MDC under siege

HARARE – Zanu PF supporters and suspected intelligence officers yesterday sealed off President Robert Mugabe’s home area, where Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC was due to hold a rally.

The MDC is making vicious inroads in Mugabe’s home province ahead of elections which might take place next year.

The “militia” reacted harshly to the MDC’s forays in the area and used violence to stop a rally scheduled to be addressed by Finance minister and party secretary-general Tendai Biti at Murombedzi Growth Point.

The venue is a stone’s throw from Mugabe’s home in Zvimba’s Kutama area, Mashonaland West Province.

Eleven MDC officials and supporters, including the district chairperson, were critically injured and their vehicles vandalised after clashes that erupted following attempts to seal off the area, the MDC said yesterday.

This comes at a time when the 88-year-old leader is preparing for watershed elections that could be his last.

“They think we should not go into Mugabe’s bedroom,” Biti told the Daily News yesterday. “Zimbabwe is free, Zimbabwe is not owned by anyone. We are going to re-strategise and come back.”

This is the second MDC rally to be interrupted by Zanu PF supporters and suspected security forces in the same province in eight days.

Soldiers ran amok last week and tore posters, brought down tents and threatened MDC officials at Darwendale Stadium, forcing Biti and MDC supporters to flee into a nearby bush. The soldiers burnt the bush as they pursued the MDC supporters.

They were at it again yesterday.

While chief police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena was unreachable for comment yesterday, a letter seen by the Daily News from the officer commanding Makonde district police, a chief superintendent I. Makuvaza to the MDC district organising secretary Wilson Makanyaire, reads: “You are advised that your notification (to hold a rally) has been approved and you can go ahead as scheduled. You are being further advised to ensure that peace, law and order prevails before, during and after the intended political meeting. Thank you for advising us.”

Despite the police clearance, Zanu PF militia provocatively played soccer in the venue, banning the public from gathering near the square.

Residents said an undeclared curfew had been imposed and the Murombedzi Growth Point grounds appeared to be under siege as dozens of security personnel and Zanu PF militia was deployed to block the rally.

Defiant MDC activists engaged the Zanu PF supporters in a clash that left 11 critically injured.

Makanyaire said the Zanu PF shock troops, led by a retired major Mutimusakwa, Emmanuel Tandi, a reported CIO informer and aspiring Zanu PF MP, Sister Yondo and councillor Maggie Hoshiki chanted  Zanu PF slogans and sang liberation war revolutionary songs.

Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo could neither deny nor confirm the development.

“I am in Harare. I would not know what happened in Murombedzi,” Gumbo told the  Daily News.

“But the position of the party is that we do not support violence, we want people to organise rallies as long as they can get police clearance.”

Biti said they were forced to call off the rally fearing for their safety. He alleged the hand of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

“Chakabvondoka (All hell has broken loose),” Biti said. “We went to the venue, it is totally sealed off. We think it is the CIO. Serious violence has started and 11 guys have been beaten up. I was supposed to address the rally but the situation is tense. If we hold a rally, we will put people’s lives at risk.”

Branding the action “fascist”, a defiant Biti added: “We will not cower, we will not stop, and we will make a tactical retreat because we are not into adventurism.

“The people are a market place; every party must sell its ideas to the people. But there is one party which has nothing to sell and have resorted to closing political space.”

A fuming Biti said Zimbabwe needed greater civil liberties and denounced the use of brute force to prevent the MDC from having the rally.

“We are nowhere near a credible election,” Biti said. “Last week they burnt us like rats at Darwendale. As I am talking to you, 11 people have been viciously beaten.” – Daily News