Grave human rights abuses triggered by a disputed presidential election continue to afflict Zimbabwe. Politically-motivated violence has affected thousands of victims and has driven many from their homes before next month’s presidential run-off election.
A priest from Zimbabwe, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the situation to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The priest said that the violence especially afflicts rural areas. People who had voted for the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change have been kidnapped, tortured, maimed and raped by soldiers and militia groups. Many Catholic priests and laity are on the wanted lists of these violent groups, and many are in hiding following death threats, he said.
Many of the streets and roads are filled with people living in the open because their possessions have been plundered and their houses looted and burned down.
The priest fears the situation will only worsen before the June 27 run-off election.
The food distribution system is also affected. Members of the opposition are not receiving food and Catholic dioceses cannot find food sources to feed the hungry. The hospitals, according to the priest, are “overwhelmed” with the victims of political violence but lack medicines and even the most basic painkilling drugs.
Some 3 million people have fled Zimbabwe to neighboring South Africa, where they have been subject to anti-foreigner attacks. The South African bishops a year ago warned of a growing hostility towards foreigners. The escalating violence there has left numerous victims. Thousands of Zimbabwean refugees, fearing the danger, now want to return home.
The priest who spoke to ACN called on all Catholics to pray for the people of Zimbabwe and for those “who are persecuting us, because we have exercised our democratic rights.”