HARARE – Seemingly deranged Zanu PF youths ran amok in Guruve on Sunday, embarking on an orgy of political violence and leaving for dead four Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) bigwigs — including a retired senior military official and former diplomat — and forcing a local school to close yesterday.
The barbaric attacks by axe-wielding ruling party mobs against ZPF officials also saw property worth tens of thousands of dollars, including two vehicles, being destroyed in the historically volatile Mashonaland Central province — as fears grow that this is a harbinger of worse violence to come in the next few months.
Rights groups and opposition figures who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the gruesome attacks were a clear indication that President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF would increasingly use terror to silence Zimbabwe’s restless populace ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
The weekend’s bloody scenes at Dunaverty Farm, where three ZPF officials are running agricultural operations, left four people hospitalised, including retired brigadier-general and former Zimbabwe ambassador to Mozambique, Agrippa Mutambara.
And as if to rub salt into the injured ZPF officials’ wounds, Mutambara was bizarrely arrested by police together with the other bludgeoned trio, despite nursing bad wounds and having been on the receiving end of the savage attacks by the manic Zanu PF supporters.
Police said they were investigating the violence.
“Police are investigating that matter of public violence in Guruve and we are warning everyone against violence. All parties shouldn’t be involved in violence,” said its spokesperson, Charity Charamba.
According to the ZPF officials, Mutambara was attacked by the blood-thirsty Zanu PF mobs when he drove to Guruve on Sunday in a desperate bid to try and rescue his colleagues who had won a court interdict on Friday, barring ruling party invaders from running their operations at the farm.
But this was to no avail, as the scores of axe and knobkerrie-wielding Zanu PF supporters who had poured onto Dunaverty Farm, where they sought to chase away Obert Mutasa, Cyril Mureya and Temba Ncube — who are all prominent supporters of former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s fledgling party — went berserk, seemingly intent on taking their victims’ lives.
A fuming Former State Security minister and Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, who is now a senior ZPF official, slammed the “murderous assaults” and the subsequent arrest of Mutambara and his colleagues, likening police to Adolf Hitler’s Gestapo.
“Mutambara and others are in hospital under police guard after having been beaten by Zanu PF members. Is this the right thing to do in a democratic country? It is like we are living under Hitler. People are afraid of the police instead of having confidence in them.
“What surprises us is that the attack took place when Mugabe was speaking about reforming the United Nations. He is speaking about reforms when he is ignoring calls for reforms back home,” Mutasa said.
Other opposition and pro-democracy groups also raised the fear that Mugabe and Zanu PF, who they say are increasingly using the country’s security apparatus to fend off growing civil unrest in the country, would escalate their alleged use of violence to “murder their way to power” in 2018.
“Violence, intimidation and thuggery are Zanu PF’s weapons of choice. Each time that Zanu PF is faced with formidable opposition they resort to their default mode, which is violence and terrorism,” said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.
“Over the past 17 years, members of the MDC, including our party leader, president Morgan Tsvangirai, have been subjected to brutal and relentless State-sponsored violence and banditry.
“Zanu PF and violence are like inseparable Siamese twins. Mugabe and the Zanu PF regime that he fronts are smelling blood. They are spoiling for a fight.
“This is the main reason why regional and international organisations such Sadc, the AU and the UN should intervene to ensure that conditions for the holding of free and fair elections are put in place in Zimbabwe in time for elections in 2018.
“Anything short of this simply won’t be acceptable to all patriotic and right-thinking Zimbabweans,” Gutu added.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher for Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, said Sunday’s violence was an indication that Zanu PF would use terror in 2018.
“Zanu PF’s use of violence against Zimbabwe People First officials is unfortunately unsurprising considering the ruling party’s long history of repression and violence against opponents going back to the Gukurahundi period.
“Zanu PF supporters and allies at the forefront of violence have mostly gone scot-free, with a highly partisan police force turning a blind eye to such abuses. This shows that the Zanu PF leopard has not and will never change its spots,” Mavhinga told the Daily News.
“The 2008 political violence that left over 200 MDC supporters dead is likely to be repeated in the 2018 elections because as far as Zanu PF is concerned, they owe their elections ‘victory’ to instruments of violence.
“This is a big warning to opposition parties to apply pressure on Zanu PF to dismantle the infrastructure of violence before any elections are held and to insist on security sector reforms that remove partisan leaders in the army and police and replace them with professional people who do not believe in political violence.
“One more reason why Mugabe must go is that his last card, the only card he has really, is the use of violence to achieve political ends, perhaps aptly symbolised by Zanu PF’s clenched fist. ZPF and other opposition parties must continue to shun violence and call for peace,” Mavhinga added.
Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980, is facing growing resistance to his rule which critics say has been disastrous.
Sunday’s violence evoked the memories of March 11, 2007 and the 2008 presidential run-off where Zanu PF and suspected security agents unleashed frightening levels of violence against MDC officials and supporters.
On March 11, 2007, heavily armed police stormed Highfield and crushed a prayer meeting dubbed “Save Zimbabwe Campaign”, bludgeoning opposition leaders, including former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai who was badly injured in the brutal crackdown.
A well-known cobbler and MDC activist, Gift Tandare, was shot dead in cold blood — leading to the eventual intervention by Sadc in a process which led to the formation of the inclusive government in 2009.
In the 2008 presidential run-off, an estimated 200 MDC supporters were murdered in cold blood by Zanu PF followers after Mugabe had been heavily clobbered by Tsvangirai in the first round of voting of that year’s hotly-disputed elections.