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Zimbabwe: MDC-T terror gang nabbed
Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

Herald Reporters
May 23, 2008

TWELVE suspected MDC-T thugs were arrested in Mutare yesterday after they were found in possession of axes, chain blades and sjamboks they were allegedly using to commit various acts of violence as they moved around in a pick-up truck belonging to the opposition party.

The arrests come just 24 hours before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission today meets both Zanu-PF and MDC-T to examine how best the parties could peacefully resolve their differences ahead of the June 27 presidential election run-off.

ZEC chairperson Justice George Chiweshe and Acting Attorney-General Justice Bharat Patel yesterday condemned violence.

Justice Chiweshe said violence would not create a conducive atmosphere for a free and fair election while Justice Patel has urged the courts to deal with cases of political violence effectively and expeditiously.

The weapons allegedly used to commit acts of violence across the country were found hidden under the driver's seat and police have since impounded the vehicle an Isuzu pick-up truck with an MDC logo that was being used by the suspects.

The suspects, who hail from different parts of the country as far apart as Chipinge, Harare, Masvingo and Chinhoyi, were arrested after their intended victim escaped and alerted the police at Mutasa Central Police Station.

Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said the police reacted swiftly to the tip-off and impounded the vehicle along Bonda Mission Road.

"We are reliably informed that these perpetrators are using marked or unmarked vehicles to terrorise people in the communities.

"They would go and perpetrate the acts of violence and retreat to their hidden bases, which we are still to establish," Chief Supt Mandipaka said.

Most of the suspects revealed that they were MDC-T polling agents in the Mutasa area during the March 29 harmonised elections.

Chief Supt Mandipaka said in most acts of violence reported, MDC-T thugs disguised themselves as Zanu-PF supporters by wearing the party's regalia and beating people to taint the party's name.

He said police have committed themselves to impounding all the vehicles that are being used in these activities.

"We are geared to thwart their hidden operating bases because we have noted that these perpetrators do not hail from one village and we strongly understand that they are carrying out these activities for payment."

The suspects were still detained at Mutasa Central Police Station by yesterday. The arrests come at a time when Zanu-PF and the MDC-T are expected to hold talks in Harare today under the multi-party liaison committee facilitated by the ZEC as part of preparations for the presidential election run-off set for June 27.

Today's talks the first under the multi-party liaison committee after the March 29 joint presidential, parliamentary and council elections will discuss problems encountered by the parties so far in their campaigns for the run-off.

ZEC deputy director of public relations Mr Tendayi Pamire in an interview yesterday confirmed the meeting would take place today.

"The multi-party liaison committee is meeting tomorrow (today). We have invited only Zanu-PF and MDC-T because these are the only parties taking part in the run-off.

"The parties are expected to discuss the problems they are facing so far in their campaigns for the presidential run-off," Mr Pamire said.

Commissioner Mrs Sarah Kachingwe will chair the meeting.

Mr Pamire said the multi-party liaison committee would carry out a post-mortem of the March 29 elections once the run-off is complete.

He said they could not do so soon after the March polls because the electoral process would only be complete after the run-off.

Mr Pamire said ZEC has already contacted both parties for today's meeting and they expressed their willingness to attend.

The meeting is also expected to look at how best the contesting parties should resolve their differences peacefully.

Justice Chiweshe urged Zanu-PF and MDC-T to campaign peacefully, saying violence would not create a conducive environment for a free and fair poll while Justice Patel agitated for co-ordinated efforts in order to dispose cases of violence as effectively and expeditiously as possible,

"The commission deplores politically motivated violence from any quarter as this does not assist the commission in creating an environment conducive for free and fair elections. So we are urging political parties to urge their supporters to desist from violence," said Justice Chiweshe.

In a statement yesterday, Justice Patel said the seriousness of offences of violence necessitated prompt and determined responses to ensure that the cases were speedily dealt with.

"In this regard, appropriate measures have been put in place to ensure that public prosecutors and the magistracy co-ordinate their efforts in order to dispose these cases as effectively and expeditiously as is possible," Justice Patel said.

He implored prosecutors and magistrates to deal with the cases firmly and fairly.

"The prosecutors handling these matters have been directed to deal firmly but fairly with each case, without regard to the political affiliation of the offenders."

Justice Patel noted that cases of political violence were declining throughout the country.

"From the feedback received by the Attorney General's Office, it would appear that the scale and occurrence of public violence has begun to abate throughout the country.

"In any event, the office intends to monitor the situation on a regular basis and to take decisive action as and when it becomes necessary."

Justice Patel said since May 18, 2008, 80 cases of violence were reported in six provinces excluding Matabeleland and Midlands.

"The alleged offences cover a wide range of acts of public violence, including abduction, assault, malicious damage to property, robbery and offensive utterances. There is also one case of murder and two cases of attempted murder."

He said according to the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the offences were being attributed to both MDC-T and Zanu-PF.

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