Zimbabweans removed from South Africa embassy attacked

July 8th, 2008 - 12:55 am ICT by IANS  

Harare, July 7 (DPA) More than 350 people, who had sought santury in the South African embassy here from the political violence, were attacked early Monday at a government camp, where they had been relocated. About 20 men in military fatigues and balaclavas carrying shotguns burst in on the refugees at the state rehabilitation camp near the village of Ruwa about 30 km east of Harare, where they had been assured last month by the South African embassy they would be secure, said eyewitnesses.

Eight people, three of them women, had to be taken to hospital after beatings, while 14 young men, the group’s own unarmed sentries were missing said Tangai Takarusa their spokesman.

“We have no place to go,” he said. “Maybe someone will take us to Mars. Maybe we will feel safe there.”

The 354 refugees at Ruwa were displaced from their homes in northern Zimbabwe by a countrywide wave of state-backed militia violence against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) before the June 27 presidential run-off election.

The violence caused MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of the run-off, leaving President Robert Mugabe to sweep up a controversial sixth term in power uncontested.

The group had been sheltering at Harvest House, the MDC’s headquarters in Harare, last month when police raided the building.

Most were able to flee and make their way to the South African embassy’s car park.

After spending nearly five days in the open in midwinter, they were finally provided with food, water, sanitation, tents, blankets and mats by local non-governmental organisations.

On June 27, they were moved again by Zimbabwe authorities, with the agreement of the South African embassy, after obtaining assurances they would be protected by police.

But at about midnight Sunday, men in military fatigues and shotguns appeared in the gallery of the squash court where the 137 men in the group were staying, said Takarusa.

“It was pandemonium, people were screaming. These men were beating people with the butts of their guns and kicking them.”

The lone policeman on duty hadn’t responded to the outcry, he added.

The group fled into the bush, returning only at first light to discover eight of their number had been injured.

The MDC repeated Monday it would not recognize Mugabe as president.

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