Seemingly deranged Zanu PF supporters ran amok in Norton yesterday, battering supporters of prominent politician Temba Mliswa and fighting running battles with police — in barbaric scenes which turned the usually sleepy dormitory town into a war zone.
The chaotic scenes, which left scores of people badly injured and forced Mliswa to cancel his scheduled rally at Ngoni Stadium where thousands of his supporters for next week’s by-election in the constituency had gathered — including MDC, Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) members — left opposition parties fearing the worst as the keenly-anticipated 2018 national elections beckon.
The bloody scenes came after Zanu PF held two undisturbed rallies in the same constituency on Wednesday and Thursday, which were addressed by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko and ministers Prisca Mupfumira and Saviour Kasukuwere, among other ruling party heavyweights.
Eyewitnesses who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said the bussed Zanu PF thugs who indiscriminately beat anyone who was in the vicinity of Ngoni Stadium, including residents of nearby houses, and sparking chaotic scenes which disrupted traffic as well as the free movement of ordinary people, had acted with “absolute impunity”.
Armed with sticks and stones, the apparently drunk ruling party hooligans even charged at the few police officers who were at the rally, forcing authorities to call for re-enforcements.
A while later, heavily-armed riot police responded to the distress calls by their colleagues and fired volleys of teargas upon their arrival, which caused further commotion in the neighbourhood as people raced for dear life.
The teargas disrupted church services, including a gathering of hundreds of members of an apostolic sect who were caught in the melee.
Still, this did not deter the crazed Zanu PF mobs, who continued to wage their mindless war before more police truckloads arrived, finally forcing them to retreat.
MDC vice president Nelson Chamisa, who was among those in attendance, who included former State Security minister Didymus Mutasa, slammed both Zanu PF and police, vowing further that opposition supporters would not be deterred from voting for Mliswa on Saturday, who is standing in the by-election as an independent candidate.
“How do you turn a town into a war zone like this? How do you throw teargas on pregnant women? How do you allow and justify the bussing in of thugs to disrupt a sanctioned rally? This is barbaric,” Chamisa fumed when he spoke to the Daily News on Sunday.
“For us as MDC, any candidate who is not Zanu PF is a good candidate. We are backing Mliswa.
“Anybody but Zanu PF makes sense for Zimbabwe. As a party we have always said that we need reforms for free and fair elections. But even under the current conditions Zanu PF should be punished,” he added.
Analysts have said the orgy of violence being perpetrated by Zanu PF yobs around the country implied that President Robert Mugabe and his embattled ruling party were increasingly using terror to silence dissenters ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
The Norton violence comes hardly three weeks after axe and knobkerrie-wielding Zanu PF mobs invaded Dunaverty Farm in Guruve — where they launched gruesome attacks on their hapless ZPF victims, leaving them for dead.
It was later revealed that the marauding mobs wanted to chase away Obert Mutasa, Cyril Mureya and Temba Ncube from the farm — all of whom are prominent supporters of Joice Mujuru’s fledgling party.
And as if to rub salt into the injured ZPF officials’ wounds, former brigadier and ambassador Aggripa Mutambara — who had driven to the farm to try and rescue his comrades before he too was mercilessly set upon — was bizarrely arrested by police together with the other bludgeoned trio despite nursing bad wounds and having been on the receiving end of the savage attacks by the manic Zanu PF supporters.
In the same week, suspicious riots rocked Harare, as police fought running battles with supposed protesting street vendors in the capital’s central business district — amid stunning claims that the troublemakers in fact belonged to factions within the warring Zanu PF.
Mliswa told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Zanu PF had been on the warpath in the constituency for a long time, including using intimidation and bribery in their desperate bid to retain the vacant Norton seat.
“The level of violence and intimidation in Norton has reached alarming proportions and we urge all youths and political parties alike to remain peaceful and tolerant of each other and their views,” he said.
Last week, a girl, whose mother supports Mliswa, was also abducted and stripped naked by suspected Zanu PF thugs in Norton.
The former Mashonaland West provincial chairperson is standing as an independent candidate in next Saturday’s by-election in the constituency which fell vacant following the expulsion of war veterans’ leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa, from Zanu PF.
Analysts say stakes are very high in the by-election which is in Mugabe’s home province.
In addition, Mliswa has also got the backing of disgruntled war veterans and opposition parties, and is also seeking to avenge his contentious expulsion from Zanu PF two years ago.
The war veterans were for a long time one of the pillars of Mugabe’s power as they waged brutal campaigns against the opposition.
But they ended their long relationship with Mugabe which dated back to the days of the liberation struggle last July, when they served him with divorce papers after growing frustrated by their patron’s misrule.