Mugabe's Victims: 'They Were Beating Us Everywhere'

Soon the attackers were joined by a large group of youths singing "Hondo-Hondo" ("War-War") and other Zanu-PF regime songs. As the truck drove off with the women and children, the mob, now numbering more than 100, began to loot and burn the houses.

"They used petrol bombs and hammers to destroy the homes," Malvin explained. "They spent four hours trying to destroy everything. They made sure that it was all burned to ashes. Now we only have the clothes we are wearing."

After the attackers left, Malvin and Fanuel reported the incident to the police. They were told, "We cannot give you help because this is a political issue. If we arrest a Zanu-PF person, we will lose our jobs. Go get your friends and revenge yourself if you can manage to do it."

Malvin believes that he was targeted because he is a local officer of the National Constitutional Assembly, a civil society organization that has been pushing for democratic reform since 1997. NCA activists are assumed to support the opposition and have frequently been the targets of attacks by security forces and government-sponsored militias.

As Malvin headed back to Epworth to look for his family, I asked him if he was still going to vote in the upcoming election. Although tears had been in his eyes during the entire hour that I spoke with him, he grinned and said, "Yes, for sure."

Two days later, I met up with Malvin. He had found his missing family members. His children were now staying with a relative in a town 15 miles outside Harare. His wife and sister were in a local hospital, recovering from 20 hours of brutal captivity at the hands of the Zanu-PF supporters. I went with Malvin to visit the women.

The hospital was clean by Zimbabwean standards, and appeared to be well staffed. Even so, as I entered the room, I noticed that both women's sheets were stained with blood.

The hand of Malvin's wife, Sekai, was bandaged, with a splint on the middle finger. She was wearing a beanie that almost covered a cut above her right eye. Malvin's sister, Moleen, had a visibly bruised and swollen face.

Moleen described their abduction: "They pushed our heads against the bed of the truck with their hands. They put their feet on our backs and stepped on us. They pushed our kids to our sides and held them there. They beat us with an iron bar in the back of the truck. This continued until we reached their base."

The "base" that Moleen described was the home of the Zanu-PF district chairman, a man they both knew. His home was serving as a hub for the attacks that were going on throughout Epworth. They recognized many local Zanu-PF supporters at the home. "Some were our neighbors," Moleen said. The women provided me with the names of the attackers they knew, including a few local Zanu-PF officials.

Moleen, Sekai and their children were placed in a thatched room with other women who had been rounded up by the militias. They were beaten continually through the night and the following day.

Moleen explained that the violence was unrelenting. "They told us to lay facedown. They started beating us with irons and with their feet. They were beating us everywhere: face, back, legs, buttocks. They would beat us until they started to sweat and then they would go outside and call another to take over beating us. They took cold water and poured it on us. Then they started beating us again. They never stopped the whole night or the next day."

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