Thursday, June 26, 2008

One day until the elections

One day until the elections and then -- who knows? Anything could happen now.

Yesterday Lou and I followed a truck full of riot police -- a huge, military green truck with a double-sided bench running down the middle, although only ten or so police in their blue helmets with batons and shields. We followed them to the South African embassy, where several hundred people whose rural homes had been burned by ZANU PF were protesting. As soon as the riot police showed up, though, the embassy opened its gates and let everyone in. That was how things stood for a while, so we went home, but this morning there were police roadblocks all along the road to the embassy, stopping and searching cars. We were waved through, and saw that the people were still sitting in the embassy parking lot in a standoff with the police. Who knows what will come of them? If the embassy kicks them out, the riot police will beat them and torture them; but they're all Zimbabwean citizens, so it's a bit tricky for the embassy to keep them indefinitely. Interesting times, as Tafadzwa is always saying.

I met Arnold Tsunga -- the founder of ZLHR -- yesterday. It was a big surprise to find him in the office, as he's been in exile in Zurich for years. Apparently he sneaks into Zimbabwe occasionally when big things are happening. I told him I hadn't expected to meet him; he asked if I was keeping my head down and staying off the radar; I said It's hard to tell with radar, but I hope I'm not on it -- I'd be more worried about myself if I were you; he laughed and said Personally, I'd be more worried about you, my friend. Then he gave me some chocolate from Switzerland.

Tongai got back from his week off last night. He said it was terrible -- that every night militias came to his house and forced him to go to ZANU PF rallies. Same story as always: they make speeches, chant slogans, publicly beat MDC supporters. They keep a list of who attends each night, and beat up anyone who misses. They also stop people and demand to know last night's slogan, things like "Total Independence, Total Control;" or "Robert Gabriel in the office, Tsvangirai at the gate;" or "Total Empowerment." Everyone in the countryside wears ZANU PF bandannas and t-shirts or carries ZANU PF flags or puts ZANU PF stickers on their cars (if they have them).

I had a conversation with one of our lawyers yesterday after work -- his father, who must be at least sixty or seventy years old was beaten up for the second time on Friday for supporting MDC. Now he's in hiding with his son, unable to go the hospital for fear of being arrested again.

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