MDC Activists Killed In Orgy Of Violence

“HIS face had been crushed. The other side had decomposed and there were maggots. His left eye had been popped out. His nose was damaged. His tongue was missing. He had two holes — one just below the ribcage and the other just near the heart. His body was black with bruises.”

 

This is what Reuben Ticharewa saw when he went to identify the body of his childhood friend, Tonderai Ndira, at Parirenyatwa Hospital mortuary last week.

“It was horrifying. The murderers had used his boxer shorts to cover his face. It sends shivers down your spine if you had seen it,” Ticharewa said.

They had been friends since they were five years olds but when Ticharewa saw Ndira’s body at the mortuary he could hardly identify him.

“A bangle he always had on his left wrist was the only thing that told me that this was my friend, Tonderai. He was gone.”

Ndira, a popular Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) youth leader and activist, was murdered in cold blood last week. He was abducted in Mabvuku by people driving a white Toyota single cab with a fake registration number 772-224T, tortured and his body dumped. The people of Mabvuku are still in shock.

Ndira was buried on Sunday, but his relatives and friends are still mourning. They are horrified by both the level of brutality and the impunity with which the murderers carried out the abduction.

As has become the norm over the past two months, no one was arrested in connection with the murder. MDC supporters say Ndira’s violent death is part of a systematic operation by Zanu-PF operatives to decimate the opposition membership and structures ahead of the presidential election run-off set for June 27.

Three more opposition youth members were also murdered in the same week as Ndira. They all endured painful deaths. Those that saw the bodies of Beta Chokururama, Godfrey Kauzani and Cain Nyevhe said they all had similar injuries. Crushed faces, deep holes in the upper body and broken limbs were the consistent marks the murderers’ brutality left on the bodies.

The four victims had one thing in common: they were all MDC members who were the backbone of the party’s vibrant youth organisation.

They were crucial in the party’s struggle against President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

Ndira’s murder, although not entirely unique to the other three, was probably the most publicised. His is a story of a young man who despite his own flaws fought for change in Zimbabwe.

His battle against Mugabe’s rule started as early as 1998 when many people in the towns still had good words to describe Mugabe’s government. Ndira was first arrested in the 1998 food riots when people took to the streets to demonstrate against escalating food prices.

“To us the battle had begun. We had seen that Mugabe was damaging the country and he was not going to go without a fight,” said Ticharewa who was with Ndira when he was first arrested.

Ticharewa remembers vividly that while they were in prison, Ndira said something quite prophetic. “As mosquitos sucked our blood in the cells at the Central Police Station, Ndira said we should be stronger and brace ourselves for worse things to come because Mugabe was going to make this place hell. That arrest proved to be the beginning of worse things to come. Indeed Zimbabwe turned into hell just as Ndira had said,” Ticharewa remembered.

The repression intensified. Ndira, who was one of the first members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), was later to be arrested 35 more times over the next 10 years.

In all those arrests he was detained and assaulted but they could not break him. At all those times they would release him without a charge but still they made sure that they left some bruises on his body.

His longest stay in prison was last year when he was detained for more than four months. He was accused, together with other MDC members, of planting petrol bombs at police stations.

His arrests had become some sort of a routine. That persistent practice turned fatal when he was murdered in cold blood last week. The events on May 13, the day Ndira was abducted, clearly tell a sad story about the state of Zimbabwe.

Ndira’s wife, Plaxedess Mutariswa, said she was preparing her two children for school when six men come out of a car and approached the house. As they approached the house one of them produced a pistol, Mutariswa recalls as tears ran down her checks. She is devastated.

“I asked them who they were and they said they were looking for Tonderai.” With a gun thrust against her head Mutariswa led the men into the bedroom where her husband was sleeping.

They ordered that Ndira go with them but he refused and demanded to see their identity documents.

“They started beating and dragging him. I tried to run to get help but I found another man on the door. He said shut-up or I will blow your MDC head off.”

By that time nieghbours who had heard Ndira’s screams had gathered at the gate to help. The men carried Ndira out of the house to the car. He was wearing just his boxer shorts.

“People started asking why they were doing that. One of the men rushed to the car and pulled out an AK47 gun. The people were scared,” said Nelia Nhekairo who witnessed the abduction.

“I knew these were not police officers. They were violent as they dragged Tonderai to the car. They had menacing looks,” Nhekairo said. The men threw him into the car as he pleaded with the people around him to help save his life.

“They put a cloth into his mouth, blind-folded him and sped off. Something in me told me that there was something very wrong about this incident,” said Mutariswa.

A week’s search yielded nothing until they received a call that a body had been found in Goromonzi but was now at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

At the funeral Ndira’s spirit of defiance continued to exude among the mourners. “Let Tonderai be the last one that you have killed. You have killed a hero. You have killed our comrade in the struggle,” some of the party activists sang as they marched in the small street.

Ndira’s murder might be relatively high profile but he was part of the growing number of opposition members who have been killed since the March 29 elections.

The MDC says 50 of members have been murdered so far. Civic organisations are worried that there could be more killings which might not have been reported. Displacements run into thousands. In the murders that have been covered by the Zimbabwe Independent the level of brutality is the same. Three weeks ago, six MDC members from the same village in Chiweshe were murdered by suspected Zanu-PF militia. Those that witnessed the murder said the murderers would crush people’s genitals. They were beaten with barbed wire whips.

During the burial MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said there was a well- organised plan to decimate the opposition membership.

“If Mugabe thinks he has killed and beaten people into submission then he will have a rude awakening on June 29,” said Tsvangirai.

By Shakeman Mugari

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