By Eddie Cross
Yesterday I was deep in the bush in north eastern Zimbabwe conducting an audit of Party structures in a remote Constituency.
At mid day a call came through on my cell phone that a homestead of a Party activist had been attacked in the night and a child had died. When we had finished our meeting we decided to drive to the village to see if there was anything we could do or say.
Two had a half hours of really tough driving took us to Village 55 in what had been the commercial farming district of Headlands, where a senior Zanu PF leader, Didymus Mutasa is the present Member of Parliament.
We found the community gathered at the homestead, the Police present and the child in a body bag in the back of the Police truck. The father Shepherd Maisiri wrapped his arms around me in grief when we walked into the homestead. His wife was in a hut with the women and we went in to see her, she wept when she saw us.
I have written and talked about the strategy of Zanu in the Commercial farming areas many times. When they began the farm invasions in 2000, it was two weeks after they had almost been beaten in a carefully rigged election by a Party that was barely six months old.
The object was quite simple – destroy the group of about 600 000 voters on the farms who held the balance of electoral power between the Tribal areas and the urban areas. This has now evolved into a strategy to totally control these areas, now resettled with thousands of people like the Maisirie’s.
The reason is that these areas contain as many seats as the urban areas where the MDC dominates. So they are removing from these areas any who might be opponents and any who might witness what they will do in the elections. It is in these areas that they will stuff ballots and misrepresent the actual results. In 2008 they falsified the results for 60 seats in this manner.
Shepherd Maisiri is Zanu PF’s nightmare, after being settled on a small plot, he was elected Village Chairman for Village 55. Now only four families in the Village support Zanu PF, the rest are firm MDC supporters.
Everyone watching this situation evolve focuses on the remaining white large scale commercial farmers who are now being evicted if they are not firmly committed to Zanu PF. But what is seldom recognised is that Zanu reserves its toughest penalties for the small people like Shepherd and his family.
In the past decade, he has been imprisoned, his home burnt down several times, his arable land taken from him and given to a member of the CIO, his wife raped (Shepherd pressed this case until the perpetrator – a senior Zanu PF official was sent to prison for a total of 56 years for the crime).
In all, he now has been attacked 9 times in ten years. Yet his political commitment and determination is not diminished in any way. Now this.
I spoke to the two smallest children who were saved by the boy who died, Christpower Simbarashe Maisiri. The little boy – barely 3 years old was completely traumatized. His sister, perhaps 6 or 7 years old dressed in white for mourning like her mother, was similarly traumatized. They will never forget the night strangers came with a bottle of petrol and fired their hut roof.
The senior Police Officer stood nearby, Member in Charge from the Nyati Police Station just a few kilometers away. The people told me that they did not expect any action on the incident – he had never been helpful before, why now?
Perhaps it was no coincidence that a notorious Zanu PF thug, Jabulani Sibanda, was in the District at the time. The people in the Village said they knew the perpetrators.
Shepherd and his family own 5 donkeys. His only other significant asset was a bicycle that was melted into a pile of junk in the fire. They will earn perhaps $2000 from tobacco and grow enough maize to feed them through to the next season, but these are the absolute poor, eking out a living in a rural village like millions of others.
Their sin is that they do not support a political Party and will not bow to pressure. They can expect little but sympathy from their own Party which is as broke as they are, from the Police and the Justice system they can expect even less.
The only way to control this sort of subliminal violence is to strengthen JOMIC – the monitoring system created under the GPA and supported by the SADC.
What we need NOW is a JOMIC team, with SADC observers embedded, in every District until the elections so that incidents like this can be investigated and appropriate action taken against the perpetrators. The one thing that Zanu PF fears in these areas are eyes and ears, especially from the region.
Altogether I spent a full day in this remote corner of Zimbabwe – all in the former commercial farming areas that are reportedly solidly Zanu PF. I gave the people I passed the MDC open hand wave and in every case was greeted with smiles and a similar wave in return.
I was astonished and pleased and if this is in any way true in other areas, then Zanu PF is in big trouble. You have to be desperate to kill children to try and sway the political affiliation of the parents or their neighbors.
Eddie Cross is MDC-T MP for Bulawayo South.
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