BY GEOFFREY NYAROTA
Media-savvy Zimbabweans, especially those who patronise our hyper-active social media, must be in total confusion as to the exact nature of events that unfolded on their turbulent political landscape over the past week.
In the wake of events surrounding the attacks, including two reported to be assassination attempts on MDC A leader, Nelson Chamisa, and despite the proliferation of media reports on the week’s events the public cannot be blamed for remaining thoroughly confused as to what exactly happened or did not happen, especially in Mutare as the Chamisa convoy drove into the city.
As the eventful week drew to a close Zimbabwe faced a crisis, one fuelled by what appears to be a total breakdown in trust between the major opposition party, the MDC A of popular leader Chamisa, and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, which is normally entrusted with the onerous responsibility of enforcing law and order, as well as maintaining peace and security in the country.
A week of violence in the southern and eastern regions of Masvingo and Manicaland was triggered off by an episode on Monday, October 11, when more than 200 alleged placard waving Zanu PF supporters attacked Chamisa’s motorcade.
Several vehicles were damaged, while scores of people were reportedly admitted to hospital with injuries.
The MDC Alliance said Chamisa was due to make an address in Charumbira village when they found the road barricaded with burning logs, as widely reported in the media.
The image of burning logs reminds me of funeral wakes in the village when piles of huge logs burn throughout the night.
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The spectacle of such bonfire burning in the middle of the road merely to block the passage of a few cars is testimony to the mentality of our political activists.
An elaborate video circulated on social media depicted hundreds of people waving placards which insulted Chamisa, while another featured the smashed windscreen and other windows on one of his vehicles.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere immediately condemned the assault on Chamisa.
She said Zanu PF was terrified of his party’s Citizens Converging for Change (CCC) initiative.
Not to be outdone, Nick Mangwana, chief government (not Zanu PF) spokesperson, dismissed the reports of the attack on Chamisa as being clearly stage-managed.
The incidents were designed to pre-empt President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s trip to the United Kingdom where he was set to attend the COP26 Summit, a global climate conference.
Also targeted was the then pending visit of UN Special rapporteur Alena Douhan, to Zimbabwe.
A week later, on Tuesday last week, Chamisa’s convoy was reported to have been intercepted by heavily armed Zanu PF youths on the outskirts of the city of Mutare on its way from Chipinge via Birchenough Bridge.
They allegedly fired gunshots and hit a rear window on the MDC Alliance leader’s Toyota Fortuner SUV.
A picture of the controversial damage went viral amid much spirited argument as to its authenticity as a bona fide bullet hole.
Taking up the cudgels, MDC Alliance vice-president Tendai Biti indicted Zanu PF of attempting to assassinate Chamisa.
He characterised this as a strategy to avoid what he predicted to be Mnangagwa’s embarrassing defeat in 2023.
A campaign to raise funds for the purchase of a bullet-proof vehicle for Chamisa immediately yielded US$19 000 of the budgeted US$120 000.
As for the much maligned UN special rapporteur, Douhan, she promptly turned down the offer of elaborate security arrangements made by the host Mnangagwa administration around her person.
Following the attacks on Chamisa, the police have complained that MDC Alliance was not co-operating with law enforcement agents to facilitate investigations into the alleged assassination attempts on Chamisa.
ZRP spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said while MDC Alliance vice-president Lynette Karenyi-Kore, a resident of Mutare, had filed a report to the police late on Tuesday night, the party had since refused to co-operate with officers deployed to investigate the alleged assassination.
He said the party had refused to allow the police to record witness statements from the occupants of vehicles in the convoy that was attacked.
The party had refused to allow the witnesses to make indications at the scene of the incident or to allow the vehicles involved to be examined by forensic or ballistic experts, who were deployed to Mutare.
Party spokesperson Mahere defended the party’s position.
The police had lacked objectivity in their dealings with the MDC Alliance, she said, especially since the recent outbreak of political violence.
“There is a confidence gap that makes it hard for us to trust that they will carry out their duties constitutionally,” Mahere was quoted in the press as having said.
“The onus is on the police to demonstrate that they are objective.
“They have a history of prejudging these matters and turning on the victims.
“We saw what they did with the MDC trio and several other victims of political violence and torture. We know their modus operandi.”
Mahere was referring to the case of Joannah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, three MDC A activists who alleged in May last year that they were abducted and tortured by state security agents.
They later appeared in court facing charges of staging an illegal demonstration and of filing allegedly false reports of abduction and torture.
Mahere last week accused the police of taking orders from Zanu PF and shielding the perpetrators of violence.
And on that note a stalemate was effectively reached.
Questions have since been asked on social media as to why the MDC A reported the alleged assassination attempt on the party’s leader to the police in the first place if they did not believe they would investigate the matter.
On Friday night I sought and obtained Karenyi-Kore’s telephone mobile number.
I sent a message to ask her to confirm if the Toyota Fortuner in which Chamisa had cheated death for the second time within a week was still parked at her Murambi Gardens property in Mutare.
She promptly responded.
“Yes the vehicle is still at my place,” she said. “We pray for the release of it. Tomorrow will hear from the police.”
When I asked for the circumstances of the release and by whom, she took quite a while to respond this time.
“Will only comment after tomorrow,” she said, suggesting that her response would be ready only today.
The police are not the only parties who have encountered problems while seeking the cooperation of the some politicians while seeking to perform their duties.
After the three alleged MDC abductees resurfaced in Bindura South, they were admitted to a hospital in Waterfalls.
For the duration of their hospitalisation and thereafter journalists, myself included were denied access to interview them.
Meanwhile, video clips featuring the activists went viral.
They were silently shedding tears while in bed.
I was advised that any interview with them would have to be cleared by either the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights or Doctors for Human Rights, who were in charge of their welfare.
I gave up after several attempts.
I had assumed, obviously erroneously, that any victims of both abduction and torture would be more than keen to be interviewed in order to share details of their ordeal.
That way their persecutors would not escape punishment or censure.
Because some politicians routinely refuse to cooperate with the police or with journalists, culprits or perpetrators will get away with their crimes or wayward deeds.
“They nearly took me out, he wants me killed and dead. They want blood and more blood.
“They missed by seconds because our God is in it. Violence and assassinations won’t solve complex national challenges. We remain strong, steadfast and focused.
“I’m in Nyanga today with community leaders and citizens, change must happen the citizens are clear,” Chamisa was quoted somewhere on social media as having said during the week.
And, elsewhere on social media a concerned Zimbabwean had asked: “Why make a report to the police if they cannot be trusted to make a professional investigation, resulting in arrests and prosecution?”
Apart from that, Zimbabwe has a profound interest in having this matter thoroughly investigated so that the culprits are arrested and prosecuted, if at all there was an assassination attempt.
As I was rushing to meet the deadline for this article I espied the following provocative headline somewhere on social media: “MDC A challenges police to arrest Chamisa attackers”.
Stop this country, please. I want to jump off.
Geoffrey Nyarota is an award-winning investigative journalist and founding Editor-in-Chief of the original Daily News. He can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org