OMINOUSLY, DESPITE participation by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a cross-party government, politically motivated attacks on the party’s activists by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe loyalists appear to have resumed.
Over the past two weeks, a party source says, a number of MDC activists from around the country have contacted the former opposition party to say they have been assaulted by supporters of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, who, they allege, are preparing a new wave of violence for the rural areas.
The increase in violence against supporters of the MDC, which entered into a transitional government with Zanu-PF last February as a means to move past disputed elections, is feared to be linked to a plan to intimidate people ahead of a constitutional referendum.
“Our intelligence is telling us the joint operations committee [Mugabe’s security council, which is made up of army generals] has decided to reform the youth militia and prepare them for a campaign of ‘persuasion’ that will begin in late September,” according to the source.
Article six of Zimbabwe’s three-way powersharing deal, the global political agreement (GPA), states that a new constitution created through a people-driven consultation process must be passed into law before fresh elections can take place.
Reformists from the two MDC parties say a new people’s charter is needed to govern the nation because the current constitution has been amended by Mugabe’s party 19 times since it was adopted in 1980.
The majority of changes have increased Mugabe’s presidential powers.
The early stages of the public consultation process, which began towards the end of last month and involved political and civil-society representatives, as well as members of the public, have been tense.
Some civil-society organisations are deeply divided on how best to approach the process, with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the constitutional lobby group, the National Constitutional Assembly, questioning the manner in which it has taken place so far.
The two organisations are opposed to the use of the Kariba draft, negotiated between MDC and Zanu-PF in September 2007 as the basis upon which a new constitution will be crafted.
The MDC and Zanu-PF are also on a collision course over the document, as the former sees it as a starting point, while the latter wants it to become the constitution, as it leaves Mugabe’s presidential powers mostly intact.
Late last month the MDC’s national executive said: “The MDC believes in a truly people-driven constitution-making process where the unfettered will of the people must be reflected.”
However, the state-owned daily, the Herald, argued recently that carrying out widespread public meetings to gather public opinion was a waste of money when there were “many more pressing priorities crying out for funding”.
The consultation process has been made more difficult by the fact that it has started at a time when the transitional government parties appear to be drifting apart rather than coming together.
In the most recent sign of a fracture, MDC government ministers boycotted a cabinet meeting at the end of June that had been brought forward by Mugabe so that he could chair the meeting before flying to Libya for an African Union summit.
The MDC ministers were apparently upset that Mugabe was unwilling to allow the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, who should chair in his absence, to take control of the meeting.
The recent political attacks, which began with the assault of an opposition election agent in the northern Zambezi valley at the end of last month, have raised tensions among grassroots MDC members, with a growing number of them calling on the party to pull out of the GPA, which was signed by Zimbabwe’s three main political parties.
The disaffected members are asking why the party should continue in the powersharing arrangement it produced when several outstanding GPA issues, including the ongoing harassment and jailing of party members by the police and judiciary, remain far from resolved.
MDC welfare secretary Kerry Kay told The Irish Times that the rule of law was not being respected by Zanu-PF, which remains in control of the security forces and the judiciary.
“What we are seeing is selective justice. Our members are being attacked and jailed, while the Zanu-PF people who looted and raped last year [during the disputed general election] are getting away scot-free,” she said.
Much to many MDC members’ despair, Tsvangirai has repeatedly tried to play down the severity of some of the breaches of the GPA, including the resurgence of white-owned farm invasions, by his political rivals in recent times.
According to the first victim of the latest attacks, who travelled from the rural village of Muzarabani to MDC headquarters in Harare late last week, his attackers were definitely members of Zanu-PF, as they had assaulted him on a previous occasion during last year’s general election.
The man, whose name has been withheld for safety reasons, told the MDC his attackers smashed his arm with the blunt side of an axe after confronting him as he walked home from his local shop.
He is currently in a Harare hospital recovering from surgery to save his shattered limb.
On Monday, the MDC received another report of an attack on one of its members, who worked as a party chairman in Mranda Pfungwe in Mashonaland.
The man was attacked by two Zanu-PF war veterans as he was gardening outside his house.
He was hit on the head with an axe by one of the men, and was due to arrive in Harare yesterday for medical treatment.
Source: The New African Times