Bloodbath Looms in Harare

This was Mupedzanhamo Market in Mbare, Harare, this morning. Despite attempts by the MDC-dominated Harare City Council to rectify the ZANU PF patronage and corruption, Mugabe's home-boy and Minister of Local Government, Ignatious Chombo, has blocked that move, saying only Central Government can allocate stands there. ZANU PF loyalists protested last week about the proposed Council actions and one of them died after being hit by a stone on the back of the head. Now, moves are afoot by ZANU PF to mete out retributive violence on MDC supporters in the capital.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 05 September 2009

A bloodbath looms in Harare as ZANU PF activists plot "revenge" for the death of one of their own at a market in the dirt-poor township of Mbare in in the capital city.

The death of the ZANU PF supporter, Mrs Martha Chitambira, who was 70 years old, is being blamed on MDC supporters by ZANU PF, including President Mugabe himself.

The background is rather strange.

The Market, known as Mupedzanhamho (That Which Ends Poverty), is owned by Harare city Council, which is controlled by the MDC Tsvangirai. However, over the years, even with MDC Councillors in the majority, ZANU PF has managed to maintain a grip on the market because most of the workers at the City Council were employed by ZANU PF and their contracts of employment could not be terminated because they had the direct backing of the Minister in Charge of Local Government.

These workers gave licences to ZANU PF supporters, as part of Mugabe's governance culture of spreading patronage at all levels of society in order to buy loyalty and votes.

The Minister of Local Government himself, Ignatious Chombo, who hails from the same village as Mugabe, reportedly owns 20 stalls at the market.

Recently, though, the Council decided to close down the market in order to rationalise ownership and licensing at the market.

Chombo and ZANU PF structures in Harare immediately saw this as a move by the MDC to open up space for MDC supporters at the market. Knowing that the MDC has also adopted the same patronage system as ZANU PF, Mugabe's party decided that this should not be allowed.

A demonstration was organised by ZANU PF. During the demo, however, MDC supporters and those locked out of the patronage system because they are not active sycophants in ZANU PF took to the streets to protest the move to close down the market .

During the demonstrations, which were widely covered by the media, a stone was thrown, which hit the elderly woman on the back of head.

She subsequently died of her injuries.

Only yesterday did it emerge that the old woman was an active supplicant at the same Roman Catholic Church that Mugabe attends.

As a result of Mugabe telling mourners yesterday that he was deeply pained by the death of Mrs Chitambira, ZANU PF supporters in Harare have now resolved to get back at the MDC.

"we re going to show them who is running this country. ZANU PF blood is not split for nothing and they are going to learn that lesson," said one young man this morning when I paid a visit to the market just outside the city centre.

"You will feel pity for MDC supporters in Harare I tell you," another one piped in. "The police have already been told not to interfere. They will be protected by Tsvangirai and their Inclusive Government, not by the police of the country that ZANU PF liberated."

This is despite Mugabe condemning violence at the funeral of Mrs Chitambira. But of course, it is the perceived MDC violence that he slammed, not ZANU PF violence.

This is the same area, mind you, where MDC supporters were thrown out of their homes by ZANU PF supporters during the violent presidential election run-off last year.

When the Inclusive Government was formed, the MDC supporters went back to their homes to try and reclaim them, but they were beaten up and in the resulting violence, police turned up and arrested only the MDC supporters, leaving ZANU PF supporters to live in the homes that they had seized.

To date, those MDC supporters are still homeless.

You can rest assured, judging from the strength of feelings at the market this morning, that there is going to be acute violence when ZANU PF is set loose and I expect two weeks will not go by before we hear of reprisals by ZANU PF.

That the ZANU PF Minister of Local Government has twenty stalls at the market, which he thinks are under threat from the MDC-dominated council will only ensure that the violence, when it comes, will be one-sided, with the police inevitably folding their hands, only intervening if they feel ZANU PF is losing the upper hand.

A bloodbath is definitely looming and you have been warned.


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