IN Murewa North, nearly 100 km from the capital Harare, expressing political views can get one beaten up, jailed or killed.
This is one of the areas where the ruling party Zanu PF, with the help of all arms of the state, has maintained control of using fear and coercion.
Over the past two decades, associating with opposition politics has become risky.
Those who dare declare allegiance to the opposition expose themselves to all forms of violence.
This has worked, as over the years, the ruling party has won elections in Murewa North and the mostly rural Mashonaland East province.
But for some people like 26 year old Tinotenda Shumba*— who have been brutalised before — there is nothing to lose.
Shumba is one of the scattered opposition activists who have stood against coercion by Zanu PF supporters and militia, and state security agents.
In 2008, when Zanu PF lost an election to the then MDCT, led by the now late Morgan Tsvangirai, Shumba — a little boy then — watched in horror as Zanu PF youths beat up his mother.
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“That vision has remained etched in my mind, and instead of breaking me, it has made my resolve to find justice for my mother a worthy cause,” he said.
Shumba said he cannot associate with a political party that was responsible for the brutalisation of his mother.
“I believe one has the right to join any political party of their choice, and in this case, I have chosen to associate myself with the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC),” he said.
For being a member of the opposition CCC, Shumba has found himself being a victim of violence a number of times.
Just like Shumba, Maurice Seremani (74), has borne the brunt of openly supporting the opposition.
He is one of the seven elderly CCC activists that were assaulted by suspected Zanu PF youths on January 6 and the orgy of violence was exposed through a leaked mobile phone.
According to online television, ZEEM TV, political tensions in Murewa North have escalated after the assault of Seremani and six others.
“After the video went viral, Zanu PF’s Murewa North legislator Daniel Garwe held a meeting in the area,” Shumba said.
“He brought truckloads of Zanu PF supporters from around the province, and some of them were singing songs of intimidation,” said Tinotenda.
“Vanamukoma vanorova nematanda (The boys will beat you up with logs), was one of the lines of the songs.
“So, even when he went on to denounce violence, he had already set the tone for the victimisation of opposition supporters ahead of elections.”
Seventy-nine-year-old Sekuru Dongo was one of the victims of the January 6 violence.
Zimbabwe has a history of unresolved post-colonial conflicts with the major one being the Gukurahundi massacres which resulted in the death of an estimated 20 000 civilians at the hands of the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade.
Following the Gukurahundi massacres, the Zimbabwean leader at the time Robert Mugabe set up the Chihambakwe Commission to probe the atrocities.
However, the report has not been made pubic despite pressure from different sectors.
It remains a fact that the concept of nationhood in Zimbabwe died with the Gukurahundi massacres.
Healing and reconciliation remain a pipe dream and the state continues to persecute pressure groups seeking closure to the issue.
Just recently, on December 22 last year members of pressure group, Ibetshu Likazulu were arrested for holding a ceremony to remember victims of the Gukurahundi massacres.
Nationhood continues to suffer again as a result of bloody and disputed elections that continue to fuel the legitimacy crisis in Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, elections continue to be a time for bloodbath.
Ruling party activists continue to operate with impunity while unleashing violence that has often resulted in torture and murder of opposition supporters.
During the 2008 bloody elections, an estimated 200 opposition supporters lost their lives at the hands of ruling party activists with the support of the state.
State resources were deployed to support the purge of opposition activists around the country in a clear case of state-sponsored terror.
The partisan conduct of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the capture of the judiciary fuelled the impunity of the ruling party militia and this basically meant there could be no justice for the victims of the terror.
This explains why perpetrators of the heinous crimes which included abductions, torture, arson, rape and murder among other atrocities escaped the long arm of the law and continue to walk scot-free.
Ahead of the 2018 elections, there were pronouncements from senior Zanu PF leaders that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a soldier who will “shoot for power” while others claimed that the military stands ready to block opposition rule in the country.
True to the words of the senior Zanu PF officials, an estimated six civilians lost their lives at the hands of the military following protests over electoral theft and this attracted widespread condemnation.
Following this, the army and state security agents were deployed to hunt down opposition activists and this resulted in cases of torture, abductions and rape.
To appease the international community, Mnangagwa set up the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry to investigate the 2018 shootings.
The Commission of Inquiry made several recommendations which included compensation of the victims of the army shootings and prosecution of the killers.
However, the government of Zimbabwe is yet to implement these recommendations and this again could be a clear sign that the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry was a case of mere politicking.
As the country heads for the 2023 elections, the signs of yet another bloody election continue to manifest.
Cases of weaponisation of the law against opposition activists continue to be recorded as well.
Opposition legislator, Job Sikhala continues to languish in remand prison after he was arrested in June last year on charges of inciting public violence.
Recently, 25 CCC members from Budiriro were arrested alongside the party’s organiser Amos Chibaya for holding a private meeting.
Human rights lawyer, Kudzai Kadzere who had been deployed to represent the opposition activists was brutalized by riot police.
Mashonaland East is one of Zimbabwe’s political hotspots and recorded several cases of murder and torture of opposition activists during the bloody 2008 polls.
Online TV, ZEEMTV conducted an environmental scan of the area ahead of the 2023 elections and also visited the elderly CCC activists who were assaulted by alleged Zanu PF youths in early January.
During interviews, villagers confirmed that the situation was volatile ahead of the 2023 polls and threats of violence against opposition activists continue to escalate.
What has made the situation worse is the fact that the Zanu PF youths who assaulted the elderly Murewa CCC supporters continue to walk scot free while threatening to unleash more violence and claiming that they have protection from above.
And villagers from Murewa do not doubt this — they see perpetrators of the 2008 murders walking scot-free.
* Not real name