ELEVEN of the 16 youths who were arrested in connection with the murder of a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporter at a rally in Kwekwe, Midlands province, on Sunday have been released amid reports that suspected State security agents had “hijacked” the funeral.
Five of the suspects were still being held in connection with the murder, according to human rights lawyers.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi professed ignorance of the release of the suspected Zanu PF supporters when contacted for comment last night.
But the Zimbabwe NGO Forum confirmed the release of the 11 suspects.
“Police arrested 16 people in relation to this murder and violence. Only five people
were charged and appeared at Kwekwe Magistrates Court today (yesterday). The other 11 accused were released and were ordered to pay fines. The police did not explain the release of these accused persons on such a serious crime,” Darlington Marange, a Zimbabwe NGO Forum lawyer confirmed.
“The culprits should be held accountable to ensure justice for the deceased and his family. To ensure that the culprits are prosecuted, the Forum has dispatched Harrison Nkomo to do a watch in brief with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Nkomo is helping the NPA with technical legal assistance to prosecute the culprits.”
When contacted for comment, Nkomo said: “Investigations are still underway.”
Violence erupted during opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa’s address when suspected Zanu PF supporters wielding machetes and spears, among other weapons, stormed the rally at Mbizo 4 shopping centre, leaving several supporters injured.
The violence claimed the life of Mboneni Ncube (30), who was reportedly stabbed with a spear as political tensions boil over ahead of the March 26 by-elections.
Ncube died on admission at Kwekwe General Hospital.
NewsDay gathered yesterday that suspected Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives hijacked the funeral of the slain CCC supporter and chased away former Mbizo legislator Settlement Chikwinya.
During the day, a group of Zanu PF supporters were reportedly observed milling around Kwekwe Central Hospital to claim the body of the deceased.
The Zanu PF youths, who are reportedly linked to the Al Shabaab militia group, later stormed the funeral gathering and chased away CCC supporters.
Chikwinya was at the funeral to provide financial and material support to the family, only to be chased away by the suspected CIO operatives purporting to be relatives.
The deceased’s sister, who went to the funeral wearing a yellow T-shirt, was also reportedly chased away.
“I was ordered off by the CIOs,” Chikwinya said.
“The family members with whom I was communicating with were just seated helplessly. I had no choice, but to leave. I now wait to hear of the developments from some members of the community who are going to witness. I don’t know why they are doing this.”
According to a call recording in possession of NewsDay, suspected members of the CIO called Chikwinya claiming to be Ncube’s family members and ordered him to stop involving the CCC in the funeral proceedings.
In the call recording, one Ncube said: “We have decided that we do not want the deceased’s funeral to be associated with politics. Yes, his death was a result of his political affiliation, but his funeral will be held at a residence which has nothing to do with politics. Information that is coming up that our relative will be dumped at Jessie Gardens is not going down well with me.”
Jessie Gardens, which is located in Mbizo 11, is reportedly owned by a top Zanu PF official, who is said to command Al Shabaab.
The Kwekwe violence has been roundly condemned as barbaric, with human rights organisations calling for the culprits to be jailed.
The incident came a day after Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga threatened to “crush” the CCC.
On Saturday, CCC was blocked from holding a rally in Gokwe as campaigning to fill the vacant council and legislative seats entered the home stretch.
Analysts have said the polls are a precursor to the 2023 general elections, where Chamisa is expected to stand against President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Zanu PF presidential candidate.