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Political violence victims relive ’08 horror

JERERA — “They were brandishing AK 47 assault rifles and ordered us to lie in one corner.

Report by Tatenda Chitagu

Washington Nyamwa, our colleague, wanted to grab the rifle from one of the gunmen but was shot in the stomach. He fell on me and they started pouring petrol in the room. They locked the door from outside and lit the room.”

With tears streaming down his disfigured face, Edson Gwenhure, broke down as he narrated events of that fateful day to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who visited Jerera growth point  a fortnight ago.

Gwenhure was one of the MDC-T activists who had fled their homes from Zanu PF militia and sought refuge at Jerera in Masvingo Province in the run-up to the bloody June 2008 presidential run-off elections.

But his tormentors, determined to kill them, followed them up and petrol-bombed their hide-out, killing two of his colleagues.

“I do not know how I escaped the inferno or how my friends made it out,” said Gwenhure who managed to escape from the hellhole.

“All I remember is dragging Crison Mbano, but he failed to make it as he only crawled for a few metres from the office and died. I ran away into the darkness and hid in the nearby mountain as the attackers were still in the area.”

Among those that survived the gruesome attack were Kudakwashe Tshumele and Isaac Mbanje. They were, however, left with permanent injuries.

Tsvangirai also visited John Chebanga, the party’s ward organising secretary whose homestead was destroyed during the violent June 2008 elections.

Four years on, the 72-year-old political activist is still sleeping in roofless part of the building that did not collapse during the attack.

Chebanga has no resources to rebuild his house.

He was reduced to a pauper.

His wife Epiphania, who had sought refuge in Masvingo, died in 2010 due to stress and high blood pressure on realising that all she had worked for her entire life had been reduced to ashes.

“A day before I fled to South Africa, two suspected state security agents (CIO) came here on a motorbike and ordered me to attend a Zanu PF rally that was in the area,” he said.

“I told them that I was occupied. In the evening, fellow villagers who were coming from the rally told me that my name had been mentioned as somebody who should die for supporting the MDC-T.”

That night Chebanga fled to South Africa while his wife sought refuge in Masvingo town.

When Chebanga returned after three months, he found the homestead destroyed.

His property, livestock and food reserves had all been looted by Zanu PF militia that had set up base near his homestead.

The staunch MDC-T supporter said he would forgive but never forget the perpetrators, as they stay in the same area.

Tsvangirai said the MDC-T would rebuild Chebanga’s house to make it habitable.

“We will refurbish your house so that you do not sleep in the open. We are very sorry for the death of your wife, but we will continue to support you,” said Tsvangirai.

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