Zimbabwean political parties reacted Tuesday to the conviction of Jason Machaya, son of the governor of Midlands province, and three others, and the 18-year sentences they received in connection with the 2009 killing of Moses Chokuda of Gokwe.
Bulawayo High Court Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, sitting in Gweru on circuit assignment, sentenced Machaya, son of Midlands governor Jason Machaya, along with ZANU-PF activists Abel Maphosa and brothers Edmore and Bothwell Gana, for the murder.
He said the sentences were meant to “send a clear message on the sanctity of life.”
Prosecutors said the defendants abducted Chokuda on suspicions he had stolen from a grocery store operated by Machaya in Gokwe Center, took him to a rural homestead and fatally beat him. But officials of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change said that Chokuda, a local party officer, had been singled out for political reasons.
A magistrate in the southeastern province of Masvingo recently sentenced another ZANU-PF activist, war veteran Gilbert Mavhenyengwa, to 20 years in prison for raping an MDC supporter during violence associated with the 2008 elections.
ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the tough prison sentences prove the judiciary does not favor ZANU-PF, adding that all perpetrators of violence should be brought to justice and punished.
The MDC formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai did not agree with this assessment, saying that the convictions and sentences in the two cases did not signal a sea-change in Zimbabwean justice, long seen as heavily influenced by ZANU-PF.
MDC officials pointed to other high-profile cases of political violence in which, they maintained, there were clearly unfair and partisan judgments.
For a closer look at claims that the judgments in recent days reflected a restoration of the rule of law, VOA's Tatenda Gumbo spoke with Tsvangirai MDC Chief Whip Innocent Gonese and political analyst Effie Dlela Ncube.
Gonese said his party would not allow a handful of cases to sway Zimbabweans from the truth about the judicial system. Analyst Ncube said there are several cases pending in the judicial system which deserve a non-partisan judgment, and until such cases are concluded ZANU-PF officials cannot say the judicial system is not partial.
Elsewhere, the Tsvangirai MDC formation said soldiers, police and agents of the Central Intelligence Organization have launched a campaign of intimidation in Mashonland West province. It said two MDC supporters were assaulted Sunday after a rally.
Provincial Organizing Secretary Wilson Makanyaire said party officials are particularly concerned because soldiers are moving through local communities wearing their uniforms, which he said seems intended to intimidate residents.