- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

JOHANNESBURG — Doctors at a secret medical center set up in Harare say they have been inundated with patients suffering burns, beatings and wounds received during torture sessions by youth militia and aging veterans loyal to President Robert Mugabe.

A doctor at the clinic who asked not to be named told The Washington Times that he and his staff were working “impossible hours” to cope with admissions.

“All the private clinics across the country are receiving people burned, whipped and women who have been raped by militias,” he said.

He said that some of the injuries had been inflicted by the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), a secret police organization that reports directly to the president”s office.

“We have problems getting people in here because ambulances and even private vehicles trying to ferry the wounded from rural areas are turned back by the army or the CIO,” he said.

At Mutoko, a farming district 70 miles northeast of Harare, an organizer for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the area was “like a war zone.”

Organizer Charm Chinyake said that youth militia and veterans of Zimbabwe’s war in the 1970s that brought Mr. Mugabe to power were forcing people to admit they had voted the wrong way in the March 29 election, in which the MDC won a parliamentary majority from Mr. Mugabe”s Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

“The militia go around in groups of 10 to 20, beating people and threatening to burn down their huts,” he said. “They demand the people confess they voted the wrong way after which they must produce their MDC party cards and T-shirts to be burned. They are then forced to buy cards for ZANU-PF.”

In another area 45 miles east of the capital, MDC campaigner Maria Chanetsa said her nephew had been tied in a sack that was then thrown in a river.

“He died in the bag by the time we got him out,” she said. “Other people have been beaten or had their huts burned.”

Mrs. Chanetsa said that in one group of militia, two men had been issued Chinese-made AK-47 rifles.

“They have no ammunition, but they have warned us that they will soon have bullets and that by voting for the MDC, we have chosen to make war with the government,” she said.

Bullets were part of a shipment of arms on a Chinese ship that was forced to turn back because neighbors of landlocked Zimbabwe refused to let the cargo be unloaded.

The refusal marked a rare show of unity by regional leaders against Mr. Mugabe. The exception was South Africa, where the government did not intervene but the dockworkers union refused to unload the ship.

In the tourist town of Victoria Falls, there have also been reports of youth militia armed with AK-47s.

MDC activist Tony Ncube said there had not been any beatings in the town, but the militia had warned people to expect war in the near future.

“Some of them have guns, and they are saying that Robert Mugabe is president for life and cannot be removed by an election or by anyone,” he said.

Human rights organizations including Amnesty International have condemned the latest violence, and some have published photographs of patients in various medical centers, showing whip marks and burns.

Meanwhile, a prominently displayed column in the government-controlled Herald newspaper yesterday suggested a “national unity” government to resolve the crisis.

“The West, particularly the Anglo-American establishment, should stop insisting that President Mugabe and ZANU-PF cannot be part of a future prosperous Zimbabwe,” opinion columnist Obediah Mazombwe wrote, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Mazombwe wrote that regional leaders, along with “the progressive international community,” could bring together key players: Mr. Mugabe’s party, the opposition, former colonial ruler Britain and the United States.

The first count in last month’s parliamentary vote showed the opposition winning a majority in Parliament for the first time during Mr. Mugabe’s 28-year rule.

Electoral officials are recounting ballots in 23 districts, most won by opposition candidates. Mr. Mugabe’s party needs nine seats to win back a majority.

No results of the March 29 presidential election, held the same day as parliamentary voting, have been released.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party insists it won, and it has called the government’s refusal to release the results part of a ploy to steal the vote, according to the AP dispatch from the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

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