Page last updated at 09:25 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 10:25 UK

Zimbabwe victim: 'I wailed in pain'

"Tendai" with bandages on his arms in hospital

Zimbabwean shopkeeper Tendai is being treated in private clinic in the capital, Harare, after being beaten up and tortured a week ago.

As the country awaits the results of presidential elections held on 29 March, he was accused of being a supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

He told the BBC about his ordeal. We have changed his name for his own safety.

They stormed into my shop I was renting, around 2100 [1900 GMT] on 11th April - I was fast asleep when a loud bang on the door woke me up.

After burning my hands and back, I fainted

To my horror a group of about 40 Zanu-PF [ruling party] supporters had broken in.

Everything took me by surprise. The beatings began.

I was operating the business in Mashonaland East province, a Zanu-PF stronghold.

For years I have battled to keep my business afloat, given the economic hardships.

It's difficult to source basic commodities and villagers, with their meagre earnings, can't buy much to survive.

I am only 22 years old, but had already ventured into private business at my tender age as I only went as far as 'O' level education.

The shop serviced the rural community well and I never imagined that one day my usual customers would be overcome by greed.

But Zanu-PF militias, in political anger, turned against my business.


That day, when they got into my bedroom, inside the shopping complex, I was beaten all over my body with logs, iron bars and clenched fists.

"Tendai" with bandages on his arms in hospital
The war veterans are gods, feared in the villages

I could hardly identify them, everything was happening under the cover of darkness.

They shouted that I was a good-for-nothing MDC activist, out to effect a regime change.

They even doubted that I could run a shop, given my age.

They said I got the money from the MDC, through its British sponsors. Of course, that's not true.

After being subjected to thorough beatings that lasted until the early hours of the morning, something that I never imagined took place.

That was a sad ghastly side of human nature. I want to believe for now, it never happened.

They took dry grass from nearby, burnt it, and placed my hands above the flame for about three minutes.

I wailed, howled in pain, and many in the surrounding homesteads could hear my voice.

But they could do nothing to help.

The war veterans are gods, feared in the villages.

The situation is on edge in the whole constituency.

After burning my hands and back, I fainted.

Few drugs

They broke all the windows at the shop and ransacked it. I lost everything.

But this is the same shop that's been supporting them with basic food commodities all these years. It's like biting the hand that fed them.

Here we are suffering, being tortured, for making a political choice someone believes is wrong

They left me lying helpless, beside my shop. Broken windows, a terrible remainder of my broken existence.

I experienced an indescribable pain. Luckily I am still single. My children should not have witnessed this horror.

The police came early morning and took me to the closest hospital.

There were hardly any drugs, just a few painkillers, the nurses told us.

MDC officials then came and offered emergency vehicles to take us to Harare.

I can't sleep, and I always have nightmares. I'm in deep pain.

I always wonder if I will ever operate my business again. I also doubt if I will ever set foot in the area again.

Where will I get the money to start my business all over again? It bothers me a lot.

'Forgive and forget?'

They may use violence, but the people have memories.

It will take time for us to forgive and forget.

History will judge some of these people harshly

We always wonder why our government turned against its own people.

Twenty-eight years after independence, it seemed unimaginable these things would ever happen.

But here we are suffering, being tortured, for making a political choice someone believes is wrong.

But the [election] campaigns had been peaceful.

I believe the establishment is generating more enemies than friends because of these indiscriminate acts of violence: history will judge some of these people harshly.

They should take a hard look in the mirror.

If it was me subjecting my tormentors' children in this brutal fashion, how would they feel in their sleep?

They need to interrogate themselves because history repeats itself.


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