DOZENS of MDC supporters on Friday came under attack from a group of men in army uniform minutes after party leader Welshman Ncube addressed a rally in Mutoko, Mashonaland East, officials said.
Ncube and senior party leaders had just left the venue of the rally in Mutoko centre when dispersing supporters came under attack, according to a spokesman for the party, Kuraone Chihwayi.
He said several supporters were injured in the raid while six party activists had gone into hiding.
The party says the assailants were disgorged by two army trucks. Mutoko is headquarters to the 2.1 Infantry Battalion.
Chihwayi said: “I can confirm that violence erupted at the rally venue soon after the president had left when people who were in army trucks and dressed in army uniform started beating up our supporters.
“As I speak, our provincial chairperson, Shupikai Mandaza, and five other party leaders in the province are in hiding. Mandaza is actually a liaison officer for JOMIC [Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee – a body tasked with monitoring implementation of a power sharing agreement].”
Chihwayi said despite President Robert Mugabe’s public calls for a cessation of violence, Friday’s attack was evidence that “we are far from building bridges”.
“The MDC will hold Mugabe accountable for the missing party supporters. We are going to press on until Mugabe is gone,” he added.
Ncube, who returned to Harare in the evening, confirmed receiving a report on the violence.
“I am informed that our party supporters were beaten up soon after my team had left. During the rally, these army trucks were moving up and down. After the rally, the trucks dropped off the soldiers who then started assaulting our supporters leaving one young man seriously injured,” Ncube said by telephone.
“We are still in the process of verifying what exactly went on and we have notified the police about the incident.”
New Zimbabwe.com was unable to verify if the assailants were soldiers. Zimbabwe National Army spokesman Col Alfios Makotore was not answering his mobile phone late Friday.
Ncube added: “This incident exposes the sad reality that the country has not moved on from the 2008 election violence. It clearly demonstrates that some areas are still no go areas for other political parties.”
Both MDC factions accuse coalition partner Zanu PF of employing soldiers for partisan political programmes.
The military was fingered as a key driver of the violence that swept Zimbabwe in 2008 ahead of a presidential run-off election which was boycotted by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. President Mugabe won the discredited vote by a landslide but regional countries pressured him into sharing power with his rivals.