In the last six weeks political violence in Zimbabwe has intensified, and now one working class Harare suburb has been described as a ‘war zone’ by Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Tendai Biti. There are reports that several supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party have suffered serious injuries.
Biti, who is finance minister in the two-year-old inclusive government, said a violent gang loyal to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party is on the rampage in several townships close to Harare city center.
An example of violence against MDC members took place earlier this week when a house in Mbare belonging to MDC Harare city councilor Paul Gorekore was destroyed.
MDC secretary general Tendai Biti said he went into the old township to have a look at the damage.
"As I am talking to you now, Mbare is a war zone," said Biti. "One of our key leaders in Mbare, Mr. Gorekore, had his house totally crashed by Zanu-PF thugs. It is a shame to think that in this day and age in Zimbabwe, things like that can happen. Our office in the same suburb was totally vandalized and so forth."
Biti said every time MDC victims of Zanu-PF violence go to report incidents to the police, they land in prison as accused persons. He said this happened again when Gorekore went to report the destruction of his house.
"Eight people went to report to the police, including Mr. Korekore, and he was imprisoned," said Biti. "The police are acting in complicity with Zanu-PF, and Mbare is just three kilometers from downtown Harare."
Biti said the upsurge in violence began about six weeks ago. He said he has gone to see several victims of what he called Zanu-PF violence in the southeast and northeast of Zimbabwe in the last few weeks.
Zimbabwe republic police spokesman, Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena, said he did not yet know details of how Korekore’s house was destroyed, as investigations were incomplete. He said the violence in Mbare began when MDC supporters attacked a Zanu-PF man in the township.
Bvudzijena also said there were also disputes between Zanu-PF and MDC about ownership of small commercial stalls in several townships around Harare. "It’s not just about people fighting for nothing and its not about politics, it’s about access to resources."
In the 2008 parliamentary elections, the MDC party won control of all Zimbabwe’s urban areas, including Harare.
Zimbabwe human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said the recent violence in Harare townships was a ploy by Zanu-PF to reclaim control of urban areas it lost when the MDC participated in its first elections in 2000.
She said in every incident of political violence, police only arrested MDC members. She said the recent violence in Harare townships was caused by Zanu-PF supporters who believed it was their "God-given" right to take commercial property from MDC members.