27 January 2011

Zimbabwe: Violence Flares in Harare

Photo: Kubatana
Zimbabwe police are cracking down on opposition.

Harare — HARARE has witnessed a resurgence of politically motivated violence and intimidation after Zanu PF launched its not-so-subtle 2011 election campaign across the country code-named "Operation Ngatizivanei", the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.

"Operation Ngatizivanei" requires all eligible voters in a ward to be recorded in a Zanu PF membership ward register so that the party can supposedly follow up on its members. The operation comes hard on the heels of the party's December conference that resolved that elections should be held this year.

The operation triggered clashes between Zanu PF and MDC youths at the weekend in many high density suburbs across Harare.

Violence was recorded in Budiriro, Chitungwiza and Mbare at the weekend when youths from Zanu PF and the MDC-T clashed.

A number of people were injured while houses and property has been destroyed with the MDC-T accusing the police and soldiers of taking part. In Epworth, suspected war veterans and youths have threatened to evict residents regarded as MDC-T supporters.

According to doctors who treated the injured but preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation, three victims of the clashes that took place between Friday and Saturday suffered soft tissue injuries while one had a gunshot wound.

"We attended to five males between the ages of 27-30 and a female aged 33, all from Harare. They were injured on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of January at different high density suburbs in Harare," one of the doctors said.

"The six so far are the ones we considered to have suffered serious injuries, though now and again we attend to minor injuries incurred from the isolated violence. One had a surgery to set the broken bone and debridement left tibia for gunshot injury. We had a patient from Mbare who suffered a fracture on right ulna, an open reduction and internal fixation was done and he had lacerations on scalp and face while the female victim suffered arthroscopy doe to left knee post trauma."

The Independent on Wednesday visited some of the victims at a local private hospital and interviewed Barnabas Mwanaka, an MDC-T youth from Mbare who was beaten on Friday night by suspected Zanu PF youths.

Mwanaka said although there has been widespread intimidation in Mbare, the attack on their offices caught them unawares.

He said: "It was Saturday night when we were at the MDC offices in Mbare near the Engen garage when a mob of hundreds of Zanu PF youths whom we suspected to be Chipangano (a notorious pro-Zanu PF group based in Mbare) came to our offices chanting slogans. There were 20 of us and we were guarding our offices.

"They pulled down the wall and we locked ourselves indoors. I understand there was a policeman close by who then alerted other police and in no time about 16 police officers were at the scene. We were relieved that we were going to get some help and protection and they even told us to open the door so that they could take us to a safe place."

He said the police instead locked up his colleagues while he was attacked and beaten heavily with sharp objects when he stayed behind to collect valuables and documents from the office.

In Epworth, MDC-T youth Samson Ketulo said suspected war veterans were forcing residents to attend Zanu PF meetings at a Zanu PF base at Dhonoro.

"There is a popular base at Dhonoro where the (Zanu PF) party members meet occasionally and those perceived to be MDC-T supporters are taken and threatened," he said. "In Ward 2, especially the Domboramwari area, they are going around telling landlords that notices should be given to tenants who support MDC-T to vacate the area. They tell people that the GPA is expiring on 15 February and there won't be anything called an inclusive government and Zanu PF will be the only party ruling."

MDC-T claimed that violence against its members was well orchestrated and intended to cow its supporters in the face of potential elections later in the year.

In a statement, the party said: "Zanu PF has begun resorting to the language they understand most, the language of violence. In Budiriro, Mbare and Chitungwiza violence has resurfaced with soldiers, police details and the youth militia descending on the people with brutality; assaulting, destroying homes and arresting perceived MDC supporters.

"Zanu PF mobilised and bused youth from as far as Gutu, Tsholotsho, Shamva and Bindura into Harare to demonstrate against the so-called maize slashing by Harare City council."

However, police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said the attack in Budiriro was perpetrated by MDC-T youths who demonstrated against unfair distribution of stands at a housing co-operative.

"About 200 MDC supporters went to a housing co-operative within that area challenging the allocation of stands," he said. "That is when the clashes started with some of them attacking residents of that area. It is not true that some of them will just be going on with their businesses. They also take part in the attacks."

He said he was not aware that one MDC-T supporter had been shot.

Bvudzijena said most of the clashes between Zanu PF and MDC-T in the high density suburbs were as a result of both parties provoking each other.

"In some areas one may be attacked for wearing party colours and this is regardless of which political party. People should understand they achieve nothing in violence," he said dismissing claims by MDC-T that police and soldiers were involved in the violence.

Zanu PF national commissar Webster Shamu declined to comment on the matters over the phone saying he needed the questions in writing.

"I do not comment to the press over the phone. Get an appointment with my office or send questions," Shamu said.

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