BY RICHARD CHIDZA
While in African custom it is taboo to speak ill of the departed, Harare’s poor neighbourhood of Mbare in the past few weeks heaved a sigh of relief after the ruling Zanu PF’s brutal purges claimed the scalp of the now deceased Amos Midzi and Tendai Savanhu.
Midzi at his prime, along with Jim Kunaka, Godwin Gomwe and the likes of Alexio Mudzengerere, allegedly presided over a reign of terror. Mudzengerere is now chairman of the previously unknown Zanu PF aligned Grassroots Empowerment Flea Markets and Vendors’ Trust Association.
However, the factional purge that has been gnawing at the ruling party since mid-last year, has inadvertently led to the demise of Chipangano that had become a political scourge, especially prior to the 2008 and 2013 elections.
Mbare was a no-go area for opposition politicians as well as business people with links to any party outside Zanu PF as the use of the paramilitary group known as Chipangano made life near-hell for visitors and residents.
National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (Nvuz) director Samuel Wadzai said people needed to know the truth about how Zanu PF terrorised people.
“It is the issue of patronage, because for one to operate freely they had to tow the Zanu PF line and pay literally through the nose. They operated like a mafia with proxies all over the place who forced ordinary vendors to pay up to $13 or $15 in spaces that the City of Harare would ordinarily demand $1 or $3,” Wadzai said.
“I must say though, it is unfortunate that Midzi is now late and in our culture, it is bad to speak ill of the dead, but then they did these things and our people need to be conscientised about such behaviour because it does not take our country forward.”
Wadzai said Mudzengerere, Kunaka and lately Gomwe operated as proxies to the likes of Midzi and another suspended Zanu PF official.
“They operated as space barons who just claim ownership of any open space and then sublet it to other vendors. Such was the chain of command and they would get the bulk of the money. One also had to be linked to the ruling Zanu PF party,” Wadzai said.
He said this lawlessness was at the core of the refusal by Nvuz to agree to being moved to designated stalls by authorities.
“They need to deal with such groups because these people are still there. Mudzengerere and others have been trying to extend their reach into the central business district and that must be resisted at all costs,” Wadzai said.
But a fiery Kunaka defended his actions.
“People do not understand. Chipangano was only an idea of a person who believed in a single party and that is Zanu PF,” Kunaka said.
“There was nothing more and if some abused people in the name of the party, that was something else, but we never condoned violence. People have written nonsense about me and the things that I supposedly did. It is not fair.”
He said many youths were now successful entrepreneurs because of his interventions.
“We created opportunities for ourselves and other youths from which we benefitted; remember leaders are not created, they are born. I have been pestered by youths in Mbare who want me to go back because the likes of Gomwe have failed, my shoes were too big for him to fill,” gloated Kunaka, seemingly happy at his adversary’s misfortune.
Gomwe and several other Zanu PF youths now face several charges, that include extorting $46 000 from housing co-operatives using the First Lady Grace Mugabe’s name.
Mudzengerere and Gomwe, who was released from remand prison on bail, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Former MDC-T Mbare councillor Friday Mleya said it was painful to relive the terror instilled in residents of the suburb by Chipangano.
“These people terrorised us and used the likes of Kunaka as frontmen to extort money from innocent citizens. There was nothing that was done in the name of Chipangano or Zanu PF without the knowledge of leaders like Midzi, they were the godfathers,” said Mleya.
While there has also been chaos in another run-off-the mill settlement of Epworth where Midzi was the sitting MP, a former opposition aspiring candidate Wiseman Maengezi, said the former Mines minister had little influence.
“Midzi did not have much to do with the chaos in Epworth, but there are groups there that abuse the name of the party to sell stands illegally. The local board is powerless and can only watch,” Maengezi said.
However, he said Midzi had his tentacles all over Harare, together with several Zanu PF leaders.
“They benefitted from the numerous housing co-operatives in the city aided by their connections to city fathers who would regularise the construction of houses even on waterways and wetlands,” said Maengezi.
“You will notice that these co-operatives like Ushewokunze, Sally Mugabe and Ngungunyana would then sell stands to unsuspecting home seekers and the money would end up in the leaders’ pockets. They benefitted a lot, but not specifically in Epworth.”
At the time of his death, Midzi had been slapped with a five-year suspension from the party, and had lost his position as provincial chair.
Savanhu, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, was also given a half-a-decade sabbatical from Zanu PF.