By Gift Phiri | Daily News Political Editor |
HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party warned yesterday that the arson attack on the home of a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) — allegedly by ruling Zanu PF supporters — signalled the start of a violent general election campaign.
The burning of two houses belonging to David Chihwai Chamanga, the MDC organising secretary for ward 17 in Mutoko, about 130km north east of the capital, Harare, marked the beginning of President Mugabe’s violent campaign to stay in power.
With a climactic presidential election due next year, Tsvangirai’s party alleged Mugabe was moving with consummate guile to eliminate every last possibility of defeat. Nothing is being left to chance.
Tsvangirai’s party alleged army personnel have been deployed in Masvingo and Manicaland, mostly in civilian clothes and some masquerading as members of the militant ruling party’s youth brigade or war veterans, to frighten voters ahead of crucial elections Mugabe wants in March.
The MDC claims over 30 soldiers are now camped at government offices at Range office in Chikomba West, where they are alleged to be intimidating villagers ahead of the coming referendum on the new constitution. The army has denied that allegation.
Militant war veterans have vowed to blockade ruling party strongholds in Mashonaland ahead of the poll, barring access to MDC campaigners.
Partisan police officers have shown contempt for Tsvangirai and memories of a brutal 2008 terror campaign, waged through the length and breadth of Zimbabwe, has left MDC supporters traumatised by fear.
In Chivi, police last month rounded up district organisers who had arranged a rally at Makovere Business Centre, and detained them for days at Mashava Police Station.
The Mutoko arson came hard on the heels of another attack on MDC Midlands North provincial treasurer, John Kinnaird and his wife Jackie at their Kadoma residence when Zanu PF youths, in party bandanas, broke into their residence at night last month and attacked John with wheel spanners and metal rods while one grabbed Jackie around the neck and dragged her to the bedroom.
The Zanu PF youths freed them after they offered $2 000 cash and two cell phones. Hospital authorities said he suffered multiple lacerations from the machete-wielding assailants and received dozens of sutures in his head and neck.
In Kwekwe, the so-called Al Shabab militia loyal to Zanu PF is wreaking havoc in the mining town. Reports suggest it is bankrolled by a senior Zanu PF politburo member and a local businessman Owen “Mudha”.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF has indicated it wants to disengage from a government conflict resolution group Jomic. Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo declined to comment on the allegations yesterday.
Tsvangirai said the fact that police have failed to deal with the Mutoko arson and Midlands attack even though their mandate is to protect property and citizens from perpetrators of such heinous crimes was clear indication of complicity in the whole crime.
The MDC said it was obvious now that Zanu PF is not going to retreat from its campaign of violence as Zimbabwe heads towards the elections.
“Mugabe kicked off his re-election drive last month.
“Of note is the recent raiding of the Counselling Service Unit (CSU), arrests of MDC leadership like Elton Mangoma, arrests of independent journalists, deployment of military personnel in Masvingo and Manicaland who are intimidating people to vote in favour of Zanu PF in the coming referendum and plebiscite in 2013,” MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said.
“This is the beginning of a well-calculated plan by Zanu PF to create mayhem and a bloodbath, before, during and after next year’s election. We are aware that this trend will increase and become more intense as we approach election time.”
He was referring to last week’s police raid of Harare-based legal clinic CSU, where detectives and anti-riot officers rounded up staff and confiscated medical records of victims of 2008 election atrocities. Pro-democracy activists believe at least 200 people died in politically- motivated violence in that election.
Earlier this week, police refused to play the national anthem at the launch of the government’s Medium Term Plan (MTP) review programme at the Rainbow Towers officiated by Tsvangirai, in a move calculated to undermine him.
Mwonzora said Tsvangirai had directed Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone to ensure the officers are sent back for refresher courses.
“The (MDC) president was unfazed by this act of barbarism and advised the responsible authorities to send the officers for further training especially on how to conduct themselves at state functions since these officers cannot distinguish between government and party functions,” he said.
There are escalating fears the situation would “definitely deteriorate” as elections approach, amid fears violence and intimidation would spread from the rural areas into the MDC’s urban strongholds.
Tsvangirai’s warning of more violence comes as everyone else is facing entirely new requirements for voter registration, carefully constructed to bear most heavily on MDC supporters.
In the cities, voters will have to produce a plethora of documents before they will be entered on the voters roll: proof of address in the form of title deeds, rental agreements or utility bills will have to be shown.
In the countryside, village chiefs will have to vouch for everyone who registers.
On October 12, chiefs and headmen in Bikita received a circular from the local district administrator, Edgar Seenza advising them to attend a meeting at 4 Brigade army headquarters in Masvingo town.
The army also met chiefs from Manicaland at Chief Murahwa’s homestead on October 27, while a similar meeting was held at Chief Mugabe’s residence in Masvingo the same week.
The military has reportedly sternly warned the chiefs at the meetings of the possibility of war if Zanu PF lost the forthcoming election. -Daily News