Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says he is worried about rising political violence in the country, which he says is designed and executed by people working within the government of national unity. Tsvangirai specifically blamed the police force, which he said causes violence, is partisan, ignores the law and has recently prevented him from holding several political rallies.
Tsvangirai held a press conference Wednesday, 24 hours after armed police, using tear gas, surrounded the Harare central headquarters of his Movement for Democratic Change party [MDC]. He said the police brought commercial activity in parts of the city to a standstill and threw tear gas at people on the streets.
"In fact, the police are now the source of violence in this country, they are now the source of instability, of undermining peace. Because can you explain to me what happened yesterday, how can you go and throw tear gas throughout the whole city, chasing, chasing, I want to emphasize, a complaint by one person because his record had been reproduced," said Tsvangirai. "It is like saying let's go and burn down the building because there is a rat. How can police behave in a manner which is so blatantly partisan?"
Tsvangirai said the violence was designed by people who want to reverse progress made since the MDC went into a power-sharing government with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party nearly three years ago. Mugabe and his party control the police in Zimbabwe.
He said he met Tuesday with Mugabe, and said they both agreed that political violence in Harare and elsewhere in the country must stop.
Tsvangirai also gave details of several political rallies either disrupted or stopped by police, some of which he had been due to address.
The prime minister also was asked about the cost of Mugabe’s frequent trips to Singapore for medical treatment. Finance Minister Tendai Biti has complained that foreign travel by Zimbabwe’s senior political leaders, including Mugabe and Tsvangirai, is unnecessarily costly to the economy, saying they have incurred travel expenses of $29 million this year.
Tsvangirai said President Mugabe has a right to seek medical care abroad when it is not available in Zimbabwe.
“It is the responsibility of the state is to look after its leaders. If the president is sick he should be attended to. Whether we like it or not, he may say, 'I was sick, I had to go,' and who am I [to] get attention, and who am I to question,” said Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai said he did not believe he is guilty of overspending on foreign travel, and asked that the finance minister break down the expenditure for each individual.
Thomas Chiripasi has this from Harare.
The two co-ministers of Home Affairs who in theory at least are charged with overseeing the police offered different responses. Co-minister Theresa Makone of Mr.Tsvangirai’s party said rogue elements are fanning violence.
But her ZANU PF counterpart Kembo Mohadi said the level of violence is being exaggerated. ZANU- PFf parliamentarian for Mwenezi East Kudakwashe Bhasikiti tells Blessing Zulu that the MDC is causing violence to stave off elections
Civic organizations have condemned the escalation of political violence in Harare over the past few weeks, saying they are disappointed by the partisan manner in which the police have dealt with such violence. Among them is National Constitutional Assembly youth chairman Alois Dzvairo who tells reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga his organization intends to step up its “Act Now Against Political Violence” campaign.
With political tensions building again in Harare, facilitators for South African President Jacob Zuma have returned to town. The spokesperson for the team, Lindiwe Zulu, says this is a follow-up visit to fine tune the elections roadmap.
In his news conference today, Prime Minister Tsvangirai expressed disappointment that the Southern African Development Community hasn’t deployed a technical committee to work with the joint monitoring and implementation committee.
Facilitator Zulu tells Violet Gonda the team’s visit was scheduled and not made in response to complaints by the M-D-C about banned rallies or the recent upsurgence of violence.
Studio seven could not reach ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo for comment. But Tsvangirai M-D-C spokesman Douglas Mwonzora says the party secured a commitment from facilitators that the SADC team will be deployed very soon.