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News in depth: Chitungwiza turned into war zone as residents mourn slain CCC activist

BY EVERSON MUSHAVA/ TAFADZWA KACHIKO
Six men sat in a tuckshop at a shopping centre in the Nyatsime where residents were roaming around waiting for the police to bring Pius Jamba to indicate how he allegedly killed Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC) activist, Moreblessing Ali.

The men laughed at their stories as one of them attended to us.

With three police armoured trucks parked in the courtyard, and security details outnumbering civilians, a fresh sense of peace and security had returned, and it was a moment for them to share their experiences in the face of death.

“No one will forget the horror of Tuesday night,” one of them said.

“You remember those guys (names not given), they spent a whole hour arguing about where to go and sleep.

“This one said, let us go and sleep at your place, the other one said, no, let us go and sleep at yours.

“The other headache was about which room was secure enough for them to sleep.

“He said it was better to avoid the bedroom and sleep on the floor in one of the rooms with burglar bars.”

Another interjected: “Yeah, it was a horrific night. I remember that old man calling his friend to come and take his car away saying he would not be responsible if it was damaged.”

They went on and on with their stories while the tuckshop attendant looked for change for us.

What was evident in their talk was that Tuesday night was unusual. In fact, it was a night each of them would like to forget immediately.

The tension was extreme.

The situation started deteriorating when Zanu PF youths regrouped in the evening after CCC activists torched a house belonging to a branch chairperson, George Murambatsvina in the afternoon.

The angry opposition supporters allegedly also damaged cars and shop windows at Chibhanguza Shopping Centre in retaliation after a video of Zanu PF ward nine councillor Masimbi Masimbi where he threatens that the ruling party would take over Ali’s  funeral proceedings went viral.

Masimbi declared in the video that Nyatsime was a Zanu PF territory.

Ali (46) went missing at Chibhanguza Shopping Centre, Nyatsime, after she was allegedly abducted by Jamba on May 24.

Her body was retrieved from a well at Plot 321 Dunnottar Farm in Nyatsime on June 11 after it was spotted by Linnah Mukandi (57), who is the accused killer’s mother.

CCC accused Zanu PF of engineering Ali’s abduction and murder, an accusation denied by the ruling party and the police.

CCC claimed an alleged  Zanu PF terror leader, Simbarashe Chisango, who is believed to be a half-brother of Jamba, was involved in the murder for political reasons.

The developments turned Nyatsime upside down. The place now resembles a war zone.

When entering Nyatsime area, the atmosphere just changes starting from the popular Nyatsime turn-off that connects with Chitungwiza Road.

Just adjacent to the turn-off, a stationary police truck could be seen packed with riot police and as one approaches Nyatsime River which separates Manyame Rural District Council, near Tilcor Industries, a police roadblock remains in place.

Across Nyatsime River riot police manned the road that leads to Jamba’s homestead where Ali’s mutilated body was found.

There are police officers are camped in the bush as well.

“From the day CCC leader Nelson Chamisa came for the memorial service, the situation has been so tense.

“As you might be aware, there are houses belonging to CCC members that were set on fire,” said one resident.

“From that day the police have been moving around the community.”

Although some people were going about their businesses on Friday, some known CCC activists were said to be in hiding.

“There are safe houses where some people are hiding fearing for their lives,” a source said.

When The Standard got to Ali’s home, the area was deserted.

Ali’s brother Washington said: “The mourners are in hiding. They were beaten badly by Zanu PF thugs.”

Residents explained what had been happening since the discovery of Ali’s body.

“The situation was tense. Zanu PF supporters have been camped here,” said a resident, who requested anonymity.

“They have arrested the MP (Job) Sikhala, but the people who should be in jail are Masimbi and Murambatsvina.

“If they had allowed the CCC to mourn their member, no violence was going to happen.”

Another resident explained how CCC members were attacked when they arrived at the shops in a minibus on Monday.

“We were seated there, and Zanu PF supporters were everywhere at the shops,” he said.

“They bought sadza from that gazebo and after that, that’s when the CCC bus arrived.

“The CCC supporters were attacked and some managed to flee.

“Others were apprehended, that is why the CCC claimed its members had been abducted.”

Another resident said the police were supposed to intervene soon after Masimbi’s video went viral.

“They are here today, if they had come earlier, no violence could have taken place,” the resident said.

