At least 110 Zimbabweans, most of them anonymous black citizens, rather than white farmers or political opponents, have been killed in the 18 months of rampant violence inspired by President Robert Mugabe's ruthless desire to stay in power.
The figure – calculated by The Independent from reports and newspaper articles since February 2000 – is far higher than previous estimates and gives the lie to the implied assertion that white farmers are the principal targets chosen by the 77-year-old leader.
Nine white farmers have been killed during 18 months of land invasions orchestrated by the government.
But murders and disappearances centred on civil servants, the relatives of political opponents, ordinary villagers and farm labourers outnumber them by more than 10 to one.
The often used figure of 36 deaths in Zimbabwe refers only to the period immediately preceeding the parliamentary elections that took place in June last year, and principally covers only active supporters of the opposition Movement For Democratic Change.
In a typical example of the lawlessness installed as part of Mr Mugabe's campaign to terrorise Zimbabweans into voting for him in presidential elections expected next year, police in Masvingo were reported yesterday to have refused to obey a magistrate's order to hand over 50 government militants for prosecution.
The Daily News said police had ignored a request by the magistrate Shortgame Musaiona to bring to court 50 men – young army recruits sent on a rampage through Masvingo's bars and clubs two weeks ago. At least 10 people were injured, five of them seriously, in the disturbances.
Last week, in a similar example of anarchy orchestrated by the government, thousands of farm workers in the Hwedza district – whose white employers had sought refuge in town – were evicted by land occupiers intent on preventing the properties from remaining productive. The labourers are now homeless and many are having to sleep on the roadsides, according to reports.
On Tuesday, the prime tourist resort of Victoria Falls was targeted for the first time by militants of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) who, according to the Daily News, forced shops in the town to shut and closed the border with Zambia, claiming traders from that country were responsible for inflation.
The Amani Trust, which monitors human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, recorded last month 11 political murders, 61 disappearances, 104 cases of unlawful detention and 288 incidents of torture, including electric shocks, mock drownings and beatings by Zanu-PF militants and the police.
In spates of violence against certain groups, health workers and teachers in rural areas have increasingly been singled out. As educated people who are also influential, they are widely perceived to favour democratic ideals and are therefore assumed to support the MDC rather than the thuggish Zanu-PF.
Some dedicated police officers initially resisted the transformation of their force into a ruling party weapon – occasionally coming to the aid of people under attack – but that core has dwindled at the same rate as the judiciary's emasculation into government servitude.
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