Terror of Rhodesian Bush War Days Returns

Peta Thornycroft, allAfrica.com, May 4, 2008

There are now about 7 000 casualties of the rapidly worsening violence in Zimbabwe as the military’s campaign against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party hots up, according to doctors treating the injured.

Statistics gathered countrywide in Zimbabwe this week show that only 10 percent of those beaten and tortured are able to get medical treatment. At least 700 people have been treated since the elections.

A state-registered nurse, part of a small team gathering information as patients are examined, said on Saturday: “We take statements from those who manage to get to see medical personnel. We estimate that we only get to about 10 percent of those who have been attacked, mostly by uniformed soldiers.”

The nurse, who would not be named, said that the violence started slowly in the Mashonaland East province, where Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF suffered defeat in the March 29 election, but had spread throughout the country.

Until Saturday, the stated number of victims treated by medical personal remained at about 400, then it was disclosed that the number had almost doubled.

“We are particularly worried about people with fractures who are still out there because their injuries will go septic in about a week and there are no drugs in the government hospitals,” the nurse said.

He said older victims of the vicious attacks say that the war they are now caught up in is as bad as the bush war of the 1970s, when tens of thousands were caught between Mugabe’s insurgents and the forces of the Rhodesian administration.

He said ambulances could no longer travel into certain areas to pick up the injured.

Unicef said there were mounting reports of families fleeing the violence, and of aid groups finding it increasingly difficult to operate.

“We need to ensure an open and safe space for reaching those in need,” said Dr Festo Kavishe, the UN Children’s fund (Unicef) representative in Zimbabwe.

Many children are being hurt. A 14-month old was admitted to a Harare hospital on Thursday. She had been beaten unconscious on her mother’s back in an attack by Zanu-PF youths and men calling themselves “war veterans”.

The war against civilians is particularly directed against MDC office bearers and has decimated the party organisation in many rural areas.

About 35 houses in a village near Shamva, about 80km north of Harare, were burned and smashed this week, ahead of the country learning that Mugabe had been beaten by Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader.

Wilfred Mhanda, one of Mugabe’s top commanders in the 1970s bush war, whose nom de guerre was Dzinashe Machingura, said this week that an “orgy of violence” had been perpetrated by state security forces, “complemented by war veterans, youth militia and Zanu-PF enthusiasts.

“The Mugabe regime descended on the defenceless people of Zimbabwe as retribution for voting for change. Command structures for the campaign of violence are now fully operational.

“Mugabe’s illegitimate and repressive rule has degenerated into a fascist dictatorship reminiscent of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia. It is a crime against humanity and an abomination for former liberation fighters to indulge in retributive atrocities and human rights abuses against the people they fought to liberate.”

The MDC is meeting in South Africa this weekend to discuss whether it should take part in the run-off election scheduled for May 19. The official results of the presidential election gave Tsvangirai 47,9 percent of the vote and Mugabe 43,2 percent.

If Tsvangirai does not contest the rerun, Mugabe will be sworn in for a further five years in power.

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