Although President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara signed an agreement to end the “polarization, divisions, conflict and intolerance” on Monday, Zimbabweans are still reeling from the crackdown by Mugabe’s political allies. Some citizens fear that more violence is yet to come.
The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) relates the experiences of one eyewitness to the brutal political persecutions who requested anonymity out of concern for his safety.
"Two weeks ago,” the man recalled, “we celebrated the opening of the Year of Saint Paul in our parish with a solemn Holy Mass -- at exactly the same time as the Holy Father was celebrating the Vespers of the vigil of the feast in the church of Saint Paul's-Outside-the-Walls in Rome.”
According to the source, Zimbabweans are coming to Mass despite transportation difficulties because, “in praying and singing, the people are able to forget not only their worries but even their aching limbs and open wounds, at least for a few hours.”
After Mass, this eyewitness met an acquaintance of his--a young woman somewhere in her mid-20s—who was brutally beaten just a few days previously by ZANU PF militants. “Two of her fingers were broken, as she attempted to protect her head and her face from the blows of the clubs, and several of her ribs were cracked. Her back and legs were covered in black angry bruises.”
Another more serious attack involved the torture and murder of a young man who had considered becoming a religious and a priest, and was very active in the Catholic youth movements. Due to the fact that he had been working as a driver for the opposition party, he was kidnapped during the night about four weeks ago.
The young man’s body was discovered 10 days ago, maimed and burned, on a farm belonging to an army general. He had obviously been horribly tortured before his death. They had put out both his eyes and poured burning plastic over his back.
According to ACN’s source, “photographs of his body were shown to Gordon Brown during the G8 summit in Japan, and he showed them to the other heads of state at the summit.” The Zimbabwean man said that, “If these pictures have contributed to the summit statement on Zimbabwe, then the death of this courageous young Christian will not have been entirely in vain. Despite this, the people here are very, very angry.”
The most recent figures for the economic situation are also contributing to the anger and desperation being felt in Zimbabwe. Inflation stands at more than 2.2 million percent, unemployment at 80 percent and basic food stuffs are disappearing from the shelves of supermarkets.
One major Internet service provider, ZOL, no longer accepts Zimbabwe dollars and requires its customers to pay their bills with shares of Zimbabwe’s largest insurance provider Old Mutual or with diesel coupons.
Some locals are hoping that the latest news will signal a turn of events for the beleaguered country.
A security officer at a Harare hotel told the BBC that people are looking forward to making sure "people are having enough food and they are having enough medication from the hospitals."
However, ACN’s eyewitness sees violence lurking under the surface of Mugabe’s recent overtures of peace. He recalled that, “A British reporter, who tried to elicit details about the run-off election at the African Union summit in Egypt a week ago, was actually physically attacked by our president. Here too one can see the very dangerous side of this man, who now only breathes violence, talks violence, does violence -- so compulsively that for a brief moment he himself can forget his dignity as a head of state – for the sake of which he has after all declared war on his own people.”