via Zanu PF youths storm church over land – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 27, 2015
AT LEAST 1 000 Zanu PF youths yesterday stormed St Mary’s Anglican Church in Chitungwiza and disrupted the service demanding an audience with the church’s leadership over a piece of land they want to grab and subdivide into residential stands for party members.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
The youths, some of whom appeared drunk, sang and chanted party slogans as they took hostage and blocked church members from leaving the premises for over three hours.
They only dispersed following the intervention of riot police. The ruling party supporters accused the church of illegally grabbing the disputed 82 hectare land from local people during the colonial era.
The disputed land is located between St Marys Police Station and Chikwanha business centre.
The youths were clad in Zanu PF regalia and were addressed by Zanu PF’s Innocent Hamandishe before he met church leadership
over the matter.
“We were directed by our leader, (Innocent) Hamandishe who is a Central Committee member. This land should be in our hands because the church gained it after killing our forefathers,” one of the youths identified as Tendai Mutisi said.
As the group marched towards the land at the centre of controversy, another party activist shouted: “We are here to take this land. No one in the church has the capacity to stop us. Not even police details here can stop us. This is our land and we have taken it over.”
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said: “I don’t know who these youths are and nobody has given me a report concerning that, but as a party, we don’t promote any form of indiscipline. We are a disciplined party and we would want our members to know that we have a constitution which everyone should abide by. We are not happy with that report.”
Efforts to contact Hamandishe after the fracas were fruitless as his mobile went unanswered.
Parish leader Reverend Norman Nyawo said the incident had left most of his congregants traumatised as they feared that the marauding youths could break into the main auditorium and harm them.
“Emotionally, we were disturbed. I think their intentions were to instill fear in the congregants,” Nyawo said.
“We started the church at 8am and the youths came at around 9am and we understand a few of them scaled the precast wall clad in their party regalia. We continued with the service, but everyone was disturbed.
“We finally had a meeting with their committee and they insisted that we should address the majority of the youths who were outside the gate.”
Nyawo yesterday insisted that the land belonged to the church, adding they would soon take the matter to court to stop the Zanu PF youths who have already parcelled out some of the land among themselves.
He said the church had plans to build a polytechnic college or a vocational training centre at the site.
Spokesperson for the Anglican Bishop in the Diocese of Harare, Precious Shumba, condemned the disturbances and appealed to Zanu PF to rein in its rowdy supporters.
“Zanu PF, the ruling party, has an obligation to maintain peace in Zimbabwe, just as it is the responsibility of every Zimbabwean,” Shumba said.
“The Anglican Church’s land belongs to the church for the expansion of its health and educational programming. Not every unused land is available for subdivision into residential stands.
“The President (Robert Mugabe) and his Cabinet have a responsibility to every Zimbabwean to respect and uphold the provisions of the Constitution regarding private property rights.
“As the Anglican Church, we urge the police to maintain law and order. Political parties should desist from pursuing populist positions that undermine the government’s efforts to unite the citizens around the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.”
He added: “Investors and other international observers are all watching how the government respects the rule of law. The church provides a safe space to all people and for any political activists to disrupt a church service is the height of lawlessness.
“Anglicans are urged to remain united and recall the persecution they overcame during the five years in exile (This was in reference to the legal battle between Bishop Chad Gandiya and defrocked Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga over control of the Anglican Church).
“This latest assault on our religious institution should be viewed in the light of the exile conflict which undermined our fundamental rights to freedom of worship.”
The land invasions started before the just-ended Easter Holidays and almost turned violent after MDC-T youths also demanded a share of the land.