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Matabeleland activists ‘under siege’

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

HUMAN rights activists have accused authorities of employing unorthodox means to hound government critics following reports that armed police raided the house of a leader of a Matabeleland-based militant opposition party with the intention of arresting him at night.

Armed police reportedly raided the house of Mqondisi Moyo, the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) leader, last Wednesday. The raid came two days after Moyo was engaged in a standoff with the police over a land dispute in Ntabazinduna, Umguza district, Matabeleland North.

Gunshots were fired during the confrontation between a group led by  Moyo and the police. Moyo, whose MRP is resisting the eviction of a white commercial farmer, Brian Davies, was not present at his home during the raid.

Local activists have condemned the raid as a sore reminder of how many people were abducted at night during the Gukurahundi massacres, never to be seen again.

Exiled activist Josphat Mzaca Ngulube insinuated that Moyo was lucky to be alive as he was nowhere near his home during the raid.

Ngulube accused an unnamed daughter  of a prominent national hero of setting him up to be abducted by suspected Zimbabwe state agents at his base in South Africa.

“Zanu PF should respect the people of Matabeleland,” he said.

“Why is it that only people from Matabeleland are raided in the middle of the night always? Is this the second Gukurahundi?”

Ngulube himself fled Zimbabwe for South Africa after it emerged that state security agents were looking for him in connection with the July 31, 2020 planned protests.

His niece was allegedly abducted and sexually abused to force her to disclose his whereabouts..

“Why didn’t you arrest him in Ntabazinduna where he was defending the white farmer?

“I differ with Moyo ideologically, but when you attack him in person for defending the people, we unite as brothers,” Ngulube added..

Ngulube was in April 2020 granted bail after he was jailed for six years on charges of burning three cars and property at  a house belonging to  Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial women’s league chairperson Eva Bitu during the January 2019 fuel protests.

The activist and his co-accused Otilia Sibanda had been languishing at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison following their conviction and sentence by magistrate Tinashe Tashaya in November 2019.

Mthulisi Hanana, the director of the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation, who has also faced political persecution, condemned the night raid at the MRP leader’s house.

“If the MRP president has committed any crime, arrest him properly,” Hanana said.

“This mafia style of attacking people in the dead of the night by the state that seems to be used only in Matabeleland is consistent with Gukurahundi and a state gone rogue. All right-thinking Zimbabweans must condemn this.”

Hanana fled the country in July 2019 citing security concerns after complaining that state security agents were harassing him over his remarks attacking the government for human rights violations.

In a Facebook post commenting about the night raid, Siphosami Malunga, who  is the executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, said: “The safety, freedom and security of the MRP and its membership from violence, abduction and persecution must be guaranteed by the government.

“Many people in Matabeleland share their sentiments about unresolved issues including Gukurahundi, exclusion and the systematic decimation of the political, social, cultural, educational, linguistic and economic rights of people from the region.

“These grievances simply won’t go away.”

On Thursday, MRP activists staged a protest outside Bulawayo Central Police Station, burning tyres and singing anti-government songs demanding an end to the harassment of their leader.

Police fired gunshots to disperse the protesters, before arresting several others.

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