By Paul Nyathi|ZANU PF youth leaders were allegedly behind acts of violence and arson, including the burning of a Zupco bus in Harare on Monday during countrywide protests against fuel price increases, court papers showed.
Benson Bhobho, Zanu PF youth league chairperson for ward 40 in Whitecliff, was yesterday charged with public violence together with members of his executive, Charles Bengeza, Shylock Chihuri, Emmanuel Chari, Cassim Muzhingi, Noleen and Rumbidzai Dulana after their arrest in connection with the burning of the Zupco bus that was heading to Harare.
According to court papers, Bhobho (35) teamed up with his executive and other accomplices, who are still at large, around mid-morning on Monday, and proceeded to Whitehouse shopping centre along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway, where they barricaded the highway with boulders, burning tyres and throwing missiles at motorists.
“Pursuant to their plan, the accused stopped a Zupco bus which was proceeding to Harare and ordered the bus crew and all passengers to disembark.
Emmanuel Chari drove the bus (off) the road and parked it about 40 metres (away), where he and his colleagues set it on fire,” the court papers read.
This came as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on Monday called for a nationwide stayaway to push government to reverse recent fuel price hikes as well as deal with the deepening economic crisis.
But the stayaway turned violent, with government accusing the opposition of orchestrating the mayhem, which resulted in about eight civilian deaths, the death of a police officer and numerous injuries, including the destruction of public assets.
Court papers, however, indicate that the Zanu PF youth leadership, led the mob that burnt the Zupco bus along the Bulawayo-Harare Highway and also chased away workers at a shop owned by Chegutu East legislator Webster Shamu (Zanu PF).
“The accused looted various groceries from the shop and set ablaze a Mitsubishi pick-up truck which was parked at the service station, leaving it to burn to ashes,” the papers stated.
Police recovered some of the alleged stolen items from the Zanu PF youth leaders, among them Mazoe cordials, fire extinguishers and ropes.
Meanwhile, MDC national organising secretary Amos Chibaya claims that he saw senior ZANU PF members executing violence during the protests.
“Here in Gweru, I saw very senior Zanu PF officials and activists protesting as well. I am the organising secretary of MDC and all programmes come from my office. I never sanctioned these protests at all; that is why I am here at home. Our own programmes will come,” Chibaya said.
“The government must simply listen to the message being delivered to it by its people instead of laying blame on the MDC. We are saddened by the people who have already been shot and killed by the State security agents. The regime has been cornered. It’s a complete humiliation for the so-called new republic.
“The MDC is a peaceful party, that is why no retribution on people who have stolen elections has been witnessed. No matter how far and extreme the party has been stretched, it has remained calm. We never instructed our supporters to be violent at all. However, the citizens are just angry with the failed regime.”
Chibaya said he did not activate the so-called Vanguard or the Democratic Resistance Committee as claimed by State security minister Owen Ncube.
“I am not aware of any co-ordination for these protests. What is clear is the long-suffering of Zimbabweans. President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa must address the burning nation and end his shameless globetrotting,” he said.