ZANU PF and the MDC have admitted, for the first time, that they were both involved in acts of political violence which occurred throughout the country after the March 29 harmonised polls.
The admission followed a heated debate this week on how to deal with political violence at the on-going talks between Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC in Pretoria.
It came amid revelations that the parties have started to honour some of the provisions of the memorandum of understanding they signed on July 21 to pave way for serious and focused negotiations for a political settlement.
Sources close to the talks told the Zimbabwe Independent that Zanu PF and the MDC bitterly argued over how to end the culture of political violence in the country, deal with perpetrators and compensate victims.
The sources said MDC negotiators insisted that Zanu PF was responsible for the majority of cases of political violence, while the ruling party said the opposition was also culpable.
“At the end, Zanu PF and the MDC reached a compromise and implicitly admitted their involvement in the violence,” one of the sources said. “There was also a heated debate on how to deal with the perpetrators of the violence. The MDC wants them to be brought to book.”
The sources said the parties questioned where the money would come from to compensate victims of political violence, before they agreed that humanitarian organisations would be allowed to assist.
In a joint statement by the negotiators on Wednesday, Zanu PF and the MDC condemned political violence and urged their supporters to shun it.
“The parties, acknowledging that violence that is attributable to us and which has been injurious to national and human security, has, indeed, occurred in the country after the March 29, 2008 harmonised elections, hereby call upon all our supporters and members and any organs and structures under the direction and control of our respective parties to stop and desist from the perpetration of violence in any form,” read the statement.
“We, further, reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that the law is applied fairly and justly to all persons irrespective of political affiliation, to take all necessary measures within our power to eliminate all forms of political violence, including by non-state actors, and to ensure the security of persons and property and provide support to victims of violence.”
The MDC claimed that over 120 of its supporters were killed, plus 10 000 injured and more than 200 000 displaced during the political violence.
The parties said they would ensure safe return of families displaced by the violence.
“The parties express their readiness to work individually and together in the ongoing dialogue to make public undertakings in ensuring the safety of any displaced persons and their safe return home and to enable humanitarian and social welfare organisations to render such assistance as might be required,” said the negotiators.
Sources said Zanu PF and the MDC had agreed that humanitarian organisations resume operations and assist the victims of political violence.
But the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) this week said a government ban on the organisations was yet to be lifted.
Nango spokesperson Fambai Ngirande said: “A number of humanitarian agencies have not yet started operations since their ban before the June 27 run-off. Some of their food in warehouses is rotting and they are throwing it away.”
In the MoU, Zanu PF and the MDC said they would work together to ensure safety of displaced persons and their safe return home, and that humanitarian and social welfare organisations would be enabled to render such assistance as might be required.
Elias Mudzuri, the Tsvangirai-led MDC organising secretary, told the Independent yesterday that a lot of the party’s activists were in custody throughout the country. He, however, could not say how many were still being held.
“We are still compiling information on how many of our activists are still in prison, but the number is still quite high,” Mudzuri said.
Another MDC official this week said the party was still pressing for the release of its members arrested before the bloody June 27 elections, but without success.
The official said some of the MDC activists were released on bail when the talks commenced after the signing of the MoU, but could not give statistics.
Police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka was unable yesterday to give a figure of the political activists still detained around the country.
“That figure is difficult to come up with, we will need time to put all that information together as we are looking at a national picture,” Mandipaka said. “You could check with us after some time.”
However, Mandipaka said he was aware that some of the perpetrators of violence from both the MDC and Zanu-PF were granted bail while some were still expected to appear in court.
By Constantine Chimakure/Loughty Dube