THE morning of Thursday June 3 will remain etched in the minds of many people at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka, Masvingo, for decades to come.
Engraved by the horror of political violence that engulfed the area around 3.30 am.
Guns reportedly rattled for over 30 minutes before they went silent, leaving the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDCâ€™s office in the district of about 40 000 people ablaze, two activists dead and eight others nursing serious injuries.
The dead â€“â€“ Washington Nyamwa from Ward 19 and Chrison Mbano from Ward 18 â€“â€“ were burnt beyond recognition after the office was torched by suspected Zanu PF militia, state security agents and war veterans in the countdown to the June 27 presidential election run-off.
The injured were first treated at St Anthonyâ€™s Mission Hospital, five km from the growth point, and those seriously burnt were transferred to Harare for specialist medical attention at private hospitals.
One of the survivors of the attack, Kudakwashe Tsumele, told the Zimbabwe Independent how he cheated death on the eventful night and suffered 80% disability.
Almost seven months after the savage attack, Tsumele is still bed-ridden and suffering from multiple wounds on his hands, stomach and legs.
â€œZanu PF thugs wanted to kill us for supporting Tsvangirai,â€ Tsumele told the Independent at his rural home on Sunday. â€œI survived by the grace of God. The attack was the height of political violence since the March 29 elections when we voted for Tsvangirai ahead of Mugabe.â€
Tsumele said on the fateful day he and nine colleagues were guarding the party office when about 10 suspected Zanu PF activists armed with AK-47 and FN rifles arrived and broke down the door.
â€œFour of the Zanu PF thugs entered the office and when one of my colleagues tried to escape he was shot dead. We were ordered to lie on the floor, sprinkled with petrol and torched. They then rushed out of the office,â€ remembered the emotionally charged Tsumele. â€œWe were engulfed by fire. I managed to get out of the office and remove my clothes that were in flames. By the time I got to the hospital, I had suffered serious injuries.â€
While Tsumele was on his way to the hospital, another colleague was burnt beyond recognition just outside the office.
Because of the degree of the burns, the 23-year-old Tsumele was transferred to Harare where he spent six months receiving specialist medical attention at a private hospital.
â€œWhat is painful is that when I returned home I heard that tension was high in this constituency (Zaka Central) despite that the MDC won,â€ he said. â€œZanu PF youths militia is threatening to â€˜finish us offâ€™ and they said they are waiting for an order from the powers that be to carry out the dastardly deeds.â€Â Â
Another survivor of the attack, Edson Gwenhure, said since his release from hospital two months ago Zanu PF activists approached him and threatened him with death.
â€œTension is high,â€ Gwenhure said. â€œWe donâ€™t know what Zanu PF is planning for us. Though the torture bases were dismantled, some of the soldiers, youth militia and war veterans who terrorised people during the campaign are still in the constituency. They said they are waiting for orders from above to deal with us.â€
Gwenhureâ€™s face and fingers were disfigured and he lost the greater part of his left foot.
He can hardly walk and has since abandoned his bicycle repair job at the growth point. Life has become unbearable for him because he no longer has any source of income.
The constituency MP, Harison Mudzuri, told the Independent that there were fresh reports of Zanu PF intimidation and that tension was high between the supporters of the two political parties since the one-man run-off.
â€œI must admit that there were no violent cases reported to me since June 27, but there are fresh reports of intimidation of supporters by Zanu PF youth militia and war veterans,â€ Mudzuri said. â€œWe are afraid that if the power-sharing deal fails to be implemented our supporters will be targeted for attack.â€
He said he was reliably informed that Zanu PF militia intended to launch an operation code-named Makasaina chibvumirano (you signed the agreement) once the pact fails to hold.
â€œOur supporters are living in fear of the operation, but we are united that Tsvangirai should only agree to a genuine power-sharing deal,â€ said Mudzuri, who is also the spokesperson of the militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe.
Intimidation or no intimidation, violence or no violence, Tsumele and Gwenhure are bitter and yearning for revenge.
â€œWhat is painful is that no one was arrested for what they did to me and my colleagues,â€ Tsumele complained.
He said Tsvangirai should not be party to the unity government with Mugabe as long as the 84-year-old fails to cede â€œrealâ€ power to the former firebrand trade unionist.
â€œWe are saying Tsvangirai should wait even for the next five years for a fresh election and finish off Mugabe,â€ Tsumele said. â€œThe government of national unity as presently proposed still gives our tormentor more power than Tsvangirai who won a free election on March 29. Why enter the unity government when you will become a junior partner?â€
Even Gwenhure said MDC supporters were prepared to endure the current economic hardships for another five years if Mugabe is not prepared to cede power to Tsvangirai.
â€œAfter the June 3 attack we became more resolute that we will do whatever is in our capacity to ensure that Tsvangirai gets real power,â€ Gwenhure said. â€œNo matter the amount of suffering Zimbabweans will face, we will not compel Tsvangirai to be party to a government in which he has no real power.â€
Mudzuri said the MDC wanted reparations for the violence that dogged the June run-off.
â€œWe will not adopt the biblical Jesus saying that God forgive them (violence perpetrators) because they did not know what they were doing,â€ he said. â€œWe are saying God forgive them because they knew what they were doing.â€
By Constantine Chimakure