Eyewitness Zimbabwe - people are pouring out of the country

 Anglican-Information is sending us daily reports from Zimbabwe of intimidation and violence directed against opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) supporters and members. There is a systematic government action to ensure that any run-off election between opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and 'President' Robert Mugabe will produce a 'victory' for Mugabe, despite his overwhelmingly unpopularity. Readers should note that if a new election takes place voters have to return to their home town to cast their choice. The Mugabe government is contriving to prevent voters from doing so. A correspondent writes (3rd May): People are pouring out of the country. Many young blacks (in order to escape the violence and intimidation) are thronging the border posts into Botswana. With a Zimbabwe passport no visa is required for Botswana. Last time many of these refugees hired buses to return home to vote in the March 29 election. The buses were then held up at the border. This time the government have already had five weeks to set up such blocking schemes. The push factor for the few remaining elderly whites is inflation, now estimated at 400,000% (some commentators put the inflation rate at a mere 165,000% although that is simply academic and these Weimar Republic-like levels are crippling everybody - except the ruling elite) - They just cannot make ends meet. Bread last week was 35 million a loaf. This week it is 70 million. This group also need medications which again, if you can get them, are very expensive. Most health insurances only pay up after six weeks or so. So the pull factor is the NHS. This group are selling their homes and setting off for family in Britain or New Zealand. Many more Africans, especially families of MDC activists, are internally displaced, living in Harare or Bulawayo with relatives. With the huge cost of transport how will they get back home to vote? So the Tsvangirai vote is being very successfully eroded, without actually killing many people. Also worrying is that, with many MDC leaders on the run, there is no one to hold back the MDC Youth. In one or two areas, especially Mudzi, where they have retaliated, the injuries have been the worst. The US Ambassador is keeping records, and reports that the MDC is responsible for about 1 in 10 of the serious injuries. The majority are perpetrated by the army, police or their agents. We hope to be able to worship at ................., Harare, this morning (4 May). Our churchwarden seems confident. Our priest was not held over last week and has promised there will be a service in English today. It may be the last Sunday for one 90 year old who has worshipped at ............... since its foundation 52 years ago. She is going to her daughter in South Africa next month. Please pray particularly for the polling agents, many of whom are being threatened. A headmaster friend, whose school now has resident War Vets and Youth Militia, is one. And another report: Please everyone 'pray against fear'. There is now a concerted effort to attack the schools throughout the rural areas. The message to the teachers is: 'One vote for the MDC in your village and we will kill you.' The headmaster of a rural school not very far from town (we were to go out there today, May 1st, with books and provisions sent from England) rang up on Tuesday evening to say thirty war veterans and youth militia had arrived in the school, and the parents had told him it was not safe to go there. We met the Head in town and took him and the parcels to the room where he is lodging in Chitungwisa. The story was that these people (the so-called war veterans) just arrived to tell the people there must be no more voting for the MDC......or else. They have ordered themselves rooms to lodge in (free of charge for the 'services' they are providing) in the Secondary School next door, and help themselves to any food they can find by banging on village doors. The Heads were told the government has abolished school fees. Fortunately some of the parents have purchased essentials like chalk. Only five of the seventeen teachers turned up for work, but the Head is determined to keep the school open. In Mudzi there has been the greatest violence. One of the Headteachers there campaigned for the MDC and after the election his home was burnt down. He is now in hiding having lost everything except his life. One teacher in that area has been killed.

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