This documentary shows us stories about people like Tonderai Ndira was a shrewd choice for assassination: young, courageous and admired. Kill him and fear would pulse through a thousand spines. He was an up-and-comer in Zimbabwe’s opposition party, a charismatic figure with a strong following in the Harare slums where he lived.
There were rumors his name was on a hit list. For weeks he hid out, but his wife, Plaxedess, desperately pleaded with him to come home for a night. He slipped back to his family on May 12.
The five killers pushed through the door soon after dawn, as Ndira, 30, slept and his wife made porridge for their two children. He was wrenched from his bed, roughed up and stuffed into the back seat of a double-cab Toyota pickup. “They’re going to kill me,” he cried, Plaxedess said.
As the children watched from the door, two men sat on his back, a gag was shoved in his mouth and his head was yanked upward, a technique of asphyxiation later presumed in a physician’s post-mortem to be the cause of death. A presidential runoff, scheduled for Friday, was cast into doubt when the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Sunday that he would not take part because anyone who voted for him would be at risk of being killed.
“We will no longer participate in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process,” Tsvangirai said.
In the morbid and sinister weeks recently passed, there has been a calculated campaign of bloodletting meant to intimidate the opposition and strip it of some of its most valuable foot soldiers. Even as hundreds of election observers from neighboring countries were deployed across Zimbabwe in the past few days, the gruesome killings and beatings of opposition figures continued.
The body of the wife of Harare’s newly chosen mayor was found Wednesday, her face so badly bashed in that even her own brother only recognized her by her brown corduroy skirt and plaited hair. On Thursday, the bodies of four opposition activists turned up after they had been abducted by men shouting ruling party slogans.
The strategic killing of activists and their families has deprived the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, not only of its stalwarts but hundreds of other essential workers who have fled while reasonably supposing they will be next.
At least 85 activists and supporters of the party have been killed, according to civic group tallies, including several operatives who, while little known outside Zimbabwe, were mainstays within it. They were thorns in the side of the government, frequently in and out of jail, bold enough to campaign in the no-go areas where the party of Robert Mugabe – the 84-year-old liberation hero who has run the nation for nearly three decades – previously faced little competition.
“They’re targeting people who are unknown, because cynically they know they can get away with it,” said David Coltart, an opposition senator.