BRUTAL attacks and several attempts on his life have not cowed Shepherd Maisiri (47) into quitting opposition politics by submitting to Zanu PF, but rather, have strengthened his resolve to wrest the Headlands parliamentary seat from Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
Report by Everson Mushava
Maisiri hopes to contest the seat under an MDC-T ticket if he overcomes the first hurdle — that of being endorsed as its representative for the constituency in the party’s internal vetting system. He will battle it out with other party aspirants Joseph Magushu and businessman David Tekeshe.
While Maisiri wants to wrest the seat from Zanu PF, Mutasa said he knew the MDC-T parliamentary aspirant as his party member. “How can we attempt to kill our member?” Mutasa queried on Sunday.
Despite the tribulations he has faced for supporting party leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC-T deputy organising secretary for Headlands district said nothing would force him to abandon the party he joined at its inception in 1999.
Just last Saturday, Maisiri lost his 12-year-old son Christpowers Simbarashe Maisiri to a fire when the house he was sleeping in with his three siblings was allegedly petrol bombed. Maisiri said he suspected none other than his political opponents in Zanu PF who have made his life hell since 1999.
“They have been threatening to deal with me. So these are the results,” Maisiri told NewsDay on Sunday, pointing at the hut that was razed by fire the previous night and the charred remains of his son which still lay in it.
Maisiri said he had been living in fear since joining the
MDC-T and on several occasions was forced to abandon his homestead and live in the mountains surrounding Ruura area’s Ward 8 in Headlands.
“Zanu PF supporters have made several attempts on my life since 1999. This is the ninth time they have burnt my house,” he said.
Ironically, Maisiri said Christpowers was born in the forest on June 2, 2000, after his family was forced to abandon their home for safety after a wave of violence gripped the politically-volatile area.
“This place is very cold; I lost two children to the cold weather when I was in the forest taking refuge from Zanu PF attacks. In 2003, Zanu PF activists stabbed my younger brother to death after mistaking him for me,” Maisiri narrated his ordeal punctuated by sobs.
But the worst was still to come. In the bloody June 27 2008 presidential runoff that Tsvangirai withdrew from citing violence against his supporters, Maisiri said he was on several occasions tortured and left for dead by Zanu PF supporters at their torture bases in the area.
“There were four torture bases — Inyati, Chiome, Chiropa Bingaguru and Ruura. At one time, they took me and tied my hands on bars secured at the back of a pick-up truck and drove the vehicle at high speed on a gravel road while I was suspended in the air. Both my hands were scratched and bled profusely,” he said, showing scars on his body.
“They took my field and gave it to a Central Intelligence Organisation operative. I was forced to relocate my home to the field in defiance of the seizure.”
Maisiri said Christopowers died with some burn marks on his back sustained from previous fires.
“I know Zanu PF activists from the area are responsible for the fire that killed my son. They have been verbally threatening me with unspecified action for causing the incarceration of Lovemore Manenji, who was one of the Ruura torture base commanders in the 2008 presidential runoff,” he said.
Manenji is serving a 52-year jail term after Maisiri and his friend Joshua Chaumba successfully caused his gaoling for raping their wives while they watched helplessly at Ruura torture base, courtesy of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Since then, Maisiri said Zanu PF activists (names supplied) had been threatening to “fix” him for Manenji’s incarceration.
“Just last week, they set dogs on one of the MDC-T supporters’ sons,” he added.
Zanu PF has distanced itself from the murders, but MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said: “The callous murder unquestionably bear the signature of Zanu PF.”
In the 2008 presidential runoff, human rights groups say over 200 MDC-T supporters were killed and thousands displaced as Zanu PF’s President Robert Mugabe battled to overturn a first round poll defeat to Tsvangirai.
Although visibly in emotional pain and seemingly fighting a losing battle against rich contestants in the forthcoming internal selection process, poor Maisiri vowed to take the seat for the MDC-T from Zanu PF.
“I am poor today because of Zanu PF. They burnt my houses several times, each time destroying my belongings.”
Christpowers will be laid to rest tomorrow amid fears his death heralds another bloody poll.
Police are still investigating Christpowers’ death.