THE main opposition MDC will today hold an urgent caucus meeting to discuss the arrests of several of their legislators over the weekend and persecution of several others who have now gone into hiding after being accused of orchestrating last week’s successful countrywide stayaway.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
This came as the United Nations called for a peaceful resolution to the current challenges in the country.
“The United Nations strongly believes that the current challenges in the country can only be resolved through peaceful and consultative processes,” the UN said in a statement last night.
“In line with Zimbabwe’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, upholding rule of law and ensuring the protection of human rights of all Zimbabweans at all times is critical for accelerated economic recovery, inclusive growth and sustainable development.”
Labour and civil rights organisations called for the stayaway when President Emmerson Mnangagwa raised fuel prices by nearly 150% nearly two weeks ago, which turned violent when government reacted by unleashing the armed soldiers and police on civilians throughout the country.
The State also blocked the Internet to prevent the brutal crackdown being broadcast to the world, in what analysts say is evidence that the country is slipping back into authoritarian rule.
Several opposition MPs and labour officials have been arrested, while others have gone into hiding to escape the clampdown, with lawyers and human rights groups saying at least 12 people were killed and 78 others treated for bullet wounds during the protests.
MDC chief whip in the National Assembly, Prosper Mutseyami, yesterday told NewsDay that the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House meeting today would tackle issues to do with victimisation of their members, whom he said were being brutalised, tortured and refused treatment.
“Tomorrow [today], we will hold a party caucus for MDC Alliance MPs at Harvest House in Harare, with the view of discussing their victimisation because it is not fair,” Mutseyami said.
“The agenda is to get details from the MPs of what they have gone through and the trauma that they have experienced, as well as what their fellow constituents have also gone through because our members were not involved in organising the demonstrations.”
Mutseyami said the meeting would discuss several issues affecting the country, and thereafter, a statement would be issued pertaining to what the MDC MPs would have discussed as the way forward.
He said the MPs that have been arrested so far included Amos Chibaya (Mkoba), Settlement Chikwinya (Mbizo), Winnie Kankuni (Sunningdale), Lloyd Mukapiko (Redcliff), Rusty Markham (Harare North) and Livingston Chimina (Chiwundura).
The MDC chief whip said several legislators, including leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Tabitha Khumalo, Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North), Job Sikhala (Zengeza West), Maxwell Mavhunga (Chitungwiza South), Chalton Hwende (Kuwadzana East), Happymore Chidziva (Highfield West), Joana Mamombe (Harare West) and Mashonaland West Senator Voice Chinake, were in hiding.
“Those that have been arrested are going through trauma and have no access to food or hospitals. Our caucus meeting will map the way forward and thereafter, we will issue a Press statement. We appeal to our legislators to try to make it to Harare,” Mutseyami said.
“The relatives of those MPs that are in hiding have also suffered a lot, with their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers being tortured to force them to disclose their whereabouts. We are under siege as MDC Alliance members, although these demonstrations were not organised by us.
“But we are genuinely with the people and send our condolences to families of those that were killed during the demonstrations. We are terribly sorry for the unjustified deaths because loss of life is the worst thing that can happen in a democracy.”
Government and the Zanu PF party have sought to pin the violence on the opposition party, despite several of its officials, a senior army and police officer being arrested for burning buses, looting, violence and leading the protests.
“These arrests are a clear clampdown on our party for no reason. It is problematic because one of our top members [Chibaya] has been arrested and we do not know how far to the top [echelons of the party] they want to go because, clearly, they are determined to extinguish the party,” MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said.
“It is clear that this is a strategy to just weaken the MDC,” he said, adding that they would then force them into a false interparty dialogue. The issue in Zimbabwe has nothing to do with MDC, but they are conveniently roping in the MDC because they are so scared of the MDC, they are so afraid of MDC and they literally see the MDC in everything.
“There is persecution, which is in violation of the fundamental rights of the Constitution. They have arrested over 800 people from the structures and in some cases, it’s not even the police, it’s Zanu PF activists literally leading police officers to say go and arrest there, yet it’s common cause that the people who reigned terror in Harare included Zanu PF youths.”
Khumalo yesterday petitioned Speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda expressing her concern over persecution of MDC Alliance legislators by State security agents.
“I write this letter as the leader of the main opposition in the Parliament of Zimbabwe to express my disappointment and concern over the wanton and unwarranted arrests and persecution of MDC Alliance Members of Parliament by various State agents … our legislators have been arrested on trumped-up charges and a number of them are being hunted and victimised for their MDC membership,” she wrote.