The ongoing Zanu PF faction fights took another bloody turn yesterday when the party’s former Harare provincial youth chairman, Jim Kunaka, was allegedly abducted and severely assaulted by six men believed to be from a rival faction fighting for control of the party.
Kunaka is believed to be a leader of Zanu PF vigilante group, Chipangano, notorious for unleashing terror on known and suspected opposition supporters in Mbare.
The incident came as two rival Zanu PF factions — led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — angle for positions ahead of next month’s elective congress.
Narrating his ordeal from his hospital bed, the heavily-bruised Kunaka said his abductors swooped on him in the morning while he was in Mbare and fired warning shots into the air to force him into submission before they blindfolded and drove him away in their getaway Isuzu pick-up truck.
He said the men indiscriminately assaulted him and later dumped him along Seke Road.
“I was at Helping Hand near Carter House in Mbare when four men arrived and demanded to see me. I asked them what they wanted, but they refused to tell me. I went aside with them, and one of them then ordered others to arrest me,” Kunaka said.
“I screamed for help when they indicated that they wanted to abduct me. One of them ordered his colleagues to collect an AK47 (assault rifle) from the truck, pointed it at me and dispersed the crowd.”
Kunaka said he was bundled into the truck, blindfolded and had his mouth muzzled before he was driven off the scene.
“They assaulted me with sticks, fists and boots. When the
blindfold eventually got removed, I took aim at one of the men’s private parts, forcing him to scream. I then heard them telling each other to leave me. I ran and that is when I realised that I was along Seke Road near Chitungwiza. A certain security guard helped me get transport to Harare Central Police Station to report the matter,” Kunaka said.
A Zanu PF activist who identified herself as Constance Dhembeko said she witnessed Kunaka’s abduction.
When NewsDay visited the private hospital in the afternoon, several party youths were milling outside with Kunaka under police escort.
Kunaka said he suspected that the group had been sent by the current provincial youth chairperson Godwin Gomwe. The two Zanu PF activists have clashed on several occasions with Gomwe accusing Kunaka of seeking to block First Lady Grace Mugabe’s political rise.
Gomwe is believed to be aligned to the faction led by Mnangagwa while Kunaka is linked to Mujuru’s faction. The two factions are jostling to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
Both Gomwe and national police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Violence and rent-a-mob demonstrations have been used in the faction fights ahead of congress with provincial chairpersons linked to the Mujuru camp being purged.
In a related development, riot police have been deployed to guard Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti’s offices at Benjamin Burombo Building after a group of war veterans threatened to beat him up for cancelling their land offer letters in the Lowveld sugarcane-producing area.
Since last week, police have been manning the entrance to the building downstairs — which houses several government departments — as well as at the entrance to his offices upstairs.
Sources privy to the development said the militant former fighters of the liberation struggle, who have always had beef with Bhasikiti, had taken advantage of the chaos in Zanu PF to settle their scores with the Mwenezi legislator, who is linked to Mujuru.
Bhasikiti could not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of the office. His mobile phone was switched off.
Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Kudakwashe Dhewa confirmed the heavy deployment of police at the government complex, but chose to be diplomatic over the issue.
“The cops will be doing a routine patrol as you know that the offices are near a commuter omnibus rank,” he said.
NewsDay is also reliably informed that the faction linked to Mnangagwa was planning to demonstrate against party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo today. The faction claims Gumbo is biased towards Mujuru.
Meanwhile, Mugabe is today scheduled to chair a potentially explosive politburo meeting where the issue of intra-party violence and the forced removal of provincial chairpersons will likely take centre stage.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera yesterday said the Mujuru faction, which has been on the receiving end in the ongoing faction fights, would likely use the politburo platform to fight back.