- Up to 100,000 Zimbabwean youths are being schooled in
terror tactics at bush training camps set up by supporters of President
- 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
- 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
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
- "Then they made me chant: 'Forward with Osama Bin
Laden, forward with Robert Gabriel Mugabe, down with whites.' It was
There was a police Land Rover there, but the police just sat and
- 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
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
to act as they like because they know they won't be
- The Youth Brigades are expected to have little impact
in Zimbabwe's urban centres, where the opposition enjoys overwhelming
- 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
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
- 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
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.
is on our side."
- Elliot Manyika, Mr Mugabe's minister for youth, has
the allegations of a terror training camp, stating that the Border Gezi
youths are being trained to "undertake self-help
- The move to train terror gangs comes at a time when
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
- 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.