Assault on Zimbabwe MP condemned

Trudy Stevenson, the MP for Harare North and a staunch ally of pro-Senate Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Professor Arthur Mutambara, was pounced on by a mob of about 40 youths last Sunday after holding meetings in the suburb of Mabvuku.

A further three other party provincial executive members were assaulted in the attack that has been blamed on youths aligned to the rival Morgan Tsvangirai camp.

By mid-last week, police were still following up information they had gathered while various NGOs as well as at least one Diplomatic Mission in the country slammed the attack and called for thorough investigations to be carried out.

The MDC split into two factions last year after party members failed to agree on whether or not to take part in the November 2005 Senate elections, after Tsvangirai vetoed a national executive council vote green-lighting participation.

Since then, two MPs aligned to the Mutambara faction have been assaulted by thugs linked to Tsvangirai, making Stevenson the third.

Stevenson and company were waylaid by a group of youths who threw stones at the vehicle they were traveling in before pouncing on the four with sticks, iron bars and a machete.

The mob then ransacked the car and stole three cell phones, some cash, two pairs of shoes and other valuables including two wedding rings.

The MDC officials were rushed to Harare’s Avenues Clinic in a police truck where doctors said Stevenson had suffered a broken wrist and head injuries while the other victims had an assortment of injuries.

Stevenson said she recognised one of her assailants as Tonderai Ndira, who was suspended from the party last year.

In a statement the Mutambara MDC said: “Only seven persons amongst the thugs were positively identified as Wilson Goliath, Munyaradzi aka Lecturer, Petty Zambezi aka Mai Danken, Norman Hanyani and Tendai aka Chigubhu, Tonderai Ndira and his brother Barnabas Ndira. Barnabas Ndira and brother Tonderai have become notorious for carrying out attacks against our members.”

Tsvangirai’s spokesman, William Bango, denied the allegations in a BBC interview saying that this was the work of the ruling party, a claim dismissed by nearly every other commentator.

However, the anti-Senate MDC said it had set up a commission of inquiry into what had transpired last Sunday.

Prominent lawyer Advocate Happias Zhou chairs the commission that also includes Irene Petras from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, lawyer Kay Ncube and Kudakwashe Matibiri.

The secretary-general of Tsvangirai’s faction, Tendai Biti – who is also MP for Harare East, the constituency where the assault took place – said: “We hope and trust that the commission, which begins its work with immediate effect, shall work with speed and be ready to present its findings by the end of July.

Addressing journalists in Harare, Mutambara faction spokesperson Gabriel Chaibva said given that the findings of previous commissions of inquiry were never taken into cognizsat things would be any different this time around.

“The commission of inquiry is to us a futile exercise because it is trying to find something that is already known and the people involved in the violence are already known.”

In a statement, Canada’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Roxanne Dube said: “The Government of Canada condemns the attack on Harare North Member of Parliament, Trudy Stevenson and four other MDC members. Canada calls for a thorough and fair investigation of this incident and for its perpetrators to be brought to justice.”

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, a coalition of 16 NGOs, said all political parties in Zimbabwe must observe democratic processes while urging authorities to get to the bottom of the attack, which it called “barbaric”.

Read part of the statement: “The Forum therefore condemns violence of any sort and castigates the alleged perpetrators of the above-mentioned incident in the strongest possible terms.”

David Chimhini, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (Zimcet), said his organization had launched a separate inquest into the attack, adding that he was disgusted by the incident.

Writing on Internet blog, one Zimbabwean resident in the United Kingdom said: “We now know the violent party for what it is. Violence is promoted by leadership’s action or inaction. When a hunter cannot control his own dogs, it is the hunter and not the dogs that are to blame. Tsvangirai must learn to control his vicious dogs.

Recently, MDC MP for Bulawayo South David Coltart released a report detailing how Tsvangirai’s underlings had carried out systematic campaigns of violence and intimidation within the party to the point of trying to assassinate Peter Guhu, the then security chief, at party headquarters.

He said: “In May 2005, there were serious incidents of violence among party youths. There’ve been other incidents of violence…there’s even an unconcluded commission of inquiry into the violence.

Other MPs who have been assaulted by youths aligned to Tsvangirai this past year are Tafara-Mabvuku representative Timothy Mubhawu and Glen Norah legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

July 2006
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