MDC refugees who claim to be victims of political violence and were taken to Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre after being moved from the South African embassy in Harare were this week victimised a second time while in camp by unidentified armed men, some of whom wore masks, opposition party officials have said.
The MDC said the hundreds of refugees who comprise men, women and children who had fled mainly from Epworth, were allegedly attacked by seven armed men dressed in army uniform, some in masks, last Sunday midnight.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena declined to comment on the alleged attack. Instead, he referred the reporter to comments made by Labour minister Nicholas Goche in the state media.
Goche in the Herald on Wednesday dismissed the allegations raised by the MDC saying a “stampede” was stage-managed so as to put Zimbabwe in the spotlight at the G8 summit in Japan earlier this week and push the British agenda to effect a regime change in Zimbabwe.
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa confirming the incident said the party was worried about the safety of the refugees and that it was unrealistic for them to stage-manage the attack as claimed by the government.
“How can we honestly beat up our own people? We are talking of people who have serious scars,” Chamisa said. “What would we want to prove to the extent of us beating our own people? It is very unfortunate and sad that a minister chooses to say that such a thing did not happen. Mr Goche is aware of the facts. We neither have the stage nor management to do that,” Chamisa said.
Acting head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Zoran Filipovic said though he had heard stories about the incident he could not comment on the case and referred questions to the Zimbabwe Red Cross.
Efforts to get a comment from the Zimbabwe Red Cross were fruitless as its information officer was said to be doing field work while the head and his deputy were said to be out of the office.
An official at the South African embassy said they regretted the incident that occurred to the refugees at the Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre.
“We obviously regret the incident that happened to the refugees,” he said. “When these people came to our embassy we negotiated the best safe haven with the Zimbabwean government, different UN organisations, Red Cross and churches. Subsequently we regret, as an embassy we cannot guarantee their safety,” he said.
According to an escapee who wanted to be identified as William Madanhire, the refugees were attacked on Sunday night after days of living in a suspicious environment.
Narrating how they got their way to the South African embassy, Madanhire said they sought refuge at the embassy after their houses had been destroyed in Epworth by suspected Zanu PF militia.
“Harvest House (MDC headquarters) was not a safe place to go following the raids so we decided to go to the South African embassy and seek protection since their president (Thabo) Mbeki had said that there was no crisis. Nobody took us there, we went there on foot all the way from Epworth,” said Madanhire.
He said after being reassured by the South African embassy, the government, different UN organisations and Red Cross, they were taken to Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre on June 27.
By Wongai Zhangazha