‘Dog section’ for Minister Mangoma


HARARE – Taken from his plush office and thrown into a cab usually reserved for police dogs, Energy minister Elton Mangoma learnt the hard way that being part of the “unity” government provides no insulation from harassment.

Police officers, whose boss Augustine Chihuri openly says he supports Zanu PF, dragged Mangoma from his office on Wednesday on allegations of calling for President Robert Mugabe’s death.

It was a scene from the movies, Mangoma said as he relived his ordeal to the Daily News yesterday.

In a brutal display of force, they tried to bundle him into the back of the pick-up truck.

The officers struggled with the minister, while others frantically tried to shove him into the back of a Mazda B1800 truck.

Mangoma, a senior official in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, struggled as he tried to prevent police from throwing him into the “dog section”.

A mini scuffle ensued. But the four detectives eventually allowed him to “voluntarily” climb into the truck and they drove him to Harare Central Police Station.

“I have got a thick skin, they tried to embarrass me,” a fuming Mangoma told the Daily News yesterday. “They tried to shove me into the back of a pickup truck, to try to embarrass me.”

From Harare Central Police Station, he was driven to Bindura but the car made a u-turn along the way.
“On the way to Bindura, someone called and we returned to Harare,” he said.

It is not immediately clear who called.

“I do not know what happened, who called,” Mangoma said.

Mangoma was later released after signing a warned and cautioned statement. He is to be charged under a law that makes it illegal to “undermine the authority of or insult the President,” the police say.

The charge is in connection with Mangoma’s alleged remarks at an MDC rally held at Manhenga Business Centre on May 18 when he reportedly said: “Chifa Mugabe chifa, Chibva Mugabe chibva.”

Charity Charamba, the police spokesperson, said Mangoma made derogatory remarks against Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, and defied summons to appear at the Bindura Police Station to answer the charge.

Mangoma’s arrest has not only rocked Zimbabwean politics, but has also raised the suspicion that he might have been targeted in a vengeful campaign.

The arrest has thrown up a myriad of conspiracy theories.

Mangoma has been a controversial figure long before the latest imbroglio. More importantly, as the MDC lead negotiator in the absence of Tendai Biti who is away in Japan for IMF Spring meetings, he was scheduled to meet with the Sadc facilitation team in Harare yesterday to give a briefing on the political, and security situation in the country.

Tsvangirai’s MDC said he was arrested a day before he was set to present vital information on the operations of Jomic — a peace organ the MDC alleges Zanu PF has sought to paralyse by its continued and glaring absence from its meetings.

Further, the arrest comes at a time when the country is getting ready for the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference slated for October 21 where Zimbabweans will have a chance to input into the draft constitution that was produced by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution (Copac).

Minister Mangoma is one of the MDC representatives in the management committee of Copac.

“The MDC therefore, finds the latest assault on its leadership as part of Zanu PF’s concerted efforts to weaken the MDC leadership ahead of these crucial meetings,” the MDC said in a statement to the Daily News.

“The continued harassment of the MDC leadership is part of Zanu PF’s grand plan to divert people’s attention from pertinent issues of Constitution-making and the continued looting of state resources by Zanu PF cronies in Chiadzwa.”

Rivals and enemies within the fragile three-year-old unity government would also benefit by seeing the haughty Mangoma embarrassed.

Phillan Zamchiya, regional coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said: “The trend is consistent with previous politically calculated arrests meant to instil fear in the context of crucial national negotiations.

“In this case, these include deliberations on the constitution ahead of the Second All Stakeholders’ Constitutional Conference, the minister is the MDC negotiator and is a member of the management committee, the ethanol fuel negotiations favoured by Zanu PF and fiercely resisted by the minister,” he said referring to the Chisumbanje ethanol project touted as a panacea to the country’s $73,1 million annual fuel import bill.

Most mainstream politicians have long savaged Mangoma over his resistance to the ethanol project, which has eventually been okayed by Cabinet. – Gift Phiri

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