwe’s security agencies, including the secret service, are a hotbed of sexual abuse, according to sources. As long as these victims of war-time and election time atrocities are shut up, genuine national healing will not be achieved. As long as perpetrators of past rapes can hide behind the war and election time upheavals, they will continue to act with impunity.
What Zimbabwe needs even at this late hour is a public enquiry, where victims of politically-motivated rape are encouraged to come forward and tell their stories. They must also be compensated.
There are numerous women in this predicament. Many were raped by the so-called ‘comrades’, impregnated, infected and just abandoned. Today, they bear the burden of supporting children whose fathers they do not know. Many more were forced out of school, infected with terrible diseases and isolated from spouses and family members. Many are still traumatised. Zanu PF must atone for its war crimes. The United Nations should do something to help in this healing process.
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