By Professor Matodzi
Harare, February 20, 2016 – THE Opposition MDC-T and some local civic groups have roundly condemned the Thursday attack on war veterans by anti-riot police who accused the country’s liberators of convening an illegal meeting.
The abortive meeting was called by under-fire war veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa who had been ousted as national war veterans chairperson by a Zanu PF group loyal to a party faction fronted by President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Some war veterans fainted as police fired teargas in attempts to disperse hordes of ex-combatants who had congregated at the City Sports Centre waiting to be addressed by Mutsvangwa who was yet to arrive at the venue.
The misfortune on President Mugabe’s militant support base long accused of lawlessness and brutalising the opposition was celebrated by some, but least among the opposition and civic groups which felt police were acting contrary to the country’s laws.
“The action by the Police to suppress and illegally disperse a peaceful meeting by the liberation war heroes and heroines is a total negation of the tenets of democracy for which many of these gallant sons and daughters paid the supreme sacrifice,” MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said in a statement on Friday.
“The need for a democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe cannot be over-emphasized and the action by the Police vindicates what the MDC has always been saying regarding the indiscriminate and illegal use of force by the Police; particularly against opposition political activists ever since the formation of our party in September 1999.”
Gutu called on Mugabe to step down insisting his continued cling on power 36 years after he founded the Zimbabwean state was causing the current instability within his party and the country at large.
Similarly, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum also condemned the police heavy handedness in dealing with defenceless war veterans.
“The violent dispersal of the war veterans gathering by the police on Thursday the 18th of February 2016 was unnecessary,” said the group.
“There were no reports of violent expression from the War Veterans’ which warranted this drastic approach.
“Besides, their actions were protected by Section 58 of the Constitution which provides for freedom of assembly and association.
“These civic liberties should be enjoyed by all Zimbabweans irrespective of differences in points of view.”
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association also condemned the police action.
Despite the condemnation by a cross section of the Zimbabwean community, President Robert Mugabe on Friday insisted the war veterans meeting was unsanctioned and further blasted Mutsvangwa for exposing the country’s liberators to the brutal side of law enforcement agents.
Speaking on national television in the wake of the incident, Mugabe said Mutsvangwa should bear responsibility for Thursday’s chaotic events.