A police officer who cannot be named for security reasons said he was there from the day violence broke up and he believed that the CCC members were wrong by taking the law into their hands, although he admitted they were provoked.

Asked why those who incited the violence had not beed arrested, he simply said: “But you know why.”

Masimbi blamed CCC for the violence. He claimed he was quoted out of context in the video that circulated.

“We had agreed with the family, the CCC MP and others that the funeral be led by church leaders, but after that, the CCC supporters accused their MP of selling out,” Masimbi said.

“They continued coming in their regalia, maybe they wanted to show us that they have numbers in the area.

“They wanted to show that they are powerful. I wanted to promote peace.”

He admitted to stopping the funeral process but denied accusations that Zanu PF members attacked CCC members.

“The video that circulated was doctored,” he said.

Asked where he was when the violence by the CCC erupted, he said: “I was there in the vicinity, hiding. I knew they were coming for me.

“You know I am a soldier; I was hiding while monitoring everything.

“I even told our supporters not to fight back because we were outnumbered,” he said, denying accusations that the party supporters went out on the night of June 14.

Speaking during a Twitter spaces event by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum on Friday evening, Zanu PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi denied his party’s involvement in the murder of Ali.

Mugwadi accused CCC of abusing Ali’s grieving family for political capital.

“We are led by a president who understands the sanctity of life,” he claimed.

“His respect for human rights is the reason why he went to war twice.

“No one has ever gone back to war twice, even Napoleon, in his heroics, has never went to war twice.

“Our president did that, how can that president undermine the principles of freedom, the same cause he fought for?”

Speaking at the same event Musa Kika, executive director of The Forum, called for collective effort to address the scourge of political violence.

“You can be a perpetrator today, he said, but tomorrow you will be a victim, hence the need to fight it now because it is indiscriminate,” Kika said.

Timeline of events

l June 11, Ali’s body was discovered and on the same day, CCC members gathered to mourn their colleague.

l June 12, Zanu PF councillor, Masimbi threatened to take over Ali’s funeral. He declared that Nyatsime was Zanu PF territory and ordered that CCC should stop wearing their regalia at the funeral.

l June 13. Zanu PF youths wearing party regalia camped at Chibhanguza Shopping Centre and attacked CCC supporters who were in a Mazda Swaraj branded CCC minibus. Most of the CCC supporters fled, but the driver was severely assaulted. He is still nursing injuries. Zanu PF youths turned the shopping centre into a war zone. They also proceeded to disrupt Ali’s funeral.

On the same day, a Zanu PF branch manager George Murambatsvina led a group of youth to disrupt the funeral again, assaulting CCC supporters.

l June 14: CCC conducts a memorial service for Ali. Party members gathered at a house in Zengeza before hiring lorries to carry party supports to Nyatsime. Soon after arriving at the Ali homestead, the youths, armed with sticks, stones, machetes, and shovels, among other weapons, proceeded to Murambatsvina’s home proceeded to Chibhanguza Shopping Centre where they allegedly damaged cars believed to be owned by Zanu PF supporters and shop windows. They also allegedly torched the gazebo where the Zanu PF youths got their food. Party leader Nelson Chamisa addressed the mourners and blamed Zanu PF for the violence.

Soon after Chamisa left at around 1600 hours, armed riot police arrived. That evening, Zanu PF youths regrouped and started tracking CCC supporters, burning their houses, and looting property. Over seven homes were destroyed and burnt down and goods stolen. Several CCC supporters were assaulted in what turned out to be a very long night for suspected CCC suporters. MPs Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole were arrested that  night and charged with inciting violence. They are still in remand prison after the state opposed bail.

  • June 15. Police maintained a heavy presence in Nyatsime with army trucks parked at strategic points. Sikhala and Sithole appear in court.
  • June 16: The situation remains tense in Nyatsime. Police announced that Pius Jamba had been arrested but ruled out political motive in a statement.
  • June 17: Police trucks were parked at Chibhanguza the whole day. Jamba was supposed to be taken there for indications but that did not happen. Masimbi and Zanu PF MP Munyaradzi Kashambe were there at Chibhanguza Mashonaland East Dispol, gathered the people to announce that Jamba was coming for indications, and everyone should leave the area.
  • June 18: Jamba was taken to Nyatsime for indications. Police presence remained very high. Other state agents including the central intelligence organisation were present too.

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