Dumisani Muleya/Shakeman Mugari
THE assault on two cabinet ministers in parliament by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP Roy Bennett has provided grist to the government’s propaganda mill and
a handy pretext for a new bout of lawlessness.
The incident on Tuesday, in which Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and his Anti-Corruption colleague Didymus Mutasa were floored by Bennett during a heated debate, yesterday showed every sign of becoming an excuse for pumping up Zanu PF’s campaign against its political opponents.
Zanu PF yesterday mobilised its supporters to denounce Bennett and the MDC for the scuffle in parliament when the opposition MP attacked Chinamasa in reaction to provocative racist remarks. Mutasa was caught up in the fracas.
The ruling party bussed in supporters to parliament where they were addressed by local officials.
Mines minister and Harare provincial executive member Amos Midzi, Harare governor Witness Mangwende, and failed Harare Central candidate William Nhara addressed the mob.
“He is banned from Harare. He shall not set foot in the capital again,” Mangwende said. “Not even in Ruwa. Harare has no place for violent people. We want to do a thorough job on him,” he said amid cheering and demands for Bennett’s scalp by the mob.
Mangwende urged supporters to hunt down Bennett – who failed to appear in parliament – at his Ruwa farm. In fact, Bennett hasn’t lived on the farm for some months.
Bennett has been evicted by the government from his Charleswood Estate in his Chimanimani constituency. The farm was initially taken over by the Defence ministry last month but it was later given to the Agricultural & Rural Development Authority.
Zanu PF militants waved placards reading: “Bennett’s head now!” Another one read: “To hell with (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair.”
A ruling party supporter said: “Bennett belongs to Britain where there are no people but toilets” – Zanu PF’s customary language for Blair.
Others also shouted threats and abuse. “We want to braai him alive. He is good pork meat,” one demonstrator said.
The mob – backed by the Mbare-based ruling party militia group Chipangano – also went to the MDC’s Harvest House offices and broke the front-door glass.
The group, armed with axes and machetes, wanted to attack MDC officials in their offices. However, riot police intervened. But instead of arresting violent members of the mob they arrested four MDC officials inside the building after searching it.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the police claimed they were looking for a Zanu PF member who was allegedly abducted into the building.
The mob then turned their fury on anybody wearing red clothes. The colour red is associated with the MDC.
After the raid the mob headed back to parliament and on their way attacked people willy-nilly. They were then told to return to the trucks that brought them.
In Mutare, Zanu PF supporters on Wednesday brought business to a halt after they forced companies and shops to close. They denounced Bennett for pushing down Chinamasa and demanded that he should be punished. Whites were warned to clear out of the province.
Zanu PF Manicaland provincial executive members including chairman Mike Madiro joined the crowd that forced businesses to shut down. A crowd of about 400 people then gathered at Meikles Park and was addressed by Madiro who said Bennett would be “disqualified from parliament”.
He should not risk his life by returning to the province, Madiro was reported as saying.