Matabeleland North police chief Edmore Veterai Wednesday accused MDC leader Welshman Ncube of “provoking bloodshed” while the country was celebrating its 31st Independence anniversary.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Veterai said: “While President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were in Harare marking Independence Day, Ncube was provoking bloodshed. He must be taught on how to be Zimbabwean. He has to respect national holidays.”
The officer commanding Mat North was defending police action of bringing National Healing minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu and Roman Catholic priest Marko Mnkandla to court in leg irons and handcuffed to each other to answer charges of holding a political rally without police clearance.
He told NewsDay their action was prompted by information received by police that MDC officials had planned to “spring out” Mzila-Ndlovu from lawful custody.
Veterai said on Independence Day, Ncube in a convoy of 10 cars arrived at Lupane Police Station at 9am allegedly to help his MDC counterpart escape from the police station.
However, the provincial police chief said the MDC delegation was “blocked”.
He said leg irons were meant to prevent detainees from escaping.
Although strenuous efforts to contact Ncube were fruitless, as his mobile phone was barred from incoming calls, his party spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube said: “When we went to Lupane, we wanted to visit Mzila–Ndlovu. When we got there we were told that it was not yet time for visitors and that we should return at 12:30pm. But when we returned to the station we found two police officers guarding the gate and they told us that the station had been closed for the day.”
Dube said the information, Veterai was given was “far from the truth as day is from midnight”.
“We are a law-abiding party which respects all the government institutions in the country including the police. We will never set ourselves on the course where it is said Zimbabwe is an ungovernable country. We never intended to fight with the police.”
But Veterai said the MDC delegation had digital and video cameras to “shoot scenes of stage-managed police brutality”.
“However, the police officers manning the station remained calm to avoid a situation where we would fall victim to the likes of BBC and CNN,” he said.
Veterai said when the two appeared in court, they were granted $500 bail with stringent conditions showing they were facing serious charges.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told the court on Tuesday Mnkandla was denied food but was given only water during his six-day ordeal at the police station.
Veterai however, denied the allegations, saying: “Does the priest have so much stamina that he can walk on his two feet after not eating for six days? The police could have not put leg irons on him because he would have fainted, but he came to court on his two feet.”
He said it was a chargeable offence for a police officer to deny accused persons food even once and no member of the policeman would risk their job by engaging in such a practice.
“I acknowledge the food in the police cells is different from that which they eat at their homes, but they are fed three times a day,” he said.
On Tuesday, police reportedly detained five lawyers representing Mzila-Ndlovu, Mnkhandla and eight MDC members at roadblocks, but Veterai said: “If being stopped and searched at roadblocks means arrest, then I need to go back to school.
“We are maintaining peace during the holiday period and are in full force to maintain law and order and also curb cases of smuggling of illegal firearms.
“What they (MDC) have to understand is that ministers, like any other human beings like Veterai, can be arrested and appear in court. “I have appeared in court before. We have also arrested Zanu PF ministers, but they have faced their charges without complaining.”
Veterai said police had deployed 1 000 officers in plain clothes with cameras and recorders to flush out perpetrators of violence in Matabeleland North.