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Inside Mugabe's Violent Crackdown

Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, Zimbabwe's military chief, right, congratulates President Robert Mugabe at the swearing-in Sunday. It was Chiwenga's reelection plan, with a military-style campaign against the opposition, that Mugabe rode to victory.
Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, Zimbabwe's military chief, right, congratulates President Robert Mugabe at the swearing-in Sunday. It was Chiwenga's reelection plan, with a military-style campaign against the opposition, that Mugabe rode to victory. (By Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi -- Associated Press)
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He was also listed as a member of Mugabe's presidential guard.

Terror Brings Results

The death toll mounted through May, and almost all of the fatalities were opposition activists. Tsvangirai's personal advance man, Tonderai Ndira, 32, was abducted and killed. Police in riot gear raided opposition headquarters in Harare, arresting hundreds of families that had taken refuge there.

Even some of Mugabe's stalwarts grew uneasy, records of the meetings show.

Vice President Joice Mujuru, wife of former guerrilla commander Solomon Mujuru and a woman whose ferocity during the guerrilla war of the 1970s earned her the nickname Spill Blood, warned the ruling party's politburo in a May 14 meeting that the violence might backfire. Notes from that and other meetings, as well as interviews with participants, make clear that she was overruled repeatedly by Chiwenga, the military head, and by former security chief Emerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, 61, earned his nickname in the mid-1980s overseeing the so-called Gukurahundi, when a North Korea-trained army brigade slaughtered thousands of people in a southwestern region where Mugabe was unpopular. From then on, Mnangagwa was known as the Butcher of Matabeleland.

The ruling party turned to Mnangagwa to manage Mugabe's runoff campaign after first-round results, delayed for five weeks, showed Tsvangirai winning but not with the majority needed to avoid a second round.

The opposition, however, had won a clear parliamentary majority.

In private briefings to Mugabe's politburo, Mnangagwa expressed growing confidence that the violence was doing its job, according to records of the meetings. After Joice Mujuru raised concerns about the brutality in the May 14 meeting, Mnangagwa said only, "Next agenda item," according to written notes and a party official who witnessed the exchange.

At a June 12 politburo meeting at party headquarters, Mnangagwa delivered another upbeat report.

According to one participant, he told the group that growing numbers of opposition activists in Mashonaland Central, Matabeleland North and parts of Masvingo province had been coerced into publicly renouncing their ties with Tsvangirai. Such events were usually held in the middle of the night, and featured the burning of opposition party cards and other regalia.

Talk within the ruling party began predicting a landslide victory in the runoff vote, less than three weeks away.

Mugabe's demeanor also brightened, said some of those who attended the meeting. Before it began, he joked with both Mnangagwa and Joice Mujuru.


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