Cletus Mushanawani in MUTARE
ROWDY youths, who claimed they were defending the name of Zanu-PF secretary for administration Cde Didymus Mutasa yesterday attacked their counterparts from Harare and allegedly threatened to stab them with a knife during First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe’s rally at Sakubva Stadium.
The unruly youths from Manicaland accused those from Harare led by provincial youth chairman Cde Godwin Gomwe of disrespecting the Manicaland provincial leadership.
The youths from Harare were then attacked just before Amai Mugabe addressed a capacity crowd on the fifth leg of her “Meet the People’’ tour that has so far taken her to Mashonaland West, the Midlands, Harare and Masvingo.
One of the victims claimed that he was threatened with a knife by controversial Manicaland provincial executive member Cde Sheila Mutsenhu.
Cde Mutsenhu dismissed the claims, saying she never had a knife with her, but admitted to having confronted the delegation from Harare with the intention of making the youths answer to a number of accusations.
Cde Gomwe confirmed the skirmishes and said that he was the one being targeted by the youths from Manicaland.
“They approached my colleagues from Harare while we were at the aerodrome waiting for the First Lady to arrive and they wanted to beat them up, saying they wanted to see me,” he said.
“At the stadium, we sat in the tent and these same youths approached me accusing me of uttering disrespectful statements against Cde Mutasa and Manicaland provincial chair Cde John Mvundura.
“There were skirmishes when they wanted to attack me and we threatened to leave before the First Lady delivered her speech, but some party officials restrained us and said it would be disrespectful of the First Lady if we left.”
Cde Gomwe said the attack on the Harare delegation was pre-arranged as they were told that meetings had been held with some senior officials from Manicaland and Harare plotting the attack. One of the victims, Cde Martin Madiye, said the youths from Manicaland questioned them on why they were following the First Lady on her Meet the People Tour.
“Some asked us why we were rallying behind her,” he said. “Some officials from Harare like Cde Shadreck Mashayamombe even supplied our attackers with our names and the registration numbers of our vehicles.”
Cde Albert Chirara, who was accompanying Cde Gomwe, said at some point they feared for their lives.
“Security forces who were present failed to intervene when we were being attacked,” he said. “I heard one of them accusing us of coming all the way from Harare to cause chaos in Mutare.
“To say the least, security was lax here and people were not being searched on their way in, a reason why Sheila (Mutsenhu) threatened to stab me. I was also attacked with a chair.”
Cde Mutasa said in an interview said that he did not witness the skirmishes and said all youths in Zanu-PF were his “children”.
“I was at Sakubva Stadium and did not witness anything you are talking about,” he said. “I only witnessed children who were playing. It is mischievous for people to say there is a group of youths aligned to Cde Mutasa. All youths in Zanu-PF are my children, even those denouncing me.
“It is the Press that is distorting facts on the ground. How can any member of the party belong to me? Anyway, we will read what you would have written.”
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson Inspector Enock Chishiri said police were still to receive a report on the incident.
Cde Mutsenhu denied ever threatening to stab anyone and accused Cde Gomwe of hiring bouncers to cause mayhem in Manicaland.
“Cde Gomwe came to the Mutare Aerodrome in the company of bouncers as well as ousted Manicaland provincial youth chairman Tawanda Mukodza,” she said.
“They were publicly attacking our provincial leaders, Cdes Mutasa and Mvundura. This was a direct challenge to us and we could not have any of it.
“No one was assaulted, but we only confronted them, expressing our displeasure on their conduct.
“They were saying people from Manicaland are ‘gamatox’ and we had a nasty exchange of words.”