When Mugabe’s shock troops stormed Harvest House…..

By Luke Tamborinyoka

ABOUT 10 armed riot police officers kicked open the door, barged into my office at Harvest House and indiscriminately began assaulting me with batons and fists, in the process asking me to give them their helmet and baton.

Riot police camped outside the MDC Harvest House headquarters
Riot police camped outside the MDC Harvest House headquarters

They rounded 11 other party officials from different floors and offices who were still at Harvest House that late afternoon. They thumped us, quizzing us on the whereabouts of the mystical helmet and baton, which none of us knew anything about.

None of us knew about the whereabouts or the circumstances in which the police had lost these seemingly prized possessions, but they insisted that we had the information and viciously assaulted us.

Mind you, these were neither robbers nor thugs. These were honourable police officers of the esteemed nonagenarian at the helm of both SADC and the African Union.

If this rogue behaviour was going to be the nonagenarian’s major influence in the region and the continent, then God bless Africa, I said to myself.

The day was Tuesday, 11March 2015 and the time was around 1630hrs.An hour earlier, I had walked down the stairs from my 4th floor office on my way home, only to find an armoured police vehicle parked right at the entrance of the party headquarters, with some 50 angry officers raring for action.

Some 10 police officers charged towards me from the vehicle and asked me to go back into the building, saying no one was leaving the building without them getting back their helmet and baton.

Earlier in the afternoon, MDC youths had held a peaceful demonstration outside Parliament building demanding the immediate release of Itai Dzamara. The demonstration had been violently quelled by the police who were now demanding a purported lost helmet and baton.

I had gone back into the office and posted on my facebook page that police had barricaded Harvest House and were barring the few MDC staff members that were still in the building from leaving.

Back in the office, I had called President Morgan Tsvangirai and party secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora to inform them of the police siege at Harvest House.

No sooner had I made the post on my facebook page than the police stormed my office, beating me up and rounding up other staff members who were equally viciously assaulted in the melee.

We were all gathered at the foyer of the 4th floor, barely five metres from the boardroom where President Morgan Tsvangirai had 24 hours earlier held a press conference and condemned Dzamara’s abduction, boldly claiming it was apparent that the demon of violence was back.

For sure we were now in the company of the demons, Mugabe’s misnamed shock troops who were supposed to ensure that there was law and order in the country.

A breast-feeding a colleague and workmate, Yvonne Mashayamaombe-Muchaka said she had to go home to do her motherly chore, but an inhuman officer said if need be, he could suckle the breasts if they were becoming painful. There was every hint of seriousness in his voice.

Yvonne has a nine-month old child, Anashe, but barely 72 hours after international women’s day, Mugabe’s shock-troops no time for any motherly plea.

Our harassment was in progress when we were joined by Midlands senator Lillian Timveos who had just arrived at Harvest House to collect her phone on her way from Parliament. She was ordered to remove her shoes, squat with us and was also harassed over the mystical missing helmet and baton.

For some of my colleagues, it was their experience to be harassed and beaten up by these lawful men of order.

But I had braved a three-hour brutal assault from the same shock troops on March 28, 2007 in the 6th floor of this very same building.

The brutal assault had begun in similar fashion and ended up with my incarceration for three months with some 20 others in the D-class section of Harare Remand prison on trumped up charges of trying to unseat the government through acts of sabotage, banditry and terrorism.

We were all eventually acquitted of the charges. Two of us, Tonderai Ndira and Beta Chokururama, were murdered by State security agents weeks after our acquittal.

As I sat there looking at the mean faces of these scowling officers in the 4th floor of Harvest House, I thought this was the beginning of a similar journey to prison on trumped charges. Considering that this again was the month of March, I thought of the legendary ides of March…

I mused on what the charges would be this time. My wild thoughts wandered through the possibility this time around of being charged with being complicit in the ageing of the President when Africa and Zimbabwe needed him most?

Who knows, so I thought as the rowdy police officers grilled us, I could even be accused of having treasonously folded the red carpet on which President almost fell at the airport, if he had not been agile enough to break his fall!

After some time, probably fearing the implications of having needlessly detained an honourable Member of Parliament, the police officers asked Hon Timveos to leave. Those of us who did not go through an election were not so lucky.

The officers’ interpretation of my role as spokesperson of the MDC President was so warped as to invite a chuckle from me, even in my predicament. They asked me whether Tsvangirai was ordering me to speak to the MDC youths to beat up police officers and confiscate their helmets and batons.

Said one scowling officer: “Handiti ndiwe spokesperson, ndozvawaudzwa nemukuru wako kuti uudze mayouth kuti atitorere zvinhu zvedu zvebasa. (You are the spokesperson, is what your boss told you to tell your party youths to beat us up and take our helmets and batons?).

Indeed, their appreciation of my job was pedestrian, if not constabulary!

And then the miracle phone call came!

The officer who appeared to be the most senior received a phone call and went aside to answer it. When he returned, he told us that the matter was not yet over yet, but they now had our names and identity numbers and they would pursue us until they recovered their property.

As we all scampered for home, two officers called me to the third floor of Harvest House. I had sent out information to the world about our predicament through social media, so they said accusedly.

They were not yet done with me and were only giving me and my colleagues as well, temporary reprieve but they would definitely come after us at what they called the material time.

I mumbled something incoherent in response and hastily hurried home in my injured state to my dear wife and children, where I later realized the brutal assaults had worsened my condition after that near-fatal car accident in 2012 in which I sustained nine broken ribs.

As I sauntered out of the building, I mused at what had been a close shave at the hands of Mugabe’s shock troops, most of whom had tattered police uniforms and worn-out boots to show for their service to the AU’s esteemed leader!

Since 2007, I have been viciously assaulted four times by these supposed men of law and order. So it’s 4-0 on aggregate in favour of the terrorists in State uniform.

But I seem to have this sneaking wish to overturn the score-line. I just don’t seem to have figured out how!

After a fourth vicious assault by police officers in eight years, you begin to wish you were there in your own resplendent white garment on that fateful day at the vapostori shrine in Budiriro.

And oh yes, I have since come to appreciate that these horrific experiences have one major positive impact on individuals: the democratic struggle becomes an emotional personal pursuit!

Luke Tamborinyoka is the spokesperson to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the Head of Communications in the MDC. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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