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Mapping Terror in Zimbabwe: How to use the Map

Mapping terror

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 regime immediately embarked on a campaign of violence and reprisal attacks against the civilian population.

This map aims to convey some sense of the scale of the violence and it also tries to locate responsibility in relation to key perpetrator groups.

In addition to this map, we ask that you visit our image gallery to see the images we have collated so far on incidents of political violence since March 29th 2008.

The sidebar alongside the map carries links to reports and sample testimony as well.

Untold stories and experiences

We have to stress that this map bears witness to a sample of the cases of violence in Zimbabwe. The cases here represent those people who have found a way out of the areas where they are being persecuted, those who have managed to find assistance, or have managed to find someone that they have been able to report their experience to.

There are many more Zimbabweans who have NOT found a way to testify to what has happened to them, so their expereinces are not represented on this map.

We therefore ask that while you explore the map and consider the full force of the story it tells for Zimbabweans, and for the background context for the forthcoming presidential run-off election, that you always keep in mind the stories we have not been able to represent to you.

How to use the map

Use the check boxes alongside each icon to display cases of violence by perpetrator group. Doing this means that the spread and concentration of violence carried out primarily by Zanu PF youth militia (for example), or the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), can be highlighted on the map.

Cases represented on the map can also be viewed by province using the drop down menu in the sidebar. The 'count' of cases will adjust accordingly, to tell you how many cases appear in that provincial area.

Clicking on an icon on the map opens up a pop-up bubble with three tabs of information. The first tab summarises incident information on a case by case basis: it will tell you which province and constituency this case occured in; it outlines the perpetrator groups involved in carrying out the violence; and it offers a very broad summary of what happened to the victim .

The second tab provides a snapshot view of the election results from the presidential and parliamentary polls held on the 29th March. These results, and more significantly the Zanu PF regimes failure to secure a victory in either poll, is the precursor for all the violence we have seen in recent months. The final tab provides a link to a provincial map: this will help to contextualise constituencies within the province in relation to each other.

Please note that the map is scaleable and that more and more icons are revealed as you zoom in to closer views. To focus in on an area, double-click anywhere on the map to zoom in, and use the scale in the top left corner to zoom back out. You can also your mouse to click, hold and drag on the map to pan to different locations.

The data

Each icon on this map represents a single confirmed and verified incident of political violence. The data for this map has been shared with us by different sources. We have simplified the information available to us considerably in the production of this map. In actuality, each case has been recorded with extensive information: with victims providing their names and addresses and ID numbers alongside their testimony; and with their testimony often including specifically named perpetrators (more information on why we have not provided more detail here).

Because our data comes from more than one source, we have had to take great care to eliminate duplicate entries and keep the map accurate. On occasions where we are unsure whether an entry was a duplicate or not, we have erred on the side of caution and removed the entry from the map. Similarly, different sources of information have utilised different methods of recording the information. This has meant that the level of detail when it comes to recording locations varies. If we don't know where a case should be located on the map, we have again erred on the side of caution and not included it in our data set.


Each icon is colour coded to identify the main perpetrators of the violence (see the legend underneath the map for full details). The icons that have a white circle in the centre, indicate more than one grouping of perpetrators were involved in the incident, with the main colour of the icon indicating the dominant group responsible. For example, the person may have been assaulted by a group of Zanu-PF supporters accompanied by the army. If their testimony suggests that the Zanu-PF supporters carried out the violence while the army stood by passively, we have used a green icon with a white circle. If however, their testimony indicated that the army coordinated the violence, or was involved in it, we have used a red icon with a circle to show that the army were in control, but that they were supported by other groups.(In this image Zanu PF War Veterans and the ZNA are seen to be primarily responsible for these cases.)

The risk of reprisal attacks

The risk of reprisal attacks is real in Zimbabwe; the development of this map has been informed always by the need for the personal security for the people who have shared their testimony. Although we have extensive information about each case of violence, we have chosen to reveal very little of this on the map in relation to individual cases. Instead, we have developed an analysis page where the data has been broadly summarised into charts.

We have not referred to perpetrator names, nor revealed the details of exactly what happened to the victims. (This video footage from the Solidarity Peace Trust highlights one case where a man who returned to his village was murdered). In many cases a perpetrator's name recurs over and over again. Those who are responsible for these atrocities should therefore be aware that it is not possible to stop the truth coming out and that they face a real risk of being held accountable for their crimes before a court of law.

Care for those who have shared their stories has been extended to the decisions we have taken in relation to the locations as well. In some cases we have been provided with the exact details of where an incident took place - for example, a specific shopping centre in an area, or a school - but we have deliberately not located the icons in exactly the right areas. Viewers of this map cannot conclude that an icon indicates the exact location where an incident of political violence took place; however, they can conclude that the incidents happened within a certain constituency within a province.

Although the map is not precisely accurate to locations, we hope that it still conveys a clear sense of where and how many and which groups of individuals are responsbile for the political violence in Zimbabwe.