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Mapping Terror in Zimbabwe

Each icon represents a single case of violence; the pin colours identify the perpetrator groups involved in the incident. Over 1,000 cases of political violence and intimidation, carried out after the March 29th elections, are represented on this map.

They came to our home at 8.00pm and took us to their base and beat us throughout the night. They kept us without anything to eat for the next day then they gave us a final beating at the end of the second day and let us go. There were youths and war vets. (Victim testimony)

On March 29th 2008 Zimbabweans went to the polls and changed history. For the first time since Independence in 1980, the Zanu PF party lost its majority in parliament and Robert Mugabe lost the Presidential vote. The Zanu PF regime immediately embarked on a campaign of violence and reprisal attacks against an unarmed peaceful civilian population. Images of brutalised people accompanied by video testimony from the victims has been viewed around the world instilling horror in all those who have seen it.

Sokwanele has mapped a sample of the cases based on recorded first hand testimony from victims, and the interactive map so far bears witness to over 1,000 confirmed experiences of terror and intimidation. The map can be viewed on our website at this url: http://www.sokwanele.com/map/electionviolence.

We have to stress that this map reflects only a sample of the cases of violence in Zimbabwe. The experiences here represent those people who have found a way out of the areas where they were being persecuted to find assistance, or it reflects those who have managed to find someone that they have been able to report their experience to. Their stories, on this map, come from a variety of sources who have carefully recorded their testimony: we thank those people for sharing their records with us towards the development of this map.

It is a sad truth that there are many more Zimbabweans who have NOT found a way to testify to what has happened to them, so their experiences are not represented on this map. We ask when you explore the mapped information - and read the data and reports and watch the video testimony provided alongside the map - that you keep in mind the many people whose voices are still unheard.

Accountability

On Monday this week (and a short ten days before the Presidential run-off election) the international media carried reports that Robert Mugabe has been publically threatening to arrest the MDC leadership. Referring to the political violence at a rally in Kadoma on Monday, Robert Mugabe said "There is now a pattern across the country that has to stop". He said:

Sooner rather than later we are going to accuse the MDC and the party leadership of being liable and responsible for those crimes of violence [...] We are telling them we will arrest you in broad daylight [...]

Zimbabwean supporters of both political parties know that blaming the MDC party for the violence is simply not true. The violence has been so extensive that the whole country has been drawn into it and everyone knows who the perpetrators are and who the victims are. We also all know that the root cause for the violence is because an unpopular party is in the final stages of losing power through a skewed democratic process. In addition to the undeniable grassroots reality of all our experiences, there have also been a range of reports written by independant organisations clearly pointing out that the first-hand testimony of victims has over and over again placed responsibility for the acts of violence against them in the hands of people allied to the ruling elite or carrying out instructions issued by those currently steering Zanu PF through the electoral process. The media too has provided extensive coverage of a violent rampage against a civilian population.

This fact is supported by the testimony used in the construction of the Sokwanele violence map as well. Using the information provided in witness testimony, we have colour-coded the map icons to represent the perpetrator groups involved in the crimes committed against them.

The colour wash of icons across the map clearly shows that the violence is state-orchestrated. The shades of green represent perpetrators allied to the Zanu PF party, the blues reflect cases where the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) have been involved, and the red icons highlight violent acts carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).

The interactive map allows viewers to focus on acts of violence by location, showing which perpetrator groups were most active by area. The sample we have mapped so far shows that Harare, for example, has a strong army involvement in the violence, whereas the violence in Mashonaland East province appears to have been dominated by the Zanu PF youth militia. One explanation could be that the Zanu PF party is forced to use state instruments in MDC strongholds, while they can resort to youth militia and supporters in the Zanu PF strongholds.

We have provided links to reports offering more comprehensive analysis and interpretation alongside the map as well.

Post-election violence or pre-election violence?

This map is as much about post-election violence following the March 29th elections as it is about establishing the pre-election context for the forthcoming Presidential run-off ballot due to be held very soon on the 27th June.

The link between political violence and the Zanu PF regime's struggle for power is indisputable. To this end we have tied the location data provided in victim testimonies to Zimbabwean electoral constituencies.

Each icon opens up to provide a snapshot of information about the case: which constituency and province it occured in, which perpetrator group (or groups) was complicit in the political violence and - very broadly - what happened (assault with a weapon, intimidation, displacement etc). The information bubble also provides a short summary of the results from the March 29th elections, based on the constituency within which the act of violence was carried out, and it provides a link to provincial maps which contextualise each constituency in relation to others in the province.

In addition to this the data has been analysed to highlight the ten consitituencies most affected by violence based on the sample we have mapped. At the time of writing this article, the ten constituencies most affected from our sample of 1300 cases are:

  1. Muzarabani North
  2. Hurungwe North
  3. Mutoko East
  4. Mudzi North
  5. Mt Darwin North
  6. Uzumba
  7. Mutoko North
  8. Maramba-Pfungwe
  9. Muzarabani South
  10. Mudzi West

(This list will automatically adjust and update to reflect the changing story as we add more cases to the map).

Analysis

An analysis section accompanies the map. This section gives a synthesised overview of the testimony data and re-presents it in simple pie chart format. The pie charts summarise the cases represented in our sample by the numbers of cases per province, by perpetrator groups involved in the violence, and by the different criminal acts of violence carried out against the victims (e.g. assault with a weapon, strangulation etc).

The Sokwanele map of terror currently represents a sample of more than 1,000 cases of violence but we plan to keep adding more cases to the map as time goes on. The charts and summarised information will all be updated accordingly. Please visit the map to see the information it contains, but keep coming back as we update and add more.

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