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Ministers in fierce cabinet clashes

CABINET ministers fiercely clashed on Tuesday in a meeting chaired by President Robert Mugabe as tempers flared over the arson attack which led to the death of a 12-year-old Headlands boy, Christpowers Maisiri, ahead of do-or-die general elections expected in July.

Owen Gagare/Wongai Zhangazha

Christpowers’ father, Shepherd Maisiri, is the MDC-T’s deputy organising secretary in Headlands, Manicaland, and has been a victim of life-threatening acts of political terror for over a decade.

While cabinet meetings are usually kept secret, Tuesday’s explosive gathering spilled into the public domain after it was resolved the boy’s death and the resurgence of political violence must be openly condemned through statements from the President’s Office, principals and government, ministers said.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and Information minister Webster Shamu issued statements after the tension-filled cabinet meeting condemning violence, in line with resolutions of the meeting.
Some of the resolutions passed by ministers after a bruising cabinet engagement include:

That co-Ministers of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone should direct the Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri to investigate the arson;

Police must hunt down, arrest and prosecute perpetrators of the fatal burning;

Police and Jomic (Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee) must give regular security reports to cabinet, particularly on issues to do with political violence; and

All government officials take a united stand on violence and denounce it unreservedly.

Ministers told the Zimbabwe Independent debate on the death of Christpowers dominated cabinet proceedings with ministers of the two MDC parties engaging in a no-holds-barred confrontation with their Zanu PF colleagues.

They said ministers from the MDC formations were united in condemning the incident which they viewed as a harbinger to a 2008-like electoral bloodbath and were anxious to tackle it head-on in front of Mugabe.

MDC formations ministers presented a dossier of incidents of violence countrywide which have rocked the nation since January.

They also condemned the crackdown on civil society as evidence of the deteriorating security situation in the country.

A senior minister said Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jameson Timba ignited the debate after tabling a motion, zeroing in on the brutal death of Christpowers.

Ministerial sources said Timba was supported by Finance minister Tendai Biti who directly confronted Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Didymus Mutasa over the boy’s death.

Mutasa, also Zanu PF secretary for administration, is Makoni North MP under which Headlands falls. They said Biti tore into Mutasa, accusing him of addressing a rally recently where he allegedly said Zanu PF enemies must be “roasted”.

Biti told Mutasa he was an elder in society and a senior politician, likely to be buried at the National Heroes Acre, and must be responsible.

“He implored him to lead by example and even used a Shona adage: Gudo guru peta muswe kuti vapwere vagokuremekedza (literally meaning an elder should be humble and exemplary for him to earn respect from the young),” a minister said.

Sources said Education minister David Coltart spoke strongly against resurging political violence. He later went on to condemn the brutality on the social media yesterday.

“I did speak in cabinet on Tuesday regarding this (Christpowers’ death) and mentioned my own two friends Patrick Nabanyama (abducted on June 19 2000) and Paul Chizuze (abducted on February 8 2012) who have never been seen again due to political violence,” wrote Coltart while commenting on Women’s Affairs deputy minister Jessie Majome’s Facebook post.

Several ministers, including Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (Regional Integration and International Co-operation), Nelson Chamisa (Information, Communications Technology) and Elton Mangoma (Energy), also spoke out during the tense meeting.

Mutasa also spoke. He has several times vehemently denied allegations that he was behind the arson attack. Yesterday he repeated his denials.

Sources said Mugabe remained calm, but was concerned throughout the meeting, although he also spoke about the situation repeating his recent calls for an end to political violence — Zanu PF’s key political weapon since its formation in 1963.

Zanu PF ministers were said to have been defensive, refusing to take responsibility. Mines minister Obert Mpofu, accused of fanning violence in Umguza near Bulawayo, called for investigations into the incident, while urging caution before pointing fingers.

Shamu reportedly suggested the arson attack could have been executed by remnants of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts to divide the country, an idea scoffed at by MDC ministers.

The resurgence of violence has jolted Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai out of his comfort zone among the principals and forced him to send Timba into Sadc to raise alarm bells about the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe.

Part of the dossier compiled by MDC-T on 2013 violations

January 4: Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma faces charges of insulting President Robert Mugabe.
January 7: University of Zimbabwe bars the MDC-T Youth Assembly chairperson Solomon Madzore from resuming his studies because he has a pending criminal case.
January 8: Four MDC-T officials in Mashonaland West face charges of insulting the president.
 January 8: MDC-T youths and supporters denied an opportunity to register as voters in Masvingo.
January 9: Soldiers harass villagers at Mataga Growth Point in Mberengwa.
January 11: MDC-T branch chairperson for Cowdray Park, Bulawayo Happison Ncube’s house searched by police.

January 14: ZimRights director Okay Machisa is arrested for allegedly conspiring to commit voter registration fraud and publishing or communicating falsehoods.
January 29: ZRP Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri addresses wives of senior police officers in Selous, Mashonaland West Province and tells them to vote for Zanu PF.
January 29: Fifteen people injured after soldiers attack people in Tenda village in Chiadzwa.
January 31: Zanu PF supporters naming themselves Al-Shabab, stop a residents’ meeting to discuss the draft constitution at Mbizo Youth Centre.
February 2: Flea market operators in Chitungwiza forced to buy Zanu PF party cards before they are allowed to operate stalls.
 February 4: Police in Lupane, Matabeleland North province arrest 40 people for trying to register as voters.


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