Saturday, March 31, 2007

Zim urges youth groups to "silence opposition"

ZANU PF has relied on party youths and militia to crush the opposition during key elections

By Chenai Maramba

KAROI – Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU PF party political commissar Elliot Manyika has called on party youths and war veterans to prepare for a campaign of violence against the opposition, which he said had to be “silenced at all costs”.

Zimbabwe holds a presidential election as scheduled next year as well as early elections for Parliament after President Robert Mugabe abandoned plans to postpone the presidential poll to 2010.

The 83-year old Mugabe expects ZANU PF’s central committee meeting today to endorse him as candidate for the party in the presidential poll although some senior officials in the party are pushing for him to quit at the expiry of his term in March 2008.

Manyika, who spoke on Wednesday night at a hotel in the farming town of Karoi about 180km north-west of Harare, said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had to be taught that Zimbabwe’s independence “was won through blood”.

The youths and veterans of the country’s 1970s independence war would spearhead ZANU PF’s campaign for next year’s election while the army and police would back the ruling party, according to Manyika.

He said: "We have to gear up for violence against the opposition and we have to silence them at all costs especially here in the home province of our President (Karoi is in Mugabe’s home province of Mashonaland West). We have the army, police on our side and let’s teach them lessons that this country was won through blood."

War veterans and the youth militias have been the centrepiece of Mugabe and ZANU PF’s electioneering machine since 2000, unleashing violence, terror and murder against MDC supporters to ensure victory for the ruling party.

On the other hand, the army and police have been accused of either aiding ZANU PF youth militias or war veterans in committing violence against government opponents or simply turning a blind eye.

At least a hundred MDC activists have been killed during political violence since 2000.

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