'We never got the money they promised'

Anne Wayne meets some of Zanu-PF's former enforcers who switched sides - and now fear for their lives
Click to follow
The Independent Online

By his own admission, he had committed arson, tortured grandmothers and led the invasions of white-owned properties, but it was the results of Thursday's parliamentary elections that devastated the former Zimbabwean secret policeman.

By his own admission, he had committed arson, tortured grandmothers and led the invasions of white-owned properties, but it was the results of Thursday's parliamentary elections that devastated the former Zimbabwean secret policeman.

Paradoxically, the man once employed as an enforcer for the ruling party had ended up one of the most ardent supporters of a former white farmer's bid for Parliament. The incumbent MP, Roy Bennett, was imprisoned last year after a scuffle with the Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa. Mr Bennett's wife, Heather, decided to stand in his place.

"I am so disappointed," said Lazarus Shave. "I am so much sympathy for Mrs Bennett ... I did work for the CIO when Roy was MP. I supported Mutezo in the [Zanu-PF primary] election. He was not the candidate that the government wanted so five men came to me and beat me three weeks ago. Now I want to work for the MDC and I will not beat anyone any more." His refusal to join in the campaign of intimidation against MDC activists had led to threats on his own life, he said.

In the run-up to Thursday's controversial elections, The Independent on Sunday conducted clandestine interviews with secret policemen, ex-youth militia and war veterans. All said that the continued hunger, lack of jobs and the infighting resulting from the imposition of Joyce Mujuru over a more popular candidate as vice-president meant they were no longer willing to fight for the government. Ms Mujuru's appointment led to the suspension of six provincial party chairmen last December, and the expulsion of the Information Minister, Jonathon Moyo, from the government.

According to Mr Shave, Zanu-PF tried to reassert control with beatings, rigged elections and denial of food. One member of the notorious youth militia known as the Green Bombers recalled: "They used to give us pills before we went to beat people, but never food. We beat up one old man, he must have been in his 60s, Moses Mpande, for criticising the lack of development in the area. He kept apologising but none of us stopped."

The ex-militia member, who begged to remain anonymous, was terrified of retribution. He said that many thousands of young Zimbabweans who had been forced into the militia training camps had fled the country; others remained outwardly loyal but had voted for the MDC.

"They promised us jobs if we went through Border Gezi [camps], but we never got anything," he said. "I registered to vote last year and I am going to vote MDC."

Another youth, who asked only to be identified as Sikhumbuzo, agreed. "[In 2002] Zanu used to get us to stay outside polling stations to frighten away the opposition. If the MDC came, we would chase them away. But we never got the money or jobs that they promised us; all we got was beer."

After he was seen talking to election monitors this month, Sikhumbuzo was told that he would be unable to buy maize in his village because he was an MDC supporter. The incident severed his links with the ruling party and now, he says, he has been campaigning for an MDC victory.

Ben Ncube, 42, a veteran of the liberation struggle during the 1970s, said he was also voting for the MDC in his Matebeleland constituency. "I used to support the government and they made a lot of promises about land and money during the 2000 elections, which were repeated in 2002. Now I know because of my tribe I will never get land," he said in a Bulawayo safe house.

However, all the ex-enforcers agreed on one thing. "The government will never have a shortage of people to do its dirty work," said the furtive Green Bomber. "Look how many people are hungry. Look how many people have no jobs. All they have to offer is a little bit and people here will do anything they want."

Comments