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Violence hots up

Gift Phiri

A WAVE of political violence in Zimbabwe, underscored by an attack on people leaving an opposition rally in Nyanga this week, is expected to intensify in the final seven weeks of

an already bitter legislative poll campaign.

Members of the Zimbabwe National Army allegedly assaulted 15 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members attending a campaign rally addressed by a party candidate, Douglas Mwonzora, in Nyanga last Sunday, the party said.

Hundreds of followers of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF reportedly ambushed the opposition supporters after the rally, where the incumbent opposition candidate vowed that the MDC would end a “reign of terror” if it took over power.

The incident capped a week in which police arrested Zengeza MDC candidate Godrich Chimbaira, militants attacked an opposition office in Bulawayo and self-styled liberation war veterans killed a white farmer in Musonzowa, Banket, and forced his family to flee their farm.

The opposition MDC poses the strongest challenge to Mugabe’s bid to extend his 25 years in power in the March 31 general election.

“The violence is likely to continue right up until the day before elections,” Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a coalition of civic groups, said. “The MDC still has a million opportunities to withdraw from this election. Zanu PF will continue using violence in its bid to hold on to power.”

On Sunday, Harare North MDC candidate Trudy Stevenson battled to hold her first rally of the year in Hatcliffe Extension when more than 100 supporters of Zanu PF invaded the venue, determined to disrupt the proceedings. While the ruling party militants, believed to be Zanu PF candidate Nyasha Chikwinya’s supporters, attempted to attack Stevenson’s sympathisers with sticks and stones, police moved in swiftly and quelled the violence.

There were no injuries as there was a heavy police presence headed by Officer Commanding Borrowdale, Chief Inspector Nhamo.

Two weeks ago Kuwadzana MP Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khuphe, the MP for Makokoba, were arrested for holding meetings in their constituencies.

“MDC lawyer Alec Muchadehama said that Chimbaira was called to the Chitungwiza Police Station on the pretext that some MDC youth had been involved in violence. This turned out to be untrue and he was arrested on arrival,” MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said.

“The arrests of MDC officials and members are a clear indication to all the people of Zimbabwe that Zanu PF is afraid of the MDC’s growing popularity,” Nyathi said. “Its flagrant use of the police force as a weapon to suppress the people’s party is unquestionable evidence of the crumbling Zanu PF’s growing fear of the people.”

The opposition party accuses the governing Zanu PF of intimidation and planning to rig the vote, criticisms echoed by the United States and European Union which have imposed personal sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle.

At a rally on Monday in Umzingwane, Mugabe warned against what he claims are attempts by Britain to gain a foothold in Zimbabwe through the opposition.

Meanwhile, the deposit charge for candidates wishing to contest the forthcoming poll has shot up by a staggering 2 000% amid loud protests by the main opposition which is charging that the move was a clear attempt by the governing Zanu PF to bust the party’s election budget and hamper its campaign.

According to a Government Gazette published last Friday, it will now cost $10 million to
obtain a copy of the voters’ roll and all candidates wishing to contest the general election will have to fork out $2 million, an increase of 1 000% and 2 000% respectively.

The new charges were “clearly an attempt to exclude our people from taking part in the democratic process”, said Nyathi. “The MDC is not as well-endowed with resources as a party that helps itself to the contents of the state coffers,” Nyathi said in a reference to the ruling party.

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