By Mary Taruvinga
ZANU PF supporters were apparently involved in the deadly violence and looting which rocked Zimbabwe earlier this week, a case before the Harare magistrate’s courts has revealed.
Scores of people were killed between Monday and Tuesday and dozens of others injured as the security forces cracked down on angry Zimbabweans protesting the government’s decision to more than double fuel prices.
Government blamed the opposition MDC party and surrogate groups such as the main ZCTU labour movement for the violence with the state security minister revealing that 600 people had been arrested.
However, at least six of those who have appeared since in court in connection with the violence were identified as Zanu PF supporters.
Seven suspects appeared in court on Tuesday evening hauled before the courts charged with setting a Zupco bus on fire and torching a vehicle belonging to former cabinet minister Webster Shamu.
When they initially appeared before a Harare magistrate Tuesday evening, six of the accused were identified as Zanu PF supporters.
These included Charles Bengeza (28) Shylock Chihuri (25), Emannuel Chari (25) Cassim Muzhingi (23), Benson Bhobho (35) Millen Dulana (29).
However, when the case resumed Wednesday morning, the party affiliation had been removed from court documents.
NewZimbabwe.com is however in possession of the original annexure identifying all six as ruling party supporters with Bhobho described as a ward youth chairman.
The seventh co-accused was identified as Rumbidzai Dulana (25).
Meanwhile, the court heard that on Monday, at around 10am, the seven and several others still at large connived to engage in public violence at Whitehouse shopping centre along the Harare-Bulawayo road.
They then proceeded to the highway where they stopped a ZUPCO bus headed towards the capital and ordered all the passengers to disembark.
Chari reportedly took the wheel and drove the bus before parking it some 40 metres away from the highway after which the suspects set the coach on fire.
The seven then proceeded to the nearby Puma Service Station which is operated by top Zanu PF politician Webster Shamu where they looted the supermarket and set a truck belonging to the former government minister on fire.
According to prosecutor George Manokore, the suspects also barricaded roads with burning tyres and threw missiles at passing motorists.
All seven were represented by human rights lawyers Gift Mtisi and Gugulethu Mahlangu Simango.
However, Mtisi stood down after presiding magistrate Elijah Makomo rejected the defence lawyers’ request that he recuses himself from the case.
The attorneys had complained that the case, which started at 5pm on Tuesday, was curiously being rushed through the court leaving them little time to prepare.
“We need more time to equip ourselves with facts around this case and take instructions from the accused,” said Mtisi.
“From the way things have been going we have the feeling there is a foreign force behind this case,” he complained.
When the suspects initially appeared in court Tuesday, they had no legal representation, a matter raised by the defence lawyers when they took up the case on Wednesday.
The magistrate trashed the lawyers’ objections and application for postponement saying the absence of legal representation when the trial started did not mean that the suspects’ rights were trampled on.