Residents of Mbare and other community leaders agree and know that Chipangano was set up to “mobilise support for Zanu PF candidates in Mbare, to control all council properties and make money, and to prevent the penetration of the area by the MDC and any other civic groupings not linked to Zanu PF.”
REPORT BY PRECIOUS SHUMBA
Chipangano cannot therefore be viewed outside the Zanu PF structures but should be critically examined as an instrument, once acceptable within the rank and file of the party.
In my discussions with people of influence, what outsiders call Chipangano are in fact some executive members of the disbanded district co-ordinating committees (DCCs).
There were 12 districts in Mbare with each having 34 members in each wing, namely the main wing, the women’s league and the youths’ wing before the disbandment of DCCs.
So when Zanu PF denies any links to the shadowy group, they mean they know of their district leadership positions, executing a political mandate, on behalf of Zanu PF. People in the know say Chipangano is now like a “spirit of bondage among cadres” where it is now extremely dangerous even to acknowledge its existence.
The comments attributed to Didymus Mutasa, the Zanu PF Secretary for Administration urging Amos Midzi to disband this group and end its illegal activities point to a real battle behind the scenes on the existence of this vigilante group and how to deal with it.
It is common knowledge that each bus terminus used by commuter omnibuses in Harare is under the control of vigilante groups, directly under the control of the “District” that covers that area.
At the market places, known thugs in the communities, using the name of Zanu PF, move around demanding money from market stall-holders, making them pay for unknown services, but which they consider as “security fees”. What security in a free Zimbabwe?
An omnibus which carries 18 passengers is forced to pay a US$1, while a 75-seater bus forks out US$6 per trip. The thugs pocket the money.
So while these individuals started off being assured of Zanu PF protection, and by extension protection from arrest, prosecution and subsequent incarceration for human rights violations, they have migrated or transformed from being mere pawns in a political game to become masters of their own territories, gaining in financial muscle.
Their belief is that once you have the protection of Zanu PF, you can as well violate anyone’s rights without being arrested by the police.
They view the police as theirs only, so consider the protests of communities against their activities as a sign that they have power and authority to ill-treat commuters, market stall operators and other innocent citizens with impunity.
As long as Zanu PF does not act decisively on the rogue elements within their ranks, they will continue to lose critical support from the electorate during elections.
At a time when the elected councillors in Harare have failed to perform to the electorate’s satisfaction, Zanu PF should endear itself to the people by promoting peace, security and community development without resorting to antagonistic means.
Given that they have been able to buy themselves several properties in the low and high-density suburbs including vehicles, the leaders of these thugs have gained in terms of their influence over their creators, who now fear confronting them on a political level.
It has to be noted the mandimbandimba, the Chipangano security teams, crossed the line when they beat up soldiers in the central business district. The beating up of the soldiers exhibited a direct challenge on the powers and authority vested in the Office of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
Zanu PF as a political party could be losing the battle to control these vigilante groups, and may have allowed the soldiers and the police to tame them through a violent and robust response.
This in my view is a short-sighted, short-term intervention, lacking in seriousness to be sustainable.
If the intention is to end their operations, then we would expect to see the presence of soldiers or the police and the municipal police on these ranks and markets until around 10pm every day. Reports abound that once the police finish their work, mandimbandimba will be reigning supreme at these ranks extorting money from the transport drivers and conductors, meaning they remain alive and in control of the situation.
These thugs deserve no one’s sympathy as they have brought untold suffering to businesses, at a time the economy is trying to recover. If the City of Harare and the police are unable to take charge of their areas of jurisdiction, the best option is for them to invite an elite team of experienced military personnel to help them control the ranks and markets.