'torture camps' churn-out 18000 youths
ZIMBABWE has admitted to training over 18000 youths under its controversial
national youth service programme, the subject of a recent storm after
a BBC documentary said children were being brainwashed and turned into
largely confirms details of a BBC investigation which said President
Robert Mugabe's regime had set up secret camps across the country in
which thousands of youths are taught how to torture and kill his opponents.
In accounts gathered by BBC Panorama programme “dozens of youths”
claimed rape and torture within the training camps were commonplace.
The government insists the training centres are purely for job training
but its opponents say they are a grand plan to brainwash young children
and keep President Mugabe in power.
Responding to questions by MDC defence secretary Giles Mutsekwa, outgoing
Youth Development Minister Elliot Manyika revealed at least 18180 youths
had undergone training between 2001 and December last year.
Manyika said most of them had been employed in several government ministries,
immediately raising questions whether the youths’ basic military
training prepared them for employment by government departments.
are churned out by six training centres dotted across the country, namely
Border Gezi in Mashonaland Central, Guyu in Matabeleland South, Mushagashe
in Masvingo, Dadaya in Midlands, Kamativi in Matabeleland North and
Vumba in Manicaland.
reports say the government plans to widen recruitment by setting up
more centres in Mashonaland East and West, Harare and Bulawayo expected
to be operational this year.
The BBC said thousands had been brutalised to ensure their loyalty.
"In their training camps the Zimbabwean government is subjecting
thousands of innocent youths to rape, brainwashing and brutality,"
it said in a statement about the programme. "It is all part of
a horrific process designed to mould youths loyal to Robert Mugabe and
his ZANU party."
Mugabe's supporters and security forces have clashed in recent years
with opponents from the Movement for Democratic Change, which has emerged
as the most potent challenge to Mugabe in 24 years of rule.
The BBC's Africa reporter, Hilary Andersson, said the programme team
and human rights groups had interviewed almost 100 former camp youths
for the Panorama documentary, "Secrets of the Camps".
Around 50 percent of the girls said they were regularly raped in the
camps. One, Debbie, said she was raped nightly for six months after
being forced into a camp aged 20, and contracted HIV and fell pregnant
before fleeing to South Africa.
"Youths testified to being taught how to torture with electricity,
or by hanging victims upside down and lowering their heads into buckets
of water below until they nearly drown," Andersson wrote in Britain's
She said a former Youth Ministry official had confirmed that killings
and hit lists were discussed openly at ministry meetings, and a camp
commander interviewed said youths from his camp had been sent out to
kill opponents of the government.
Andersson said six large camps housed thousands of Zimbabweans aged
11 to 30. An estimated 50,000 youths had already passed through the
camps, and Mugabe wanted to make the training compulsory for all young
Zimbabweans in a bid to help him secure victory in parliamentary elections
Mugabe, accused by the opposition and several Western countries of rigging
the 2002 presidential polls, rejects charges that his mismanagement
is to blame for Zimbabwe's critical shortages of food, fuel and foreign
Instead, the former guerrilla leader, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence
from Britain in 1980, accuses Western powers of seeking his overthrow
because of his seizure of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution
to landless blacks.
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