MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday said he was alarmed by the marauding war veterans’ attack on party secretary-general and Finance minister Tendai Biti.
Tsvangirai said Monday’s attack on Biti posed a serious threat to peace in Zimbabwe especially as President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF continued to push for early elections.
“It’s a very serious issue and the Prime Minister is disturbed by the culture of impunity that is creeping into the country,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, said yesterday.
“We have a very disturbing trend which does not bode well for peace in the country. It’s unwarranted and it’s unexpected.”
He added: “If Cabinet ministers are at the mercy of hooligans, (then) can the safety of ordinary Zimbabweans be guaranteed? There is a better and more civilised way of expressing grievances.”
On Monday, a group of prowling war veterans held Biti hostage at his offices in Harare for hours on end, baying for his blood over a plethora of issues, including civil servants’ salaries.
The ex-guerillas, who have personalised the liberties of Zimbabwe at the expense of the nation, called for Biti to either lick President Mugabe’s boots or throw in the towel.
Chanting and gyrating in front of government offices, the war veterans, who disturbed the smooth flow of traffic for the better part of Monday, blocked the main entrance to the building, declaring Biti would not leave the premises until he addressed their grievances.
But Biti was whisked away to safety through the back door.
The war veterans carried placards which denounced Biti for not awarding salary increases to civil servants.
The minister has on several occasions said Treasury does not have the money to increase government’s wage bill, a position his critics are contesting.
Tamborinyoka said Monday’s incident was aimed at intimidating and cowing MDC-T officials and supporters ahead of possible elections which President Mugabe and Zanu PF are agitating for this year.
“Only last week a Cabinet minister (Jameson Timba) was abducted,” he said. “It puts into context the utterances by one (Brigadier-General) Douglas Nyikayaramba.”
Tamborinyoka declined to reveal what action Tsvangirai would take, saying it was premature to do so.
Nyikayaramba, a senior army official, has vowed to block any person with no liberation war credentials from taking over power even in the event of an election victory. The actions against Biti came a day after the release of senior MDC-T official Timba from police custody.
Timba, the Minister of State in the PM’s Office, was arrested last Friday on allegations of undermining the authority of President Mugabe.
Timba allegedly accused President Mugabe of lying about the outcome of the recent Sadc summit held in Sandton, South Africa.
He was released on Sunday afternoon following an urgent High Court application by his lawyers.
This is the second time Biti’s critics have demonstrated against him. A few weeks ago a group of youths, believed to be Zanu PF supporters, besieged his office demanding he signs the anti-sanctions petition.
Earlier this month, an explosive device was thrown at Biti’s house just after midnight, but no one was injured. The explosion damaged a small part of the precast wall at the minister’s house in the Grange, Harare.
At the time of the alleged attack, Biti’s house was not guarded as is the norm. Biti was not at home.
This was a few days after security chiefs said Biti’s reluctance to increase civil servants’ salaries was now a threat to national security.