Security Council set to meet over violence

Wongai Zhangazha

THE National Security Council (NSC) will today meet to deliberate  on, among other things, the violence that has rocked Harare in the past two weeks resulting in hundreds of MDC-T supporters displaced and injured, homes destroyed and foreign-owned shops looted by suspected Zanu PF members.

Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone on Wednesday confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that violence and intimidation was going to be at the top of the council’s agenda.

 

“The National Security Council will meet on Friday morning,” Makone said. “We are going to talk about a number of issues including the prevailing situation. At the uppermost of the discussions is the issue of violence. That is all I can tell you.”

The NSC is chaired by President Robert Mugabe and consists of the two vice-presidents Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and two deputy Prime Ministers Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe, and service chiefs.

The meeting comes at a time when MDC-T has said it is prepared to avenge any attacks on its supporters by Zanu PF youths and war veterans.

In two different statements last week, the party said it was going to protect the “defenceless electorate if the police continue to stand aloof and be indifferent to Zanu PF violence”.

“We are equally concerned that the police in Mbare have become part of the problem as they stand and watch Zanu PF youths running mad, destroying people’s property, looting and assaulting innocent people,” the MDC-T said.

“We shall protect our parents, brothers and sisters wherever and under whatever circumstances. Zanu PF cannot and will not be allowed to continue to enjoy overstretched moments of madness; they must be prepared to receive as much as they dish out if this unlawlessness continues.”

On Wednesday police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena released a statement chronicling politically-motivated violence cases since the beginning of the year and blamed them most on MDC-T as an “an active participant and instigator of the violence.”

He, however, did not issue a record of crimes committed by Zanu PF supporters against MDC-T supporters despite close to 200 people having been displaced last weekend, according to the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance.

Zanu PF has also denied being behind the violence.

Last week, Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed to task Makone and her co-minister Kembo Mohadi to come up with a report with full details on the violence which broke out in Mbare, Budiriro, Chitungwiza and Epworth.

Makone has since written a letter to Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri complaining of the violence.

“The MDC condemns the stance taken by the police as it has the potential to inflame an already volatile situation and could easily turn the citizens against legitimate law enforcement institutions,” the MDC-T youth assembly said after their meeting last week.

“Should the police continue to flout its constitutional mandate in pursuit of a tired and partisan Zanu PF agenda, the MDC would have no choice other than to urge its supporters to defend their families and property with the full understanding that the state has failed them. The culprits in all the violence cases were identified but the police have not made any arrests, but MDC youths who are the victims have been arrested for reporting to the police.”

The Independent this week interviewed people displaced by the violence that took place last weekend. Among those displaced were 13 children from Epworth who had sought refuge at the MDC-T headquarters, Harvest House.

Twelve-year-old Beston Murandu from Magada area of Ward 7, Epworth, looked uncomfortable, confused and sad.

A crying Murandu said: “It was on Sunday evening when my mother said it was not safe to stay at home because some people were coming to destroy our house. I don’t understand why they chased us from our home when we had not done any wrong to them and why they wanted to harm us. We had to hide in the tall grass in the dark until early morning.”

Murandu had not been to school since Monday.

Clareta Mahanzu from Nenyere flats in Mbare could not hold back her tears as she narrated how she had to risk her life and that of her 10-year-old daughter Esther as she attempts daily to take her to school.

“I can’t stand it watching my child wasting her time here (safe house) when she is supposed to be in school,” said Mahanzu, a mother of two.  “How can you have a peaceful mind when they threaten us saying they will beat us thoroughly, including amputating our arms? They also threaten to beat up our children. It’s not easy to sleep in your house after such threats. I have to protect my children.”

Narrating her ordeal, Farai Kabanda (35), also from Magada, Epworth, said she slept in the bush on Sunday night with her six children after suspected Zanu PF youths and war veterans threatened that they wanted to remove MDC-T supporters from the area if they did not want to support Zanu PF.

Pastor Ray Motsi of Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, a faith based non-governmental organisation that facilitated the safety of some of the victims, described the displacements as a sad phase as it affected mostly the innocent and vulnerable who have nothing to do with politics.

Motsi said: “It is very sad what is happening; because of unscrupulous people who want to get some political mileage these innocent people have been displaced. The children are not going to school. It is deplorable and must be condemned,” he said.

The US and the UK embassies in Harare have since condemned the political violence.

“The US is alarmed by, and condemns, the recent spate of political violence perpetrated by youths and opportunists affiliated with elements of Zanu PF,” the US embassy said in a statement yesterday.  “Such unlawful actions violate the Global Political Agreement and demonstrate that the undermining of the rule of law has not changed fundamentally.”

The embassy called on “all parties to sincerely renounce violence as a political tool and for the law enforcement community to uphold the rule of law without partisan bias”.

The UK’s ambassador Mark Canning said: “It is depressing that while the formation of the inclusive government almost two years ago presaged a better future for Zimbabwe, some elements continue to focus on their own narrow political ends rather than the good of the country.

“It is this sort of unchecked violence — ignored by the police — and not imaginary sanctions, which does untold damage to Zimbabwe’s reputation abroad and makes it harder for real friends such as the United Kingdom to help attract the investment the country so badly needs.”