By Tichaona Sibanda
Villagers in Makoni district have been fleeing their homes since Saturday after an increase in night attacks perpetrated by stone throwing and stick wielding groups, led by a prominent Zanu-PF activist.
Tension has been high in the district after villagers in Nzimbe in Makoni South boycotted a ruling party star rally on Saturday. Realising that a Zanu-PF candidate could not attract a huge crowd, word quickly spread that Robert Mugabe was to address the rally. But this again failed to move the people.The rally was eventually cancelled and this angered Zanu-PF activists, who under district co-coordinator Nathaniel Punish Mhiripiri, allegedly went on a retribution exercise, targeting villagers perceived to be MDC supporters. The violent groups systematically beat up men, women and boys they suspected of backing the MDC.Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC parliamentary candidate for Makoni south, has condemned the violence and called for the arrest of the perpetrators. He said frightened villagers are spending nights in the cold despite their appeals for them to return to their homes.‘They claim to us their homes were no longer safe despite the visible presence of more police officers on the ground. Fear has also spread in other areas as Mhiripiri has been to 15 villages so far where people are spending nights in the cold for fear of attacks,’ Muchauraya said.The MDC has urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to investigate the attacks and bring the culprits to book. The MDC said the attacks were political and if left unchecked, would leave the villagers too scared to go and vote on the 29th.The MDC said five of its activists are locked up at Chisumbanje police station because they campaigned door-to-door in Chipinge. The group was picked up from Checheche’s ward 24. The police in Makoni west picked up another eight for campaigning as well.‘The province is currently under siege. Eight other activists were threatened with arrest today (Tuesday) in Makoni south. The strange thing is that the police are complicit in what ever Zanu-PF is doing to our supporters. Police have done more harm to our campaigns that Zanu-PF itself,’ claimed Muchauraya.