NORTON yesterday resembled a war zone as political violence reared its ugly head when police and Zanu PF supporters were engaged in running battles with independent candidate Temba Mliswa’s supporters ahead of this weekend’s by-elections.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU/NUNURAI JENA/EVERSON MUSHAVA
Mliswa is contesting as an independent candidate against Zanu PF’s Ronald Chindedza and David Chingodzo of the National Constitutional Assembly after the seat fell vacant following Chris Mutsvangwa’s expulsion from the ruling party.
The violence followed Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s speech at Kent Farm in the constituency last Thursday when he said Zanu PF would use all means to win the do-or-die by-election.
Police fired warning shots in the air before indiscriminately throwing teargas into the stadium where thousands of Mliswa supporters had gathered.
One person, Densel Ramoi is reportedly now battling for his life at Norton Hospital following the fracas, while scores from both sides were left nursing injuries.
The police were trying to remove Mliswa’s supporters from the stadium which Zanu PF wanted to use, despite the former having a High Court order granting him authority to be at the venue.
Mliswa’s supporter Maggie Rukezha accused the police of taking the side of Zanu PF activists.
Police spokespersons Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba and Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi were not picking up their calls yesterday.
MDC-T vice-president Nelson Chamisa, who attended the rally standing in for his party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, said the incident proved the opposition claims that a Zanu PF government cannot manage credible elections.
“The police unprovoked literally teargased pregnant women and the elderly who had come to the rally,” Chamisa said.
“We went there in solidarity with a progressive candidate. I had been deployed to stand in for Tsvangirai as we support anyone who would want to defeat Zanu PF.”
However, Zanu PF youth secretary, Kudzai Chipanga said Zanu PF had secured clearance to use Ngoni Stadium.
“Mliswa had only notified council on his intentions to use the stadium and he didn’t have police clearance. When he heard that Zanu PF wanted to use the stadium he brought in two trucks with supporters and camped in the stadium,” Chipanga claimed.
“When Zanu PF supporters arrived Mliswa’s supporters chased them away using stones, forcing Zanu PF youths to retaliate. Police later came in to disperse everyone.”
Zanu PF later proceeded with the rally outside the stadium where Chipanga promised to dole out 5 000 residential stands tomorrow.