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Zimbabwean opposition party member stoned to death after court blow to Mnangagwa
Zimbabwe’s main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change on Thursday claimed that one of its members was stoned to death in the capital, Harare, by suspected members of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF shortly after 12 parliamentary candidates who had been disqualified from participating in the 23 August general elections were reinstated by the Supreme Court.
Politically motivated violence allegedly claimed the life of a member of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party in Harare on Thursday after suspected Zanu-PF supporters ambushed a group of the opposition’s members on the way to a political rally.
CCC national spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said that Tinashe Chitsunge died after he was attacked by suspected ruling party supporters.
“We have received a concerning report that @CCCZimbabwe member, Tinashe Chitsunge, was stoned to death by suspected @ZANUPF_Official thugs about an hour ago. The thugs ambushed a group of our youths when they were heading to a rally in Glen View 7,” Mahere said in a tweet.
Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi did not answer his phone by the time of publishing, while Zanu-PF acting information director Farai Marapira said he was not aware of the incident.
However, a statement released by the country’s information ministry through Twitter said investigations were under way.
“Govt has been made aware of an incident which happened at Tanaka Grounds in Glen Norah, Harare which resulted in the loss of life. Our condolences go to the family of the deceased. @PoliceZimbabwe are on the scene carrying out investiagtions [sic] and they will issue a statement giving more details to the nation. As Govt we call for calm and ride on His Excellency @edmnangagwa’s message of peaceful campaigns, free contestation of ideas and political tolerance. Police will do their job and whoever is found on the wrong side of the law will face its full wrath,” said the ministry’s tweet.
The opposition has previously claimed that its members are being subjected to violence and intimidation by ruling party functionaries in several parts of the country. Zanu-PF has always denied responsibility.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Zimbabwe opposition supporters feel sharp edge of Zanu-PF knife in segue to elections
Court decision overturned
The incident took place shortly after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned a decision of a lower court that nullified the candidature of 12 CCC parliamentary candidates.
Pronouncing the decision in open court, Justice Tendai Uchena said the court’s verdict was unanimous.
The High Court in Bulawayo had annulled the participation of the 12 opposition candidates after it had been convinced by Zanu-PF activists that they had filed their nomination papers after the 4pm deadline when the nomination court sat on 21 June.
This was despite the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, charged with overseeing the electoral process, submitting before the court that the candidates had filed their nomination papers on time.
CCC spokesperson Mahere welcomed the SCA’s decision.
“We don’t celebrate because they should never have been removed [from the ballot paper] in the first place, but what we do say is that we are relieved because at least the people of Bulawayo would be able to choose leaders of their own. It would have been a coup on the will of people of Bulawayo,” Mahere said.
If the SCA had allowed the high court decision to stand, the ruling Zanu-PF would have had an edge over the opposition, with some of its candidates, including Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, running unopposed.
Mahere vowed that her party would give Zanu-PF a run for its money in Bulawayo Province, an opposition stronghold, following the SCA ruling.
“The legislative authority of Zimbabwe is derived from the people; there is simply no justifiable basis for the people of Bulawayo to be denied the right to vote in leaders of their choice. It’s imperative that every Zimbabwean has to make this choice. As for Zanu-PF, they know that they will never win a free and fair election. Mthuli Ncube himself knows that we are coming for him in Cowdray Park,” Mahere said.
A slap in the face for Mnangagwa
The ruling was a slap in the face for Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who this week celebrated the exclusion of the 12 opposition candidates while addressing his supporters in Cowdray Park in Bulawayo.
“Zanu-PF is uncontested in Cowdray Park, Bulawayo Central and Bulawayo Central not because we stopped anybody, but because they stopped themselves. Our party is also uncontested in the Provincial Council. Congratulations, Bulawayo. So let us win resoundingly for our colossal mass party, ward by ward, constituency by constituency,” Mnangagwa said.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said, “This is a classic case of a ruling party tying itself in knots in its aspirations to manipulate the electoral process for its own benefit.
“If given the opportunity, Zanu-PF would have wanted to declare itself the winner without anyone voting and it’s unfortunate that this election has become probably one of the most confused election processes that we are seeing, and its credibility, regardless of this court ruling, is already in question, more so the behaviour of state institutions that should guarantee and protect the sacrosanct right of citizens to elect their own leaders,” Mukundu said.
The opposition has accused Mnangagwa of capturing the judiciary to target his opponents.
Zanu-PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa, however, distanced his party from judicial capture.
“We respect the independence of the courts and we are going to abide by whatever decisions are… made by the courts,” Mutsvangwa said.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba also refuted allegations that Zimbabwean judges were being influenced to make decisions that favour Mnangagwa’s party.
The numerous cases that have been brought before the courts have caused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to delay the printing of ballot papers, with just three weeks left before the elections.
The country’s apex court, the Constitutional Court, is yet to hear an application by exiled former Cabinet minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who is challenging his disqualification from the presidential race after a high court judge found that he had not resided in Zimbabwe for a period exceeding 18 months. After his disqualification, Kasukuwere approached the SCA which dismissed his application without giving reasons.
Kasukuwere went into exile in South Africa at the height of the military coup that forced the now late former president Robert Mugabe to resign. He was a kingpin of a Zanu-PF faction that called itself Generation 40 which unsuccessfully campaigned for former first lady Grace Mugabe to succeed her husband. DM