By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
13 May 2014
Senior ZANU PF official and Mberengwa warlord Wilson Biggie Chitoro has died. The war vet died last week after an undisclosed illness.
His party declared Chitoro a liberation war hero, qualifying him for a State-assisted burial at the Midlands Provincial Heroes Acre in Gweru on Tuesday.
ZANU PF Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Jason Machaya told the NewsDay newspaper that Chitoro had been automatically declared a liberation war hero since he was a former freedom fighter.
Outside ZANU PF circles news of Chitoro’s death is set to be a cause for joy as many people will remember his heinous crimes against MDC supporters.
In 2000, Chitoro and a group of war vets mounted a reign of terror, notably invading and occupying Texas Ranch Farm where they set up their torture base.
Among Chitoro’s many victims was MDC activist Fainos Kufazvinei who was abducted and fatally tortured just before the June 2000 elections. Also abducted were Fainos’s brother James Zhou and another MDC supporter.
Although James survived the torture at the time, he was in and out of hospital as a result of the injuries suffered during the attack. He died in 2005.
Also in 2000, Chitoro and his gang assaulted Brighton Chinyoka with iron bars while another MDC supporter Simangaliso Sibanda was beaten up with a sjambok and iron bars.
In another case, MDC-T chairman for Mberengwa North Robson Gambiza was abducted by Chitoro and another war vet known locally as Chiwhereva, and taken to Texas Ranch where he was assaulted with logs before being shot at with catapults. He was then dumped at his house and left for dead.
Mberengwa South businessman Daniel Chinyerere was another victim after he was kidnapped from his home, taken to Mataga Growth Point where Chitoro’s gang assaulted him, broke his left arm, and forced him to eat faeces.
He would also set up roadblocks and harass motorists and passengers. In one incident, he ordered bus passengers who had of copies of the privately-owned Daily News newspaper to eat them.
Trynos Shava, another victim who was hit on the head with an axe by Chitoro and his group in 2000, expressed disgust that ZANU PF had bestowed hero status on the “murderer and rapist”.
“I would have thought heroic acts involve fighting for the freedom of people and defending them from unjustifiable attacks and shielding them from brutality.
“Chitoro used to rape, mutilate, and kill innocent people and honouring him like this confirms that ZANU PF is a very bad party,” said Shava.
He said people were celebrating and viewing Chitoro’s death as divine intervention, adding that they hope that with the ringleader dead, future elections will be less violent.
Shava said it was clear that Chitoro was carrying out his atrocities with the blessings of senior ZANU PF officials who shielded him from being jailed.
SW Radio Africa’s correspondent, Lionel Saungweme, said it was known that the Gumbo brothers Joram and Rugare (both ZANU PF) who have been the main beneficiaries of Chitoro’s terror campaign, shielded him.
“The act of declaring Chitoro a hero is in fact a celebration of violence by the ruling party whose leader has boasted of having degrees in violence.
“It’s also disregard for the sanctity of life and another slap in the face for his many victims both alive and dead. But Zimbabweans are now accustomed to such actions by ZANU PF as Mugabe has in like manner pardoned and promoted members of his party who committed the Gukurahundi massacres,” Saungweme said.
Chitoro was an officer in Mugabe’s 5th Brigade which carried out the massacres in the Midlands and Matebeleland regions in the 1980s. At least 20,000 people including women and children were killed.
Saungweme said many people had suffered but remained resolute in their support for the MDC. He said it was unfortunate that while some people had been killed during the fight for democracy, senior MDC officials continue to bicker and to split the party.