It took the urgent and timely intervention of Zimbabwe’s security agents to avert total mayhem in the capital Monday after planned demonstrations by Zanu PF youths, seeking to dispossess foreign traders in the city, turned riotous and the youths went on a looting spree.
Yesterday’s disturbances in the city are a continuation of the violence that has rocked Harare in the past two weeks and now threatens to engulf the entire country.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo says: “It’s a party-approved programme which we want people to receive.”
But as almost happened yesterday, things could very easily get out of hand and Zimbabwe may find itself in deeper problems than political parties may anticipate.
Monday’s programme had been carefully planned at the weekend, but the wheels came off somewhere and, according to sources inside the plan, the whole programme had to be abandoned.
Zanu PF had organised its youths from townships in Harare to congregate at the party provincial headquarters from where they were to proceed across town demonstrating against the engagement of Easipak, a South African company brought by the City of Harare to collect parking fees in the city, before heading to the Gulf Complex at the south-western end of town to send a similar message to Chinese and Nigerian traders.
Monday’s mission was to express the party’s empowerment drive – to eject the Chinese and Nigerian businesses trading in common goods such as electrical gadgets and foodstuffs which Zimbabwean youths could do without difficulty.
Our source said after demonstrations at the Gulf, the party expected the provincial leadership to address them and perhaps make clear the message to the foreigners – that if they have to be in Zimbabwe, they ought to bring with them meaningful investment in manufacturing and other sectors but not selling cellphones and the staple sadza.
Unfortunately, the planners overestimated the discipline of the youths, drawn from various townships, including “battle-hardened” Mbare’s Chipangano members.
Even while their colleagues were still gathering at the Fourth Street party provincial headquarters, scores of youths, chanting Zanu PF slogans and flying the party flag, had besieged the Gulf Complex.
In no time, the demonstrations had turned into a free-for-all looting.
“The security agents who were monitoring the situation realised the way things were going and quickly acted to stop it,” said a source privy to the planning of the demos yesterday (Monday). “There were serious fears the people whose shops were being looted and even members of the public would decide to retaliate and security warned of a possible Egypt.”
Gumbo sought to dissociate his party from the violent demos saying the Zanu PF youths were still gathering at Fourth Street when “MDC-T youths hijacked” their project.
Police, however, confirmed they had moved in to stop the Zanu PF demonstrations after the situation degenerated.
In Epworth yesterday, a NewsDay crew chasing up a story of political violence where property was destroyed, stumbled on a group of about 100 Zanu PF supporters, armed with an assortments of weapons, including golf clubs and knobkerries.
They had barricaded the dust road at a secluded area within the Epworth residential area with makeshift humps.
The news crew was stopped, forced to get out of their car and searched.
They were interrogated on the purpose of their presence in the area before being ordered to leave.
Earlier in the day, another news crew had visited a place in Glen Norah where victims of the recent political upheaval in Harare have taken refuge.
They were 91 of them, all MDC-T supporters among whom were women and children.
They said they fled their homes in Mbare after violent clashes between Zanu PF and MDC-T last week. Some of them were nursing injuries sustained during the clashes.
Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone had visited them earlier in the day to assess their situation and gave them food and blankets.
MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said yesterday more than 1 000 families had been displaced from Mbare and the surrounding areas in the past two weeks.
Secretary-general of the party Tendai Biti said late yesterday the displaced families had later in the day been forcibly dispersed by the police.
Biti called a press conference and chronicled the political disturbances that have rocked Harare in the past two months accusing police of “complicity” with alleged Zanu PF youths whom he said had created a state of siege in Mbare and other townships of Harare.
“We resisted the temptation of hitting back at people that were insulting us,” Biti said. “The security and integrity of the vote is important. We are concerned at the slow response by Sadc.
“Six months down the line nothing has been done. The implementation of the roadmap is important to prevent loss of life and statehood like Ivory Coast and Somalia.
“The violence that we are seeing in the country is not ordinary violence. It’s state-sponsored and state-engineered because the police are playing a role in marshalling the youths.”
Reports from Bindura said a local MDC-T official, Amos Chitere, had his house burnt down by suspected Zanu PF activists in the early hours of Monday.
Shepherd Mushonga, the MP for Mazowe Central, confirmed the incident and said the MDC-T had held a meeting in Bindura South, Matepatepa area, on Sunday afternoon and the alleged Zanu PF arsonists had gone to the home of the local MDC-T ward chairperson at around 3:00am Monday.
“They set his bedroom-hut on fire, destroying everything he has worked for all his life,” Mushonga said. “
He made a report at the police station this morning but we were surprised hours later when we heard a local Zanu PF member by the name of Matangira had also gone to the police to report that Chitere had burnt his own house.”