By Lance Guma
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The Zanu PF MP for Mudzi West, Aqualinah Katsande easily goes onto the Zimbabwe Wall of Shame. Between April and June 2008 she orchestrated a reign of terror that left many people with terrible stories to tell about her brutality.
According to a detailed dossier Katsande moved around the entire Mudzi district hunting for her victims. “She was present when most heart wrenching punishments were meted out on MDC activists in her constituency.”
Most of her victims either died instantly or a few days later.
After Morgan Tsvangirai’s presidential election victory over Robert Mugabe in March 2008, a run-off was engineered by ZANU PF. Tsvangirai withdrew citing violence and the murder of his supporters.
The one-man run off went ahead anyway and in the build up to that election many opposition activist were targeted.
In Mudzi West Aquilinah and her son George Katsande rose to notoriety.
They teamed up with Bramwell Katsvairo, described by many in the area as a ‘known killer’. On the 6th April 2008 Aqualinah Katsande and Peter Nyakuba, the local ZANU PF councillor, held a rally at Bensen Mine.
Katsande openly declared that all the MDC-T supporters who had campaigned for Tsvangirai in the March 29 election should be assaulted to force them to change allegiance.
“If any of the MDC supporters foolishly resist, kill them all. We have been granted authority by the president to kill MDC supporters,” she said.
According to witnesses, immediately after this rally Zanu PF youths and war vets went on the war path, many MDC supporters were brutally assaulted, homes were destroyed and livestock forcibly taken for food, to feed comrades at the torture bases.
On the 1st June 2008 George Katsande and Tawanda Mazunze, leading a gang of ZANU PF militia, abducted Fianda Katiyo. They took him to Nyahondo torture base using a vehicle provided by Katsande. Katiyo was subjected to terrible torture throughout the night and only released the following morning.
The torture was so serious Katiyo died a week after his release.
Again on the 1st June 2008 Bramwell Katsvairo, in the company of George Katsande and three unknown people, hunted down Tafadzwa Meza after accusing him of transporting MDC-T supporters to rallies using his pickup truck.
After several days they caught up with him at Nyamuyaruka Business centre near Kotwa.
“Meza tried to flee but Katsvairo shot him in the leg. Meza jumped off his truck to hide under some bushes close by as it was getting dark, probably hoping that the killers would not find him. George and the band of killers set Meza’s truck on fire and the resultant light from the flames betrayed his hiding spot,” the dossier says.
The gang dragged Meza’s to their vehicle then took him to the Broken Bridge in the Nyamanyora area. His body was recovered there the following morning. Witnesses reported that George Katsande, using his mother’s gun, had shot Meza at close range, killing him instantly.
Not only did George boast about killing Meza but his mother, Aqualinah Katsande the MP, is said to always use this murder as an example at all her meetings and rallies in Mudzi.
Meza’s mother, who survived a stroke in 2009, said that she is reminded of her son’s murder every time the Katsande’s hold a rally in the area.
On the 6th June 2008 an MDC-T ward official, identified only as DK, was abducted from his home. He was bundled into Katsande’s truck and taken to Nyamanyora base. The people who took part in assaulting him were identified as Nyamaromo, Mangwende, George Katsande and other ZANU PF supporters.
According to the dossier, “They kept on assaulting him for several days before releasing him, he never recovered from the injuries inflicted on him and passed away at his home on the 28th June 2008.”
On the 5th of July 2008 Aqualinah Katsande, in the company of Peter Nyakuba, caught up with Gwindiri Mutadza, an MDC-T activist they had tried to capture before the 27 June elections but had failed.
Witnesses say Mutadza had returned from hiding on the assumption elections were now over and peace would return. But:
‘Katsande’s gang had other plans for him and quickly descended on him in full view of all the people who had gathered at Chimukoko Business Centre. Aqualinah Katsande, and Peter Nyakuba, assisted by two other unknown men, heavily assaulted Mutadza with fists and booted feet they bashed him all over the body.”
Mutadza passed out and died on the spot. On realizing that he was dead, Aqualinah Katsande and gang jumped into their double-cab truck and sped off from the murder scene.
On the 8th August 2008 MDC-T activist Winnet Makaza was assaulted on the instructions of Katsande. The MP mentioned Makaza as being on a list of MDC-activists on her ‘wanted list’. Carrying out the assault on behalf of the MP was Tambadzi Gombe.
The assault was so severe that Makaza is reported to have screamed only once, then collapsed and died. Relatives reported the incident to the police but nothing was done. The police did not even bother to take the body to the mortuary. Tambadzi Gombe is still a free man in Makaza village.
Later on Aqualinah Katsande issued an order forcing the Makaza family to bury Winnet without delay, or they would also meet with the same fate.
More recently on the 1st January 2010 George Katsande; “Now a seasoned killer was roaming the area armed with a gun”.
Along with his gang he attacked Bennizah Nyapfunde Mutize at Rukonde School in Mudzi. Mutize’s children were also not spared.
Members of the gang included Asmore Simoko, Tichafa Kativhu, Josiah Nyamuda, Punzu Charles, Martin Mutaundi, Daniel Chitedega, Misheck Pengapenga, Dinga David, Solomon Chingwete, Tonde Chipwanya and four other unknown men.
As part of a new terror campaign in 2010 the group was:
“Revisiting their victims at night and many MDC activists are sleeping in the bush and going back to their homes in the morning. Aqualinah through her son George is sponsoring this new wave of terror; George has vowed to shoot all MDC supporters in Mudzi West.”
In May 2012 Katsande along with fellow Zanu PF MP Newton Kachepa were implicated in the murder of 67-year old MDC-T Ward chairman Cephas Magura who was assaulted by ZANU PF youths.
Sekuru Magura, fell down after he was hit with a stone and was severely assaulted as he lay on the ground. The gang, led by ZANU PF councillor for Ward 3, David Chimukoko, then dragged him to the roadside and left him there.
Zanu PF Mudzi North MP Newten (Newton) Kachepa, allegedly drove the violent youths to Chimukoko in his truck.
Also implicated in the attack were the Zanu PF Mudzi North youth chairperson, Graciano Kazingizi, Gerald Nyatsinde, Patrick Mutepeya, Clement Simendi, John Karonga, Ward 2 councillor Jevas Chiutsa and George Katsande, son of the Mudzi West MP Aqualinah Katsande.
Many of Aqualinah Katsande’s victims have reported their cases to the police and despite the glaring evidence linking her to these terrible crimes she has remained untouchable and continues to sit in parliament.