BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/MOSES MATENGA
ZANU PF youths yesterday threatened to storm Chitungwiza to counter suspected MDC youths who are demonstrating against police brutality following running battles with the law enforcement agents since the weekend, setting the stage for possible deadly clashes in the already volatile town.
The violence started when police raided the home of Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala in St Mary’s on Saturday.
On Monday, the police staged several raids at homes of suspected MDC activists and barricaded the road to Chitungwiza Magistrates’ Courts to stop MDC supporters from attending a hearing of 11 party youths who were arrested on Saturday, prompting running battles.
But Zanu PF’s acting secretary for youth league Tendai Chirau, said members of his party would intervene to stop the MDC “hoodlums”.
“We are concerned and worried by that archaic behaviour from the hoodlums. How can you destroy buses provided by government? We are saying it is unfortunate and regretted,” he said.
“The people must stand against these people. We know the author of this and it is good law enforcement agents are on the ground, but there will come a time that we will go there to ensure that we protect the property and citizens against the marauding crowds.
“We condemn that and we are getting to a point where we are not going to stand akimbo, but we are going to make sure that we protect the property and the residents. Our members in Chitungwiza should be vigilant and ensure that they protect citizens from people who are imported to cause anarchy in the country.”
Asked whether the concerns by protesters over the falling economy were not justified, Chirau said: “How does burning a bus and property improve the economy? These are just demopreneurs (sic), who are paid to do what they are doing.”
Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa defended the stance by party youths.
“I have not heard what Chirau said, but I can say, they also have a right to defend themselves if they are attacked. It’s a legal right to defend oneself. I think you will do the same if people attack your property,” he said.
“They have the legal and moral right to defend themselves with the property. Zanu PF people will not be attacked and become sleeping ducks. During the attack, Zanu PF members have the right to defend their property against whoever is attacking them. We cannot allow a repeat of January 2019 and August 2018 situation. Sikhala, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa and other party executives have been lobbying for sanctions. They cannot protest against the very things they called for. I will urge Zanu PF supporters to defend themselves when they have been attacked.”
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi was not picking calls on his mobile phone last night.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the chaos in Chitungwiza was a reflection of the frustrations by the people on the obtaining economic and political crises in the country.
“It reflects that things are not in order on the ground regarding the political and economic situation in the country. Leadership is not bringing results as expected by the citizens, so the chaos and all the things are a sign that the citizens are frustrated and the leadership is not giving a response towards the situation,” the coalition’s spokesperson Marvellous Khumalo said.
On police fears that the alleged perpetrators of the chaos could be getting tactics from foreign lands, Khumalo accused government of playing the blame game instead of addressing the situation.
On statements by the former United National Human Rights Commission boss Navi Pillay who last week said the human rights conditions in the country had deteriorated, Khumalo said: “Pillay is very much vindicated because over the years, we have known Zimbabwe to be a relatively peaceful country and whenever we witnessed chaos like in the current circumstances, we would see the authorities stepping in to address such a situation, but now, what is even worrying is that the so-called new dispensation is blaming an invisible hand and what can we do as citizens?”
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) expressed concern over violence triggered by hate speech that took place in Chitungwiza at the weekend and called for urgent inclusive dialogue to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.
ZimRights said it witnessed violence which resulted in destruction of property and assault of civilians by the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
“ZimRights notes with concern that this violence was triggered by increasing hate speech from a group calling itself Concerned Citizens Forum, which over the years has been targeting civil society organisations in an anti-rights crusade,” the human rights organisation said in a statement.
“Reports from ZimRights community monitors confirm that Concerned Citizens Forum last week started circulating posters on social media threatening to invade the homes of opposition leaders, whom it accused of calling for sanctions and causing suffering on Zimbabweans. In a pre-emptive act, opposition youths moved to offer protection to their targeted leaders, leading to violent scenes that were recorded in Chitungwiza.”
ZimRights said the violence was a sign of tension in the country which has reached alarming levels, with many Zimbabwean leaving the country because the situation was increasingly becoming hopeless.
“Already, thousands of Zimbabweans are on a stampede to leave the country as the situation looks as hopeless as ever. It, thus, becomes imperative on the leadership of Zimbabwe to find a lasting solution to the current challenges before the situation gets out of control,” the statement read.
“ZimRights is concerned with these developments upon a population that is carrying an overwhelming economic burden and calls on Concerned Citizen Forum to stop its hate speech, which is threatening to trigger anarchy in the country. Real concerned citizens know the sources of their suffering and are doing their best to remain patient in the face of provocative elements.”
The human rights body added: “ZimRights calls on the leadership of Zimbabwe to urgently begin genuine and inclusive dialogue to resolve the country’s challenges.”
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said instead of being heavy-handed, the police should deal with protests by allowing people to exercise their democratic right to peacefully protest.
He said the statement by police insinuating the protesters were trained was just “fear-mongering”.
“It is fear-mongering by the police and they are facing the challenge of dealing with the protests by youths in Chitungwiza and other parts of Harare. These wild cat kind of protests are an indication that there is growing frustration, especially among the youths in the country over the economic and social conditions,” Mukundu said.
“The best way for the police to deal with this is to allow citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression that includes protests or marches and the attempt by the police to stop these protests can only turn into more confrontation and turn Zimbabwe into a pre-2018 scenario, which saw many people being shot.”