Fears are mounting over the safety of opposition activists, following abductions of members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a night raid allegedly by armed gunmen in Bulawayo last week.
According to victims of the latest wave of abductions, the armed men, suspected to be members of the security forces, and armed with AK47 rifles and pistols, reportedly drove around in commuter omnibuses some with yellow number plates.
The latest incident took place last night (Tuesday) at the home of Ward 24 Councillor Arnold Batirai in Nketa 6.
Batirai told CITE that about seven gunmen went to his house but he was not there.
Instead they found his wife, maid and two children.
“My wife said these men were around seven, armed and wore masks They knocked down our door and headed for the bedroom and beat her up,” he said.
These armed men also proceeded to Batirai’s neighbour, one Chapfutika at midnight and found him asleep with his wife.
Chapfutika said these men demanded to know Batirai’s whereabouts.
“They marched us out of the house and we complied as this was at gun point. They forced us to a trench opposite Batirai’s house and beat me, my wife, Batirai’s wife and maid.
“My right leg is injured from the beatings, they beat Batirai’s wife on her behind using the butt of a gun and his maid whose left hand is injured. These men also took my Iphone 7, Samsung J2 and my wife’s Huawei,” he recounted their ordeal.
As a result of that experience, Chapfutika said he was moving from the suburb.
“I will instruct a carpenter to fix my broken door but I am immediately packing up and moving. My children are traumatised because my first born son who is in Grade 5, peeped through the window, saw these men leading us out of the house while my wife and I were naked.”
Former Ward 28 councillor, Collet Ndlovu also confirmed a group of armed masked gunmen stormed his son, Masiza’s house in Cowdray Park on Saturday night demanding information on the demonstration.
“It was around 10pm Sunday when four armed masked men burst into Masiza’s home. They slapped the wife but they took my son. Two of the men were carrying AK47 rifles and the others – pistols. They asked Masiza about the demonstration and whereabouts of councillors – Batirai, Rodney Jele (of Ward 22) and the party’s district chairperson, one Patie,” Ndlovu said.
“They took Masiza to a place called koBagcwele along old Gwanda road next to a bush where some ZESA employees had been digging. They dumped him there but after stripping him of his clothes and telling him to roll on thorns. After they left, Masiza had to walk, seeking help in darkness.
“He reached one lodge, knocked at the gate but no one opened. He continued walking until he reached a sign indicating the location of Hillside Police Station, followed it until he arrived at the station to narrate his ordeal. The police called me at 2am,” said the former councillor.
Ndlovu noted that although the case was reported, he had no faith it would be investigated.
“Who else can carry AK47’s in this country freely, these were not robbers who went for my son but a political move. My son went to a doctor but is in pain. These are Zanu PF tactics to intimidate people,” he alleged.
Another activist who was abducted and beaten is Goodsen Phiri who was abducted on Saturday night by 10 men after they vandalised his home in Sizinda.
Phiri is related to Esnathi Bulayani, the provincial chair of the National Peoples’ Project.
According to Phiri, these masked gunmen who were using two commuter omnibuses, asked him why he was supporting Josphat Mzaca Ngulube, a well-known local activist.
Phiri said his tormentors put a stick in his mouth to prevent him from making sounds, which is now scarred.
He was later dumped at D Square in Entumbane suburb.
The home of MDC Bulawayo Youth Secretary, Pashor Sibanda’s at Cowdray Park was also raided that same Saturday night.
The armed men claimed Sibanda sold drugs, searched the house but found nothing and instead took his father, Last Donga, beat him and left him for dead at Luveve Cemetery.
They later went back at Sibanda’s house but his mother and siblings had already escaped.
In Mpopoma, Ward 9 MDC Deputy Treasurer, Wilbert Verenga was abducted together with Tadiwanashe Marumbei. Both men are admitted at Mpilo Hospital.
Deputy mayor, Tinashe Kambarami is also a victim of the abduction, whose dreadlocks were shaved off.
Some of the abducted victims’ mobile numbers were not going through since their cellphones were seized by the gunmen.
MDC Provincial Spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza condemned the abductions and claimed “these had similar modus operandi to the abductions of Patrick Nabanyama, Itai Dzamara and hundreds of other MDC cadres who suffered under Zanu PF aligned securocrats.”
He said while authorities barred MDC from staging its demonstration in Bulawayo Monday, the abductions started on August 17.
“This was well before the demonstration. What is more revealing is the character of the junta government is that the abductors seized a spouse or parents of their MDC target. This is the same manner in which the Gukurahundists operated in the early 1980s.
“For example, when the Gukurahundists sought to kill Sidney Malunga, they abducted his son, who at that time was a primary school pupil. The Gukurahundists held Malunga’s son as ransom until he surrendered himself to the police,” Chirowodza claimed.