‘Increase in arson attacks against MDC’

May 21, 2011 at 6:59 am Leave a comment

HARARE – There has been a sharp increase in arson attacks against supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party since the former opposition’s congress two weeks ago, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has said.

In the latest of its ‘Political Temperature Bulletins’ the ZimRights said it has received several reports that suspected ZANU (PF) militia in the eastern Manicaland province have raided scores of homesteads belonging to MDC supporters and burnt them down as punishment for not backing President Robert Mugabe.

“There has been a sharp increase in cases of arson attacks in Manicaland province since the MDC-T held its congress in Bulawayo almost two weeks ago,” Zimrights said in the bulletin made available to ZimOnline on Thursday.

The rights group gave the example of two families from the rural Mutasa Central constituency whose houses were burnt down as the militias warned the families that they would return to kill them should they continue supporting Tsvangirai and the MDC.

Members of the two families have since gone into hiding in fear for their lives, according to ZimRights.

“Houses belonging to two MDC families in Mutasa Central families were set ablaze last week,” the rights organisation said.

“The suspected ZANU (PF) attackers left a note which partly read ‘if you continue to talk about Tsvangirai, you will continue to do so in heaven,’ implying that they would be all killed). All the property of the victims was destroyed and they are currently in hiding,” it added.

Police were not immediately available for comment on the matter, so was ZANU (PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo.

But ZANU (PF) has in the past denied its members commit political violence, while accusing non-governmental organisations of falsely accusing the party of perpetrating violence and human rights abuses in a bid to tarnish its name and that of its leader, Mugabe.

Political violence and human rights abuses are on the rise in many parts of Zimbabwe amid growing tension between ZANU (PF) and the MDC-T over when to hold elections to choose a new government to end their tenuous power-sharing arrangement.

Mugabe is fighting to have elections this year, which ZANU-PF is confident it will win after the party’s loss to the MDC in 2008.

The 87-year-old leader was forced into a unity government with Tsvangirai after a flawed run-off vote but two years down the line ZANU (PF) says it now wants to go it alone.

The MDC has warned that a rushed election will lead to violence, while Tsvangirai has warned he could boycott any election hastily called either without a new constitution or without giving the proposed new charter time to take root.

Tsvangirai has repeatedly urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to craft a “road map” that will set benchmarks for credible free and fair elections to end the tenure of the coalition, while avoiding the bloodbath of 2008 when more than 200 opposition members were killed in political violence

But today’s summit of SADC leaders is not going to discuss Zimbabwe because South African President Jacob Zuma is not going to attend the conference because of other pressing commitments.

The SADC is the guarantor of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing agreement while Zuma is the bloc’s chief mediator between the Zimbabwean parties. Zuma was due to present a report to regional leaders on Zimbabwe’s troubled transition process.

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