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After Months Of Violence, Zimbabwean Society In Grip Of Fear

Critics of the government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at one time used to make references to George Orwell’s novel “Animal Farm.” But now a more appropriate reference according to some observers is the author's grim “1984,” in which Big Brother exercises total control over a subdued population through the mechanism of fear.

Political analysts say fear is the predominant emotion in Zimbabwean society today: fear of political violence, fear of being identified as a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and thus being targeted for punishment, even death.

Nongovernmental organizations and even church leaders are pulling back in the face of mounting governmental pressure.

In addition there has been a proliferation of informants, making many Zimbabweans afraid of each other, for fear that criticism of the government might be reported to the authorities or, worse, the ZANU-PF militia, leading to abduction, torture and possibly death.

Harare observers say society is deeply traumatized and that there is need for national healing to help it recover from the shock of the wave of violence since March 29 elections.

For a closer look at the fear factor in today’s Zimbabwe, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to torture survivor and political activist Charles Mutama, now exiled in the United States, and Mulugeta Abai, executive director of the Canadian Center For Victims of Torture, who said the Mugabe government is using violence to retain power.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...