Wave of violence rocks Harare

About 200 members of the Movement for Democratic Change of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai sought refuge Monday at the party's Harare headquarters alleging that ZANU-PF youth were hunting them in the capital's Mbare suburb.

The development followed violence this weekend in Mbare and Budiriro where members of the MDC said ZANU-PF youth backed by police and soldiers assaulted them.

Tsvangirai MDC Harare Province Secretary Tsaurai Marima told Patience Rusere of VOA that the situation in the Harare suburb is tense and violence is likely to erupt again.

Human rights activists surveying the violence said this and other incidents are of concern because such clashes, usually rural-based, are moving into urban areas.

Ronald Mureverwi, spokesman for the nongovernmental organization Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe, said increased violence in cities signals a change in the culture of violence. He said human rights organizations have long been urging the coalition government to restructure security agencies in Zimbabwe.

Elsewhere on Monday, 19 members of the Tsvangirai MDC arrested during Sunday’s skirmishes in Mbare for allegedly committing public violence were denied bail and remanded to custody in Harare magistrates court.

Another 14 other MDC supporters from Budiriro, facing the same charges, were fined US$20 apiece and released.

Dozens of MDC supporters were injured, some of them seriously, in a wave of weekend violence that saw gangs of ZANU PF youths rampaging through the capital.

William Mukuwari, the MDC Budiriro district youth treasurer, is recovering in hospital after he was shot in the leg and assaulted by the youth militia.

The surge in politically motivated violence comes barely a week after the MDC secretary-general, Tendai Biti, warned that Zimbabwe could face a ‘bloodbath’ at elections this year if the international community does not help to prevent the crisis.
‘The tell-tale signs are already there that you could have another bloodbath,’ said Biti in Johannesburg, South Africa last week. The latest crackdown on the MDC began late last week when ZANU PF mobilised and bussed in youths from as far away as Gutu, Tsholotsho, Shamva and Bindura, into Harare, to demonstrate against the so-called maize slashing by the Harare City council.

Since the beginning of the year MDC activists have once again been targeted by ZANU PF mobs carrying logs, stones and at times guns, as Robert Mugabe’s party ‘go for broke’ to try to reclaim lost ground from the 2008 electoral defeat.

Incidents of politically related chaos and violence have continued to rock the country since the autocratic Mugabe announced his determination to hold elections this year.  

With his ZANU PF party in shambles and opinion polls suggesting a drubbing, there are fears Mugabe will resort to the extreme violence he did two years ago, as he seeks to extend his 30-year rule over a nation wracked by mounting tension as an election draws near.  In 2008 Mugabe retained power after using violence to force MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai to back out of the vote.

MDC-T Senator and deputy Minister of Justice, Obert Gutu, told SW Radio Africa on Monday ZANU PF is rolling out a deliberately planned strategy of mass violence.

‘They know the people will reject them in a free and fair election and that’s why they have decided to embark on a scorched earth policy,’ Gutu said.

Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the attacks were well scripted and choreographed and bore all the hallmarks of ZANU PF’s ‘way of doing business.’

‘ZANU PF has not learnt anything from using violence and they have certainly not forgotten anything using it as a weapon to hang on to power. Without violence they are nothing because they believe in blood while some of us believe in peace,’ Chamisa added.

Harare has largely escaped the worst of the violence over the years but its luck may be running out. A series of attacks during the constitution making process last year and a number of high profile assaults of MDC activists in the first weeks of this year have come as a major source of worry for the party.

‘Since last week I’ve been prevented from visiting my ward and this morning a group of ZANU PF militia tried to torch my car near the Hatcliffe new stands,’ Harare deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto told us when asked about the troubles, which intensified over the weekend.

A statement from the MDC said weekend violence left many of its party supporters injured in this fresh violence sweeping Harare. ZANU PF youths attacked MDC activists in Budiriro, Mbare, Hatcliffe and Chitungwiza.

‘The ZANU PF youth causing havoc in Budiriro are said to be housed by one Mai Hokoyo at her crèche, whilst the soldiers and some of the militia are being hosted at the Rambai Makashinga cooperative, a housing cooperative for soldiers, in Budiriro. The environment there is pretty tense as people are living in fear,’ the MDC said.

The statement went on to say 400 ZANU PF youths besieged the MDC district office in Mbare and assaulted 24 of its youth who guard the premises. Mugabe’s mob allegedly smashed all the windows to the centre and stole three sets of computers and vandalised the office furniture.

During a constituency visit last week MDC-T MP for Mbare, Piniel Denga, was manhandled and slapped in the face by rowdy ZANU PF youths. He escaped unharmed but warned the risk of violence will soon engulf the country if it is not dealt with accordingly.

‘The MDC is extremely concerned by the lack of action by the police, as well as the continued victimisation of the victims when they approach the police stations to report the various forms of assault. What is even more worrying is the fact that in the eyes of the police, any MDC supporter, even if they are victims, qualifies to be a candidate for arrest. It is clear that the repeat of June 2008 in an amplified version is inevitable,’ the MDC statement added. -SW Radio, plus VOA