Mugabe disowns terror gangs

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe speaks at the party's annual conference on December 17, 2016 in Masvingo. Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party's congress endorsed on December 17, 2016 President Robert Mugabe as its candidate for the 2018 election, which could extend his 36 years in office. The leader was endorsed by all party structures at the meeting held in Masvingo, 300 kilometres (186 miles) southeast of the capital Harare. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai Njikizana
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HARARE – Zanu PF has dissociated itself from the terror gangs that have resurfaced in some of the country’s major towns and cities ahead of next year’s elections.

The terror groups which claim to be affiliated to the ruling party have gained notoriety for extorting cash from informal and formal traders, as well as terrorising opposition party supporters.

Yesterday, President Robert Mugabe (pictured) spoke for the first time on these gangs following reports that communities were living in fear of the purported Zanu PF youths who are operating with impunity.

“I hear there are groups that are going about tarnishing our image and that of the party; terrorising people in the name of the First Lady and we should never allow criminals to do that,” he said.

“Kick them out of the way when you see them; do that and do not wait for the police. Give them the punishment that they deserve and call the police later,” Mugabe added.

Reports say the notorious “Al-Shabaab” group is on the prowl in Kwekwe, harassing residents and traders.

Named after the Somalia-based terrorist affiliate of al-Qaeda fighting to turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic State, Al-Shabaab has been blamed for many attacks in the troubled Midlands province.

In Harare’s oldest high density suburb of Mbare, a group of Zanu PF youths, known as Chipangano, is terrorising vendors at Mbare Musika by demanding substantial amounts of money to allow them to vend at the popular vending site.

Chipangano — loosely translated to mean an agreement or oath — is a terror group known for ruthlessly dealing with residents and members of the opposition.

It is believed to have started its operations in 1999 at the height of the food riots that were triggered by soaring prices of basic goods.

The resurfacing of the terror groups has heightened fears that the upcoming elections could see violence flaring up in key battlegrounds, as the main political actors — Zanu PF and the MDC — go toe-to-toe in the election contest.

If taken seriously, Mugabe’s remarks might lift the veil of impunity, with the long arm of the law finally catching up with these terror groups.

The opposition MDC has since condemned the surge in violence in the capital which saw its car and properties belonging to its senior officials being torched in suspected cases of arson by people believed to be from Zanu PF.

On Wednesday, the MDC demanded in Parliament that action be taken on the incidents the party described as acts of “thuggery”.

“I would want the house to request the leader of the House today to issue a statement in relation to the rising political violence, which the country has witnessed over the past two weeks,” Chitungwiza North Member of Parliament, Godfrey Sithole, said in the National Assembly.

On Tuesday night, MDC vice president, Elias Mudzuri’s Dandaro bar in Harare was set ablaze.

On the same night, MDC councillor, Wilton Janjazi’s house was also attacked. A car was also torched at a car park in Kuwadzana by what the MDC claimed were “Zanu PF thugs”.

Zanu PF secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, claims these incidents were an “inside job”, insinuating that the MDC was trying to gain sympathies by stage-managing the attacks.

Yesterday, Mugabe also took a swipe at the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (Zicosu) and the Children of Zimbabwe War Veterans Association (Cozwa) whom he claims to be going around beating up people in the name of his wife, Grace and that of his party.

Zicosu and Cozwa have become enmeshed in the brutal battle to succeed Mugabe.

These groups, along with Zanu PF hawks angling to succeed the Zanu PF leader, were also chided by Kudzai Chipanga, the ruling party’s youth league secretary, and Mugabe’s wife, Grace, in their respective addresses.

While Cozwa is believed to be a creation of the Generation 40 faction, Zicosu has aligned itself with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste group.

Chipanga said the youth league would cut ties with the organisations if they do not change their ways.

“You all heard what the president said so from here the Cozwa guys go remove all that is written on your car that has something to do with our party and our leaders,” Chipanga said.