Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Campaign trail turns bloody

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THE July 30 election campaign trail has claimed the life of a two-year-old who was reportedly abducted and brutally killed by suspected Zanu PF activists at the weekend after his father Rambai Lumbe defected to the opposition National People’s Party (NPP) where he is Mazowe North parliamentary candidate, NewsDay has learnt.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Addressing mourners at his Sunridge Farm in Glendale yesterday, the distraught Lumbe, said he was finding it difficult to stomach the death of his son, Professor, whose heavily bruised body was recovered about two kilometres from the family home on Sunday.
The incident has raised fears of a repeat of the bloody 2008 presidential run-off election where over 300 opposition MDC-T supporters were killed and thousands others internally displaced by suspected State security agents and Zanu PF militia.
Lumbe, who defected from Zanu PF in 2014 to join former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s ZimPF and later NPP where he is Mashonaland Central provincial secretary, said prior to the incident some local ruling party activists had visited his home and warned him to leave opposition politics or risk losing his family.
“My son, Professor went missing on Saturday afternoon, but was only found dead by some kids harvesting soya beans on Sunday. This came as no surprise considering that we are living in a politically-charged environment where I receive a number of threats on my family,” Lumbe said.
“There are a number of cases where Zanu PF activists came and threatened me saying I was not a member of Zanu PF anymore, so I didn’t deserve to stay on the land that I was given by Zanu PF. I was told clearly that my involvement in opposition politics endangers my family.
“I started receiving threats in 2014 when I joined the then ZimPF (Mujuru’s first opposition party). At one point, Zanu PF youths came to my plot and tried partitioning it amongst themselves claiming since I was in opposition politics, I was supposed to leave. Their warning was straight-forward that I was putting my family in danger and I was supposed to make a choice.”
In an interview with NewsDay, Lumbe, however, said he was not deterred and will continue fighting Zanu PF. He said at one point he reported the threats to the police, but the ruling party supporters kept raiding his farm.
His wife, Nomatter Midzi who constantly broke down during the interview, said it was unfortunate that her son died under unclear circumstances although she suspects that their political rivals who always subjected them to all sorts of intimidation were responsible.
“I am convinced that my son was murdered because for some time, Zanu PF people were telling us that my husband’s political activism will endanger my family at some point. They failed to destroy him and then chose to attack my son aged two years, seven months,” she said.
She added: “I am convinced it’s Zanu PF people because in many cases, since we stay close to the road, they would pass through shouting that if my husband continues with opposition politics, then they will not spare us.”
She, however, said it was unfortunate that political differences would get to this level.
Like her husband, Nomatter said everyone should be allowed to express their political views without any form of intimidation.
Mourners gathered at the funeral said it was deplorable that people could attack each other over political differences. They said since the national political leadership, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa were preaching the gospel of peace, it was only prudent to follow his wise counsel.
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF Mashonaland provincial chairman Kazembe Kazembe dismissed the allegations as “false”.
“I don’t know about that. I even don’t know NPP candidates. To be honest, I have never heard about that kind of intimidation. People must appreciate the message from our President and all of us we don’t condone violence at all. However, I have no idea of such an incident,” Kazembe said.
NPP national standing committee member and People’s Rainbow Coalition provincial elections director Julius Musevenzi condemned the intimidation and physical violence against the opposition by suspected ruling party activists.
“Whilst ED and Zanu PF are talking about free and fair elections, for us this has just become a talk of the day and artificial. The reality is that people on the ground particularly in the farming community of newly resettled areas suffer a lot of intimidation from Zanu PF. This means any former Zanu PF member who joins another party becomes an enemy,” Musevenzi said.
“These people are a threat to Zanu PF and they have a huge following. As PRC, we do condemn such kind of violence.”
Mashonaland Central police spokesperson Petros Masikati said although police were investigating a case of suspected murder, he had no knowledge of the involvement of any political party.
Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said their research has established widespread intimidation, harassment, and threats of violence across the country.
“Incidents of intra-party political violence characterised primary elections, but more recently incidents of political violence between different political parties have been on the rise as elections date approaches,” Mavhinga said.
“We call upon the police to act swiftly to investigate all cases of political violence and arrest perpetrators without fear or favour. The police must demonstrate through decisive action that there is zero tolerance to political violence to enable Zimbabweans to vote freely on July 30.
“Prompt and thorough police investigations should include the Mazowe case of the NPP candidate who lost a child in unclear circumstances.”
Zanu PF has a long history of political violence and voter intimidation. In the run-up to the 2013 harmonised elections, MDC-T parliamentary candidate for Headlands, Shepherd Maisiri lost his 12-year-old son, Christpowers, under almost similar circumstances.
Christpowers was allegedly burnt to ashes when a house he was sleeping in was petrol-bombed by suspected Zanu PF supporters. Christpowers and his three brothers were sleeping in the house when disaster struck. The brothers escaped with minor burns.
Prior to the incident, Zanu PF activists had allegedly threatened to “deal” with Maisiri for causing the arrest of ruling party local militia leader Lovemore Manenji.
Manenji was in 2009 sentenced to a 52-year jail term for unleashing a reign of terror against opposition supporters in the run-up to the 2008 general elections.
In 2008, hundreds of opposition MDC-T supporters were killed while thousands were internally displaced, particularly in the bloody presidential run-off campaign.
Zanu PF supporters, government officials, war veterans and State security agents conducted brutal daily “re-education” meetings in which they beat up and tortured suspected MDC-T supporters to force them to denounce the opposition party and swear allegiance to Zanu PF at their bases of operations established in all the provinces around the country.
There was a spate of abductions and killings of known MDC-T activists and petrol bombing of their homes and offices by suspected agents of the State, Zanu PF supporters and war veterans.
During that period, MDC-T youth secretary for security Tonderai Ndira was abducted from his home in Harare by suspected security agents and his mutilated body was found a week later.
MDC-T treasurer in Mashonaland East Shepherd Jani was also abducted in Murehwa by four men and his mutilated body was found two days later as cases of political violence escalated around the country.