Mugabe Trains 100,000
Thugs To Spread Terror

By Brian Latham in Harare
The Telegraph - London

Up to 100,000 Zimbabwean youths are being schooled in terror tactics at bush training camps set up by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.
The youths are being used to unleash a wave of violence and intimidation before the March presidential elections.
Gangs of youths are already roaming the country demanding to see the Zanu-PF party membership cards of people they accost. Anyone not able to produce a card is threatened with violence and even rape.
One frightened white woman, who refused to be named for fear of reprisals, encountered such a gang yesterday 60 miles north of Harare, in Mutorashanga.
"I was stopped by a group of youths with crowbars," she said, "They demanded to see a Zanu-PF membership card. When I said I hadn't got one, they said they would come back next week to check again.
"Then they made me chant: 'Forward with Osama Bin Laden, forward with Robert Gabriel Mugabe, down with whites.' It was terrifying. There was a police Land Rover there, but the police just sat and watched."
The youths, many of school age, are being trained at Border Gezi, a tented site named after Mr Mugabe's hardline former youth minister at Mt Darwin, 80 miles north of Harare and at several similar training camps across the country.
The same tactics were on display last week across northern Zimbabwe. Youth brigades sealed off townships in Bindura, Chinhoyi and Karoi, threatening to beat and rape those they found without Zanu-PF party cards when they returned.
One local, Paul Matiyenga, was forced to flee when a brigade besieged his street. He told The Telegraph that he would not allow the intimidation to change his vote.
"Even if we are forced to carry Zanu-PF cards with us at all times," said Mr Matiyenga, "we know in our hearts who we will vote for. Do you think we can vote for people who beat us and then promise to beat us again when they return?"
The anti-Mugabe strongholds of Harare and surrounding townships have not been immune to the growing pre-election violence. When youth brigades recently surrounded the home of Derick Muzira, a Movement for Democratic Change activist from Glen Norah, police refused to respond to his call for help.
Mr Muzira and his wife were beaten and their belongings looted. "It's pure harassment," said Mr Muzira, "a sign that they know they can lose this election."
Roy Bennett, an MDC MP who has monitored developments at the Border Gezi camp, said: "The gangs are being given carte blanche to act as they like because they know they won't be prosecuted."
The Youth Brigades are expected to have little impact in Zimbabwe's urban centres, where the opposition enjoys overwhelming support.
However, in rural Zimbabwe the effect of the armed gangs could be devastating. "They'll have a huge intimidatory effect in the countryside," said Mr Bennett.
"This is a serious terror campaign and they're promising to kill and rape those they think are from the MDC. These people are just like Hitler's Brown Shirts and they're being trained to terrorise."
No information has been released by Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party on the number of youths to be deployed in brigades between now and the elections. Opposition observers believe that up to 100,000 could leave the camps over the next two months.
Mr Mugabe shrugged off international criticism and unleashed a new broadside against on Tony Blair. "Mr Blair, don't be a liar, a Bliar," he told a meeting of over 5,000 Christians in Harare. "God is on our side."
Elliot Manyika, Mr Mugabe's minister for youth, has dismissed the allegations of a terror training camp, stating that the Border Gezi youths are being trained to "undertake self-help projects".
The move to train terror gangs comes at a time when Zanu-PF leaders are rushing new laws through parliament in an attempt to cripple the opposition's campaign. It is now illegal to criticise the president, while the media is faced with a raft of reporting restrictions.
As Zimbabwe prepares for the most fraught and dangerous election of recent times, Professor Masipula Sithole, a political scientist from the University of Zimbabwe, believes Mr Mugabe's brigades are a sign of weakness.
He said: "The Border Gezi camp and its brigades simply demonstrate that the president has been unable to force the military to do his dirty work for him this time."
The MDC said that the EU had left it too late to ensure free and fair elections despite an undertaking from Zimbabwe's government to accept foreign observers.

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