The ruling party in Zimbabwe has a detailed plan to murder opposition polling agents, bomb polling stations and march the electorate to the ballot box under armed guard to ensure an emphatic victory for Robert Mugabe in tomorrow's uncontested presidential run-off.
Minutes of a meeting of the regime's top security officials, the Joint Operations Command (JOC), seen by The Independent, outline the ruthless strategy which appears to be going ahead regardless of the withdrawal of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from the race.
The notes, leaked from a JOC meeting late last week, include instructions to kill opposition MPs, for death squads to stuff ballot boxes in rural areas and the prevention of any rallies by the opposition. Detailed instructions were included on how to rig the vote: "Voters in a ward should surrender their IDs to the village head, and have their names taken down. On the day of voting, the respective village heads should queue outside the polling station with each member [voter] with a respective number. Each voter shall profess ignorance of the ability to write on his/her own... agents in the polling stations will be helping in marking X.
"Many opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MPs have been forced into hiding and several more were seeking to cross the border last night after learning of execution orders given to death squads. "War veterans have been instructed to kill all the MDC mps [sic] working in cahoots with the Army and the CIO [Central Intelligence Organisation]," the minutes recorded. "Every mp [sic] shall not tread the ground or the soils of his constituency.
"The MDC's decision to boycott the presidential run-off in the hope of exposing the election-rigging and calming the terror campaign appears to have been ignored, raising fears that the violence unleashed to keep the present regime in office is out of control.
The terror campaign in Zimbabwe is already estimated to have claimed up to 500 lives and is being described as a "politicide" - a deliberate and systematic attempt to wipe out an entire political class. "This is the deliberate targeting of people in political structures, going to the extent of killing them," said the opposition senator and human rights lawyer, David Coltart. "This is systematic and widespread with an intent that goes beyond the election n to permanently cripple the MDC.
"With the military in effective control of the country, armed militia have been let loose on the civilian population. With army support, gangs of ruling party thugs sweep through villages at night, killing, torturing and raping MDC supporters. Murder and torture victims have routinely had their ears, lips and sexual organs cut off, doctors report.
The conditions in the country have prompted the international monitors, Genocide Watch, to give the country a "Stage 6" listing n the final preparation stage ahead of political mass murder. Zanu-PF militia attacked the rural home of a MDC official, Elias Mudzuri , on Tuesday night, razing the village to the ground. The former mayor of Harare's 80-year-old father was badly injured in the attack and two other relatives were shot and wounded.
Elsewhere, in Chiredzi in the south-east of the country, four farm workers were executed by a death squad. News of the murders, which occurred last week, only emerged yesterday after a fifth man who survived was able to describe the attack to his brother. Six men were apparently forced to lay face down on the ground before being shot twice, once in the head. The witness only survived after pretending to be dead when the bullet passed into the ground through his cheek.
The ruling party's monopoly of state media has left the opposition struggling to get word of the boycott of tomorrow's vote to supporters. In the opposition stronghold of Bulawayo yesterday, MDC posters still called on voters to make a final effort tomorrow. The terror campaign has displaced the economic crisis from the headlines but food queues throughout Zimbabwe's second city served as a reminder of the daily hardships faced by ordinary people.
At one store selling mealie-meal for porridge, shoppers stood in line for hours while ruling party supporters were freely given sacks of maize. One man who confronted a local Zanu party member organising the giveaway said: "I told them this is not right you cannot do this, there are people waiting." What followed was a brief lesson in the political realities of a country where starvation is being used as a tool to enforce party loyalty. "After I made a noise, she told me that they would save a sack for me. I said: 'What about the others?' And she told me: 'No just for you.'"