By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
27 February 2014
Zimbabwe’s police have been accused of deliberately targeting ‘innocent’ MDC-T activists with arrest, in the ongoing row involving party official Elton Mangoma.
Mangoma, the MDC-T deputy treasurer general, has been bearing the brunt of anger from supporters of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, after calling on the former Prime Minister to step aside. Last month Mangoma confronted Tsvangirai, detailing in a letter why the party President should step down.
The aftermath of that letter has seen Tsvangirai supporters lashing out at Mangoma and, almost two weeks week ago, the official suffered a bloodied nose and bruises during an attack by party youths who were gathered at Harvest House.
Over the weekend James Chidhakwa, the MDC-T Youth Assembly secretary for security and defence, was picked up by the police on allegations of assaulting Mangoma. He appeared in court on Monday and was denied bail. He will remain in custody until March 10th, his next court date.
On Monday Harare central MP Murisi Zwizwai, and Dennis Murira, an aide to Tsvangirai, were also interrogated for hours by police before they were released without charge.
Another four MDC-T activists, Francis Machimbidzofa, Enock Mukudu, Stefani Jahwi and Samson Nerwande, were then detained on Tuesday in connection with the attack. The four voluntarily went to the police after the authorities handed over a list of names of potential suspects they wanted to interrogate.
But according to MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora, the arrested group is being targeted by the police, solely for their party affiliation.
“Information from the police was that these people had been implicated by Honourable Mangoma as being the people who assaulted him. We insisted on seeing the statement written by Mangoma and he does not implicate them,” Mwonzora told SW Radio Africa.
He added: “So the police are just picking (up) well known activists of the MDC-T because they have found an excuse. We are very worried that they are not really concerned about achieving justice or finding the real culprits.”
The four activists were meant to appear in court Thursday for their bail hearing, but the prison authorities claimed they did not have the fuel to bring the four to court. The bail application is now set to be heard on Friday.
Meanwhile, Mwonzora said he was “worried” about another letter that has reportedly been sent to Tsvangirai by Mangoma. The ‘confidential’ letter has been sent to the NewsDay newspaper, and according to the paper the letter again calls on Tsvangirai to step down. Mwonzora said it is “a cause of worry to us.”
Calls for Tsvangirai to step down have been increasing, along with calls for the MDC-T to hold an early, democratic congress, to decide the fate of the party leadership.
The latest calls came Thursday from the MDC Students Council, which said in a statement: “This is not to say we are undermining our incumbent president or we doubt his capacity, but it is just to say he played his role with utmost faith, it’s now time to rest. It is part of our resolution that the constitution be amended to create the office of founding president and to be occupied by Morgan Tsvangirai so as to continue guiding the party with wisdom. After that is done then the party must go on to hold an elective congress as soon as possible, if resources are to allow so as to give the membership a chance to re-elect a leadership of their own choice , because there is an urgent need for the leadership at every level to seek a fresh mandate from the membership.”