THE country has witnessed an upsurge in the number of senior MDC-T members, including legislators, being prosecuted since President Robert Mugabe announced that elections will be held this year with or without a new constitution, analysts said this week.
The analysts interviewed by Zimbabwe Independent argue that Zanu PF has since Independence persecuted its opponents by arresting and detaining them, with the highest number of detentions occurring since 1999 when the MDC-T was formed.
MDC-T legislators — Douglas Mwonzora, Rodger Tazviona and Nelson Chamisa — have been arrested or arraigned before the courts in February facing different charges.
The pattern, analysts believe, shows a trend of politically related persecutions of Zanu PF opponents reminiscent of the 2000 era when many MDC supporters and political activists were arrested and detained on charges, which in most cases fell away before plea.
Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe chairman Jonah Gokova said the premature election calls by Zanu PF triggered the arrests.
“Everything happening in the country now has everything to do with the premature call for elections,” Gokova said. “We are worried that politicians are talking of elections even before the guarantors of the GPA have given the go ahead for polls.”
Zanu PF leadership has expressed its intent to have elections this year, ending the lifespan of the inclusive government formed in February 2009.
Media Centre director and political analyst Ernest Mudzengi said the election fever has contributed to the arrests the country is witnessing.
“The arrests are connected to the election call,” Mudzengi said, “More so, it has to do with Zanu PF’s wish to hang on to power by whatever means.”
Since the inauguration of the inclusive government, more than 13 sitting legislators from the MDC-T have been arrested on various charges that range from denigrating and belittling the office of the President to politically motivated violence and rape charges.
Among those arrested and arraigned before the courts since the formation of the inclusive government are Tendai Biti, Blessing Chebundo, Lynnette Karenyi, Iain Kay, Tongai Matutu, Mathias Mlambo, Pishai Muchauraya, Shuah Mudiwa, Roy Bennett and Morgan Komichi.
The MDC-T said the arrests show that the police force is partisan and is used to harass Zanu PF opponents every time there is talk of an election.
It said in a statement the arrests were political and intended to frustrate it especially now when Zanu PF is pushing for an early election. They argued that if the police were not partisan why then were Zanu PF supporters not arrested at all for violence.
“What we find strange is that it is only members from the MDC who are being arrested when it is very clear that it is Zanu PF that are perpetrating political violence,” the MDC-T information department said, “Last week, Honourable (Douglas) Mwonzora held a well attended rally in his constituency but Zanu PF hooligans who were clearly annoyed by the high turnout of the rally attacked MDC members at the meeting.”
The police, however, denied the allegations and maintained that they are professional in discharging their duties.
Police chief spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena dismissed the MDC-T allegations that the police were a willing tool for Zanu PF as no arrests have been made to date.
“It is a reality on the ground and if somebody commits a crime they would be arrested,” Bvudzijena said, “If it is for Mwonzora and Tazviona they are now both before the courts and we believe we have a strong case against them.”
Tazviona is facing charges of inciting and committing acts of violence in the company of MDC-T activists in Kwekwe.
MDC-T, however maintained that the police are partisan and have gone on to introduce a motion in the Senate that calls for the police to do their duties professionally, impartially and only in accordance with the laws and constitution.
The motion was moved by Senator Morgan Komichi after demonstrations by suspected Zanu PF- aligned youths in Harare’s central business district.
After the police-sanctioned demonstrations by Zanu PF youths that rampaged through Harare’s central business district, no arrests have been made yet. The youths ransacked foreign owned shops at the Gulf complex and looted goods and merchandise in the name of indigenisation.
Police said the ransacking that took place at Gulf Complex was not done by a Zanu PF-aligned youth group, Upfumi Kuvadiki that had organised the demonstration.
“Police approached the youth group leadership to call off the demonstration and they complied,” Bvudzijena said, “The looters were from other groups and thus we cannot hold Upfumi Kuvadiki leadership responsible for the mayhem.”
Upfumi Kuvadiki secretary general Tatenda Maroodza said their planned demonstration was called off after they were advised by the police. He said the violence in town had nothing to do with them.
“Yes, we called for a demonstration but as we waited for a police escort we then heard that another group had started ransacking the Gulf Complex,” Maroodza said, “Our demonstration never took off after we complied with the police order to halt it in view of what was happening in the city centre.”
“Other opposition political parties in the country have had no members arrested for violence because they are not violent. Look at MDC-M, Mavambo or Zapu.”
The MDC-T said the state, seemingly in partnership with the police and judiciary, have perpetuated this perception of partisanship by denying MDC-T members freedom after they are granted bail by the courts.
Tazviona and Mwonzora were granted bail earlier this week by magistrates in Kwekwe and Nyanga respectively but the state invoked Section 121 that allows persons granted bail to be further detained for up to 21 days as police continue with their investigations.
On the other hand, Chamisa was arraigned before the courts this week on charges of negligent driving, which he allegedly committed in January 2009.
Chamisa’s lawyer, Chris Mhike, said the developments could not be interpreted otherwise except that they are political.
“Judging by the manner the papers were furnished in the state outline, this is a rushed prosecution,” Mhike said, “This is just an act of politics where they are after MDC people so they can persecute them.”