AN unidentified elderly woman died following a stampede at President Robert Mugabe’s campaign rally at Chibuku Stadium in Chitungwiza yesterday.
WONAI MASVINGISE/JOHN NYASHANU
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the tragedy last night, saying the deceased’s body was taken to Chitungwiza Central Hospital mortuary.
“One unidentified female adult aged about 52 was injured in a stampede that occurred when people were being stopped from entering the stadium which had exceeded its capacity. She later died at Chitungwiza Central Hospital and we are appealing to relatives to proceed to Chitungwiza Police Station and see the officer-in-charge,” Charamba said.
Sources told NewsDay several other people were injured in the stampede, while others collapsed due to excessive heat and overcrowding.
The rally was attended by thousands of Zanu PF supporters, many of whom had allegedly been bussed from outlying areas such as Mbare, Epworth and surrounding settlements.
Chitungwiza is predominantly an MDC-T stronghold.
Mugabe told the visibly restless crowd that his party was geared
to retain all seats lost to the MDC-T in 2008, but emphasised that the elections should be held peacefully.
He spent most of his address pleading with his supporters not to resort to violence in the coming polls.
He used an old tale involving his own grandfather in a bid to send a message to supporters that people should be allowed to make their own choices of which leaders or parties they wish to support — apparently surprising the local Zanu PF youths who had just hours earlier force-marched residents to the rally.
They forcibly closed market places and shops at almost all shopping centres in the sprawling city of about two million people, toyi-toying on the streets singing songs that order people to vote for Zanu PF or risk war.
“You had slept for a little while in 2008 and the enemy got in and now they want to take your houses. I was talking to (Local Government minister Ignatius) Chombo yesterday. You might have accumulated huge debts, but don’t surrender your houses. We promise to return those houses,” Mugabe said.