MDC vehicle petrol-bombed

HARARE - An MDC vehicle was set ablaze in Kuwadzana on Wednesday evening, hours after the party’s supporters protested against the slow pace of electoral reforms ahead of next year’s harmonised polls.

The MDC has reacted angrily to the incident, with the party’s vice president and lawmaker for Kuwadzana East, Nelson Chamisa, alleging the vehicle was petrol-bombed in order to intimidate his supporters from attending his rally on Sunday.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday accused their rivals in Zanu PF of being responsible for the arson.

He said: “We strongly suspect that our party vehicle was burnt by Zanu PF thugs who are not happy about the success of the youth demonstration that we held on Wednesday”.

Dozens of MDC youth assembly protesters marched from MDC’s Harvest House headquarters in central Harare on Wednesday to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) offices before being interrupted by the police, who lobbed tear gas and sprayed them with water cannons to scatter them.

Placard-waving youths lighted cardboard boxes in central Harare to block the passage of police vehicles, but the law enforcement agents quickly put out the flames with water.

Human rights watchdog, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), weighed in yesterday, saying they were “gravely concerned” by the rise in political conflict, which led to the burning of the MDC vehicle.

“Given that Zimbabwe has previously witnessed worse election-related violence, these alarming incidences and political developments should be taken seriously by the international community to avert a slide into more violence,” ZimRights said in a statement

This comes as a United States-based think-tank has warned in its recommendations for American policy towards Zimbabwe that the major area of concern was President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to plan for a transition.

The United States’ Centre for Preventive Action’s George Ward — a research staff member at the Institute for Defence Analyses — said there was diminishing likelihood that Zimbabwe’s neighbours will help prevent violence.

South Africa is currently distracted by its own political turmoil and the growth of economic populism, while in Zambia, the leader of the political opposition Hakainde Hichilema has been jailed and charged with treason for allegedly failing to make way for the president’s motorcade.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba promised to check details of the case.

Meanwhile, Gutu said the police should allow citizens to exercise their rights by, among other things, staging peaceful demonstrations.

“What kind of police force is this that doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe grants citizens the right to stage peaceful demonstrations?” said Gutu.

“The Zanu PF regime is paranoid and fascist. They are afraid of the people and this is the main reason why the ZRP always resorts to thuggish and strong arm tactics against all our peaceful demonstrations.”

Psychology Maziwisa, the former Zanu PF director of information and now legislator for Highfield West, said the MDC demonstration against alleged electoral rigidities at Zec was meant to induce fear in Rita Makarau and her team at the commission.

Makarau is Zec chairperson.

“While they are entitled to demonstrate under the Constitution, it is clear the decision to demonstrate was motivated by a desire to instil fear in Zec, especially when you consider that they were singing ‘Makarau usaite funny, funny, nevanhu’ (Makarau don’t push your luck).

“The import of those lyrics was clearly to instil fear in Zec and that’s flagrantly unconstitutional,” Maziwisa told the Daily News.

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