Zimbabwe: War vets terrorise villages

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Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE: War vets terrorise villages

JOHANNESBURG, 3 July (IRIN) - Armed self-styled war veterans have been causing panic panic among villagers in the Nyamandlovu area, north-west of Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo, the 'Zimbabwe Standard' reported on Tuesday. The war veterans are said to be harassing suspected supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and in some caqses, sexually abusing women.

According to some villagers, groups of rowdy war veterans, some clutching Kalashnikov combat rifles, roam the district on a daily basis, intimidating those who do not possess ZANU-PF membership cards. Seven settlers were reported to have abandoned their new homes after war veterans kept on harassing and threatening to kill them. "There is complete lawlessness in this country and something must be done to stop the harassment of civilians by these war veterans," said Kabelo Mlothswa, who said he had been tortured by three war veterans.

Sometimes, the war veterans reportedly invade white-owned farms and ranches in the district and demand fresh milk and amasi (a dairy product). If the farmers refuse to give them the milk and game meat, they are severely assaulted. Police in Nyamandlovu refused to speak to the newspaper, saying they were instructed not to talk to journalists from the independent media. When a reporter arrived in the district, he was confronted by four war veterans dressed in military style khaki outfits, who promptly 'arrested' him for entering what they called "a protected area". The men took the reporter to their leader who simply introduced himself as the field commander of Nyamandlovu resettlement area and was 'licensed' to eliminate suspected MDC spies and foreign journalists. However, the reporter managed to interview two women who said two of their colleagues had been raped by war veterans on the farms. The victims had been attacked after allegedly turning down the war veterans' advances. "If you are raped here, the police will not do anything because they were told not to interfere with the war veterans," said one.

Meanwhile, veterans and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents have reportedly descended on MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai's home village of Nerutanga in Buhera North. Villagers from the area told the Standard last week that the war veterans and state agents, who in the last few weeks set up their bases in the village, had been intimidating and harassing opposition supporters ahead of a possible by-election following the nullification of ZANU-PF's election win in last year's parliamentary election. The High Court recently nullified the election result of the constituency where ZANU-PF's Kenneth Manyonda had defeated Tsvangirai.

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