Mugabe men 'use rape as revenge'
By Christina Lamb in Manicaland
Hundreds of girls as young as 12 are being raped or forcibly kept as concubines in rural Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe's youth militia as part of a campaign that human-rights lawyers have branded "systematic political cleansing" of the population.
"They are raping on a massive scale," said Frances Lovemore, a counsellor at the Harare-based Amani Trust which monitors torture. "Girls as young as 12 or 13 are being systematically taken and used and abused because of their families' political views."
The organisation is compiling video evidence that it hopes to use to help to bring Mr Mugabe to trial at the international court of human rights. An investigation by The Telegraph found that rape camps had been set up for youth militia and riot police in rural areas.
Victims living in hiding related how they had been gang-raped by police and self-styled war veterans, and had their genitals burnt with iron rods. They said that they had been abused in revenge for their parents not supporting Mr Mugabe, 78, in the presidential poll in March.
Other opponents of the government were badly beaten. As a final indignity, in a land where half the population is on the verge of starvation, victims claimed that militia members often urinated on the family food.
A former militia member recounted how he and others were instructed to attack wives and daughters of opposition sympathisers.
Human rights activists believe that this is part of a programme to drive out, kill or terrify into submission all those who oppose the president. Didymus Mutasa, the of Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF, has even spoken of halving the population to six million.
Details of the violence have emerged as world attention focuses on Mr Mugabe's campaign to evict white farmers while famine threatens.
Critics say the land reform programme is a cover for his war on opposition. "This isn't about race or land, it's about a political tyrant who wants to kill, break down and cripple all opposition," said Roy Bennett, a farmer who is an MP in Manicaland, eastern Zimbabwe, for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.