The two main parties in Zimbabwe's national unity government on Wednesday traded barbs in connection with a police officer's death Sunday during a raid on what police and the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe say was a meeting of activists of the Movement for Democratic Change party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
A senior police official stepped up the rhetoric late Tuesday in Harare, saying supporters of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation would “die by the sword” for their alleged role in the death of Inspector Petros Mutedza in the populous Glen View suburb.
Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner Charles Mfandaedza, speaking on behalf of Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri at the funeral service for Mutedza, said the officer's death undermined the MDC's claims claims be committed to nonviolence.
Glen View residents said that suburb, an MDC stronghold, was under siege by armed members of the police, army and Central Intelligence Organization deployed there. They said raids on suspected MDC supporters were being conducted day and night.
Some said the situation has been made worse by the state-controlled media which they accused of whipping up emotions in the incident.
Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, also ZANU-PF secretary for indigenization, heaped blame on the Tsvangirai MDC for the policeman’s death.
But political commentator John Makumbe said those who reproach the MDC in connection with the death are blaming the wrong political party.
The Tsvangirai MDC formation charged that party members arrested this week following Mutedza's death have been tortured in police custody.
Tsvangirai MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti told reporters at a news conference that some of the estimated 35 party members arrested this week following the fatal incident were being tortured and beaten in police holding cells.
Police say Mutedza was hit over the head with a chair then kicked while unconscious after he and other officers moved to disperse a suspected MDC political meeting at a Glen View bar. The party says it had scheduled no party meeting that day.
Biti said the detention of party activists was illegal and the alleged torture of detainees was in violation of human rights principles and the Zimbabwean constitution.
Biti said his party had learned that a member of its national executive, Last Maingehama, arrested in the police crackdown since Sunday, had been moved from Harare Central Police Station to Nyabira Police Station on the way to Chinhoyi, northwest of Harare. The MDC secretary general charged Maingehama had been subjected to torture
Biti said the Zimbabwe Republic Police showed it is aligned to ZANU-PF by arresting MDC members and accusing the MDC in the state media of being responsible for Mutedza’s death without conducting a thorough investigation.
Biti called on the police to act professionally in the investigation.
Finance minister in the national unity government, Biti charged that ZANU-PF is now politicizing the incident to wield it against the MDC ahead of a special summit of the Southern African Development Community in South Africa next week.
Turning to that summit, Biti said unity government party negotiators would finalise a road map to the next elections before submitting a draft to President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara this week.
He said the MDC hopes the SADC regional organization will adopt the recommendations of the unity government party negotiators.
Though President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have been calling for new elections to be held this year, Biti said elections cannot be realistically held before 2012.