UK
28/07/2013 16:32 BST | Updated 29/07/2013 09:18 BST

Zimbabwe's Elections: Has Robert Mugabe Changed? (EXCLUSIVE SECRET VIDEO)

The violent political crisis surrounding the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe garnered a storm of coverage across the globe.

President Robert Mugabe's supporters were said to have led a reign of terror against supporters of the opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, including rape, torture, and forced disappearance, ultimately leading Tsvangirai to quit the race.

Amnesty International reported 200 deaths, with 12,000 tortured and 28,000 driven from their homes during the clashes.

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Outgoing Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe delivers a speech to launch his re-election campaign

Even after his success in the election, his Zanu-PF party continued the violence. But since the successful establishment of the unity government with his rival Tsvangirai installed as prime minister, the rhetoric has changed around Zimbabwe.

This year, as the July 31 election looms, there have been no such graphic reports of intimidation and torture.

With the now 89-year-old Mugabe again challenging his old rival Tsvangarai in a tight race, it is possible Western politicians will begin to adopt a more nuanced approach to the once pariah leader, should he succeed.

But Zimbabwean human rights groups argue that the violent language, threats and the intimidation still pervade. In a video shown to the Huffington Post UK, Zanu-PF organisers lead songs describing the beating and torturing of opponents.

In films of rallies recorded by activists in Zimbabwe over the past year - activists The Huffington Post UK has agreed not to name - supporters of Mugabe sing: "Zanu PF can torture you anytime, the youths can beat you." Another chant goes: "This country is ruled by Gushungo [Mugabe]. If you oppose it, we cut off your head."

The film captures one MP saying if you "provoke Zanu PF, it will destroy you."

One opposition supporter at Mataga Growth Point, Mberengwa, said that earlier this year he was beaten up by soldiers and threatened with a gun, breaking his neck and spinal cord.

Another clip captures a pastor at a church in Nyamapanda preaching that supporters of MDC would go to hell.

Amnesty International said in a report this month that "while the levels of violence over the past year leading to these elections have remained low, Amnesty International has documented systematic clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly."

"Although President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai have made public statements urging their supporters to be tolerant and desist from violent conduct, such statements have not been followed by concrete steps to specifically take action against perpetrators of human rights violations," the report continued.

"As a result, people on the ground perceive the statements to be nothing more than just public relations rhetoric."

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Posters for President Robert Mugabe are covered with graffiti for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2008

On Saturday, the man who could be the seventh-time president of Zimbabwe castigated US President Barack Obama and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu over their support for gay rights. "Man can marry man, woman can marry woman. Never, never, never. When bishops cannot interpret the Bible properly they should resign and leave it to those who can.

"You just know you're a man through the physical talents that were given to you by the Almighty.

“If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads.

"This thing (homosexuality) seeks to destroy our lineage by saying John and John should wed, Maria and Maria should wed... Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice... We will never do that.”

Tsvangirai on Friday told the Associated Press he is deeply disturbed by chaotic preparations for the elections. He said the state election commission appeared not to be ready for Wednesday's vote.

"The credibility of this election is at risk. The chaos will lead to inconclusive and contested results," he said.

Douglas Mwonzora, Secretary for Information and Publicity at the MDC told HuffPost that Mugabe's supporters were still prepared to assassinate opponents. "Mugabe will stop at nothing to suppress those that speak out against corruption," he wrote.

"From the beginning, I believe Mr Mugabe has cowardly attempted to veil state-sponsored murders as car wrecks. Zimbabweans are not that naïve. May July 31 send an unmistakable message to the regime that corruption and violence will no longer be allowed to rule the land."