Zanu PF youths used the cover of a nationwide job stay-away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to burn a ZUPCO bus and loot a shop owned by the party’s Chegutu East MP, Webster Shamu, a court heard.
Thirty-five-year-old Benson Bhobho, the Zanu PF youth league chairperson for ward 40 in Whitecliff together with members of his executive Charles Bengeza, 28, Shylock Chihuri, 25, Emmanuel Chari, 25, Cassim Muzhingi, 23, Noleen, 29, and Rumbidzai Dulana, 25, appeared before a Harare magistrate on Wednesday evening charged with public violence.
The government has blamed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change for the outbreak of violence and looting of shops that occurred during Monday’s widespread street protests over a 150 percent increase in the price of fuel announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The MDC says it had no hand in the protests and rejects the government narrative.
Magistrate Elijah Makomo heard how the group, with others still at large, barricaded the Harare-Bulawayo highway with boulders close to Shamu’s Whitehouse Shopping Centre on January 14. They threw stones at passing cars, it is alleged.
The seven – part of a group numbering about 2,000 – stopped a ZUPCO bus heading into Harare and ordered its passengers and crew to disembark, alleged the prosecution team lead by Michael Reza and supported by George Manokore and Charles Muchemwa.
Chari, the prosecution alleges, then drove the bus a further 40 meters up the road where it was set alight.
The seven, acting in connivance with others still at large, are then alleged to have proceeded to a PUMA service station operated by Shamu where they ordered staff on duty to leave.
They broke the doors and windows to Webcon Supermarket at the service station and looted the shop clean before setting it ablaze, the prosecution alleges.
The mob then set fire to a Mitsubishi van that was parked outside, it is alleged.
Police recovered some of the stolen items from the homes of some of the accused seven, according to the prosecution.
Shamu, one of the complainants, was at the court where he allegedly tried to get prosecutors to expunge the suspects’ political affiliation from the court record.