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Zimbabwe Ministers Trade Barbs Over Escalating Political Violence

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe, who was chairing a cabinet session Tuesday, was left speechless as cabinet ministers traded barbs when they were discussing the arson attack in Headlands, Manicaland Province, that resulted in the death of 12 year-old Christpowers Simbarashe Maisiri.

Christpowers died Saturday after the house he was sleeping in was torched by suspected Zanu-PF supporters.

The 12 year-old boy is the son of Headlands district deputy organising secretary, Shepherd Maisiri, of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change formation.

Before this incident, Maisiri claimed that his house was attacked by Zanu-PF supporters at least nine times but no arrests have ever been made.

Cabinet sources told VOA that Jameson Timba, the Minister of State in Prime Minister Tsvangirai's Office, introduced the motion and he was joined by Mr. Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti in condemning the violence.

Mr. Timba is said to have brought the horrific pictures of the charred remains of the 12-year-old boy on the cabinet table. MDC-T ministers attacked Headlands Member of Parliament and Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa.

Mr. Mutasa was accused of inciting violence, a charge that he vehemently dismissed. The MDC-T ministers were also incensed by reports that Mutasa was claiming Maisiri is a Zanu-PF supporter.

At the end of the cabinet session, Mr. Tsvangirai is said to have asked Mr. Mugabe to attend the late boy's burial Thursday but the president politely declined.

In a statement, the MDC said a post-mortem on Christpowers was carried out at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare Tuesday. Mr. Tsvangirai is expected to attend the burial. Police say investigations are still underway.

Political analyst Sanderson Makombe, who survived an arson attack that killed two MDC activists in 2000, said there is need to arrest perpetrators of violence.
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But there was also comic relief at the end of the cabinet meeting when Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of the MDC formation led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube is said to have produced a small radio receiver like the one police are impounding from members of the public and demanded to know their legality.

Mr. Mugabe is said to have jokingly said he feared being arrested if he took the radio receiver from his minister.

Police have seized shortwave radios being allegedly distributed by non-governmental groups claiming that they are seizing some illegal communication gadgets.

Mr. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 and critics claim that the veteran leader has clung to power by using violence against opponents and through coercion and patronage to retain support within Zanu-PF.