Both formations of Zimbabwe's former opposition Movement for Democratic Change and civic organizations have hailed the sentencing of a ZANU-PF activist to 20 years in jail following his conviction for raping an MDC supporter during 2008 election violence.
Passing judgment against war veteran Gilbert Mavhenyengwa on Monday, Masvingo Magistrate Esther Muremba called him a “disrespectful thug” who took advantage of the volatile situation to rape a vulnerable woman, independent daily Newsday reported.
The magistrate also chastised Mavhenyegwa, who commanded a ZANU-PF militia base in Masvingo at the time, for not using a condom during the forced encounter, saying he had exposed the unnamed victim to the danger of contracting the AIDS virus.
Such judgments against perpetrators of the 2008 election violence are not common. A magistrate in Chitungwiza, a Harare satellite town, sentenced five ZANU-PF supporters to three years in jail in January for torturing MDC supporters during the elections.
But the 20 year sentence imposed on Mavhenyengwa caught public attention.
Spokesman Nhlanhla Dube of the MDC wing led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube told VOA reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that his party is pleased with the sentence which he said would send a strong message to would-be offenders.
"We celebrate this judgment as a victory for a society that believes that political differences can never be settled through violent means," Dube said.
Those sentiments were echoed by deputy spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo of the MDC wing led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. She said all those who commit violence should be given similarly tough prison sentences.
But ZANU-PF parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo downplayed the significance of the case saying it was a criminal matter not linked politics or ZANU-PF.
"The issue has got nothing to do with political parties," Gumbo said. "It only has something to do with the person's behavior and character."
Programs Manager Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition commented that the sentence was just and commendable - but could have come sooner.