In-depth: Zimbabwe's Humanitarian Crisis
ZIMBABWE: Voices out of the violence
The true cost of democracy
harare, 23 June 2008 (IRIN) - Yvonne Chipowera endured 16 hours of beatings, rape and being urinated on, all because of her support for Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
She said about 30 militiamen loyal to President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party broke into her house on 9 June in Epworth, a sprawling township on the edge of the capital, Harare. They began marching the 24-year-old MDC activist to a house allegedly owned by a local ZANU-PF leader, beating her all the way.
"Three men pushed me around as we were walking. They took me off the road and blindfolded me. One man held my arms, another pinned down my legs and a third raped me," she told IRIN.
When they had finished, they continued walking to the house, which is used as a base by ZANU-PF militia, according to local residents. Chipowera was forced into a room with a clutch of other prisoners; still more were imprisoned in a hole in the ground in the garden, she said.
Since the MDC won the 29 March parliamentary election, and party leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round presidential poll, Epworth – and other urban suburbs – have become no-go zones for the opposition, mirroring the terror documented by human rights groups
in the countryside.
According to the MDC, ZANU-PF militia, armed with sling-shots and knives, hunt those perceived to be opponents, forcing hundreds to flee their homes to avoid capture. The unlucky are taken to one of the several "reorientation centres" in the township.
"They threw cold water on me and men were urinating on my head. They made me say Tsvangirai is an ***hole, a dog, all dirty names. I said it of course, because they were beating me," Chipowera recounted.
"They raped me again, and then put me back in the room; they used a whip, which cut me across the back, buttocks and legs. All night they punched, kicked and slapped me."
Chipowera was released at 5.00 a.m. on 10 June. She was able to find her young son, who had spent the night outside their home in the winter cold.
"I hope God will take them away and kill them all," she said, holding her boy. "Now I might have HIV/AIDS those men were so dirty." Orchestrated violence
She accuses ZANU-PF leaders in Epworth of orchestrating the violence. While she was being tortured, she recognised a former government minister who was in the house, but the militia group was led by a female local councillor, she said.
The same local councillor was named by another Epworth woman IRIN interviewed last week while she was recovered from her injuries. The 38-year-old MDC official, who asked not to be identified, was snatched on the same day as Chipowera. She managed to get away with just a beating from the militia the first time, who also looted her home.
Two months pregnant, she decided to get out of Epworth, fleeing with another female MDC activist. But she was wearing a Tsvangirai t-shirt and was stopped.
"There were more than 50 of them. They took us to the graveyard on Aerodrome Road [in Harare]. They put a black cloth over my eyes and they raped me. Then they urinated all over my face and put their penis in my mouth. There was semen over my face," she said.
"I was trying to fight them off but they were using a hot wire they put in the fire to burn me. They raped the other woman too. She was raped by three guys and bleeding. They were kicking us; they were saying, 'You want Tsvangirai to be president. You want to sell our country to the whites'."
IRIN is unable to verify the accounts of the two women, but they are consistent with the reports of extreme violence meted out by soldiers, police and militants of the ruling party. There have also been accounts of MDC violence against ZANU-PF supporters and so-called "war veterans", but on a far lower scale.
According to the MDC, 86 of its supporters have been killed since the general elections on 29 March. Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa told IRIN that "state sponsored violence" had displaced over 200,000 people, with over 20,000 homes destroyed and more than 10,000 people injured.
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