POLITICAL tempers flared at the burial of the late music icon and national hero Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi yesterday after State security agents, for the second time inside 24 hours, attempted to block opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa from entering the main gate to the musician’s rural home in Madziwa, Mashonaland Central province.
It took the intervention of mourners to break the security barrier and let Chamisa in after over 40 minutes of haggling with soldiers and police officers, who claimed they had received orders from their “superiors” to bar him from the funeral.
After forcing his way in with the aid of mostly youthful mourners, Chamisa had to endure another hour of standing in the crowd as security agents again blocked him from securing a seat in the VIP tent, where other dignitaries were being ushered to.
As if that was not enough, attempts were also made to block Chamisa from joining other church leaders at the grave site, but fellow clerics came to his rescue, arguing he was an ordained pastor with the Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe.
NewsDay witnessed police forming a 20-man wall to block Chamisa, who was in the company of his deputy, Morgen Komichi and several MDC legislators, before the crowd moved in and broke the wall.
On Saturday, Chamisa failed to attend a memorial concert organised for Mtukudzi at the National Sports Stadium in Harare as security agents could not let him in with his motorcade.
Komichi yesterday described the incident as the height of political intolerance by the Zanu PF government and its State apparatus.
“We arrived at the gate and the police refused to open the gate for us. The officer-in-charge later confirmed the police was under instruction not to allow us in,” he said.
“When we eventually entered, the police put a barricade on us so that we don’t get into the tent. We left and joined the public to watch the proceedings from a distance. They tried again to block us from the grave site. All this was in the view of everyone, including foreign dignitaries and ambassadors.”
He added: “This is disrespect of the death; to segregate people at the burial of a person who was everyone’s relative.”
But Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi, who witnessed the drama, later chose to be diplomatic, saying: “Chamisa was not blocked. I actually went at the same time with him. My security gave way to Chamisa to get in. When I arrived, he was in the crowd, trying to find his way. He was actually helped by security staff to make his way to the funeral. He was not blocked. He should not lie. My security made way for me and, as I passed, he also passed. We believe that funerals are for everybody. Everyone should be free to bereave.”
Chamisa’s presence at the funeral almost disrupted the proceedings, as mourners mobbed him, prompting Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri, who was reading out President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s speech, to briefly stop and plead for order.
“Can we be silent, please! These are some of Oliver’s friends who have come to pay their last respects. Let us listen what I am saying here. It is more important,” Muchinguri bellowed.
Police were again forced to form a human shield to block photojournalists who had shifted focus from Muchinguri to Chamisa.
Hostility between government officials and opposition officials heightened over the past two weeks after State security agents rounded up over 1 000 mostly suspected MDC activists accused of leading recent violent countrywide protests.
Government insists the protests were organised by Chamisa’s MDC as part of its regime change agenda, but the latter has denied the charge.
The majority of the suspects have been denied bail, while their trials have been fast-tracked, raising the ire of their lawyers, who have claimed miscarriage of justice.
At the Saturday concert, former DJs linked to the MDC were denied the opportunity to eulogise using the public address system at the stadium.