Zanu-PF enlists the help of the spirit world
After failing to defeat them on an earthly plane, Zanu-PF activists in Mashonaland Central have turned to spiritual warfare against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They are using a mixture of fear and superstition to punish those who voted for Morgan Tsvangirai in this year's elections.
MDC supporters in Mbire constituency told me that many are now living in terror, as spirit mediums harass them for joining the opposition. This is particularly prevalent in Ward 16, where in March local voters overturned three decades of Zanu-PF dominance.
In this case the mediums are a group of three women and two men, all of them believed to be at least 60 years old. They are from neighbouring Mozambique, and each year they visit Mbire, normally performing rituals to bring rains and a good harvest. But this year their mission is political.
Few are willing to talk about what is happening, but Ward 16 MDC councillor Derrick Nhawu confirmed the rumours I had heard.
"The spirit mediums accuse us of conniving with some other evil forces to cause all the misfortunes that befell Zanu-PF in March," he said. "People are threatened with mysterious death, and told they will bring misfortune on their families."
jA villager described to me how the rainmakers, as they are known, would organise a local gathering, as if about to perform a traditional dance. But this time their real target would be a known local supporter of MDC.
Once the ceremony began they would be seen to spit in the direction of the target's home, shout his name, and pretend to be possessed by spirits, forecasting death and misfortune, and speaking in "tongues".
They are sometimes said to offer to exorcise their victim of the evil spirits which have taken over his soul, in return for payment of cows and goats.
"We have reported the matter to the local police," said the villager, "but they will do nothing. They tell us they are afraid to act. We think they are just as afraid of the rainmakers as we are."