‘Police paid to assault Tsvangirai’

Zimbabwean government officials allegedly made payments of Z$1,1-million (R100), or the equivalent of a month’s salary, to each of the policemen who assaulted Morgan Tsvangirai, Lovemore Madhuku and other opposition supporters at a meeting in Harare last week.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said an MDC member overheard a police officer at a police station saying he was going to receive the allowance for the assault job he had done.

Biti said the assault on Tsvangirai, who sustained a fractured skull and was in intensive care in a Harare hospital this week, as well as on other MDC leaders Sekai Holland, Grace Kwinje and Madhuku, was perpetrated “with the intention to murder”.

It was three decades ago that Robert Mugabe first voiced the philosophy of violence as a guarantor of power, saying at the height of the bush war against Ian Smith’s government: “The gun which produces the vote should remain its security officer — its guarantor.”

Three decades later, Gift Tandare, youth chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly for Glenview suburb in Harare, became the most recent victim of the gun.

On Tuesday police shot two activists who were attending Tandare’s wake.

The current killing is part of a broader pattern that goes back to the Mugabe regime’s halcyon days following independence. In 1980, members of the opposition Zimbabwean African People’s Union (Zapu), led by Mugabe’s long-time rival Joshua Nkomo, started committing random acts of terror in the western and southern provinces of Zimbabwe. Resentful that he remained unpopular in the area, Mugabe’s response to the threat was vastly disproportionate in the following years.

He sent in the 5th brigade –trained by North Korean instructors — in 1983 to conduct an operation that eventually claimed the lives of at least 20 000 civilians, most of them Ndebele. Perence Shiri, who headed the unit, reported directly to Mugabe, circumventing General Solomon Mujuru, then the commander of the armed forces.

When Roman Catholic Church activists and other concerned citizens accused Mugabe of terrorising villagers, he shot back by warning a gathering in rural Matabeleland: “We have to deal with this problem quite ruthlessly. Don’t cry if your relatives get killed in the process … Where men and women provide food for the dissidents, when we get there we eradicate them,” emphasising that his army would not differentiate between dissidents and civilians.

In a 1982 speech to Parliament Mugabe warned that “some of the measures [against the dissidents and the villagers he accused of supporting them] we shall take are measures which shall be extra-legal … an eye for an eye and ear for an ear may not be adequate in our circumstances. We might very well demand two ears for one ear and two eyes for one eye.”

Much later, in December 2000, when the MDC was to emerge as the first real challenge to his rule, he told a Zanu-PF conference: “We must continue to strike fear into the heart of the white man. The white man must tremble.” Subsequent to this, white farmers and their workers were terrorised, assaulted and sometimes killed.

Responding to the current repression, John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, told Zimonline: “What this harassment does is that it will invigorate people to be even more daring in their actions against the government.”

Zimonline reports that Mugabe is considering declaring a state of emergency in the coming month if the tensions do not subside.

The women left behind

“Its not fair, its not fair,” is all that Gift Tandare’s grief-stricken widow could say on SAfm this week when asked to comment on the death of her husband.

She joins a list of other widows, including: Adella Chiminya, the wife of Tichaona Chiminya, Morgan Tsvangirai’s personal assistant, who was petrol-bombed to death; Kathy Olds, the wife of slain farmer Martin Olds; Mary Stevens, wife of David Stevens; and scores of others who have been killed by pro-Mugabe thugs far from the glare of the media.

Tandare lived in Glenview, Harare, and was chairperson of his suburb’s branch of the National Constitutional Assembly. He leaves three children, all in primary school. — M&G reporter

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