Shamu media appointee – ‘bloodthirsty monster’

webster_shamu2HARARE - A recent appointee to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings board, retired Brigadier Benjamin Mabenge, two years ago shot and killed an MDC activist on his farm in cold-blood. (Pictured: Information Minister Webster Shamu)

Described as a blood thirsty monster Mabenge in November 2007, fatally shot Clement Takaendesa at close range, using a powerful FN rifle. In the same incident he also shot and seriously wounded Taurai Chigede, for allegedly fishing on a stretch of river that runs through his farm. He was briefly arrested but was released just days after the fatal shooting. He is still to stand trial for the murder of the MDC activist.

The MDC leadership in Kwekwe maintains that Mabenge got protection from Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. The Zanu (PF) strongman was a former legislator in the Midlands town, before his defeat in the 2000 parliamentary elections to MDCs Blessing Chebundo. Two other members of the ZBH and Transmedia boards, appointed by Information Minister Webster Shamu, were part of military elite that directed and executed political violence during last years presidential elections.

Retired Major-General Gibson Mashingaidze and retired army doctor Paul Chimedza were part of an elaborate plan by the security chiefs credited with keeping Robert Mugabe in power. The security forces, led by the Joint Operations Command (JOC), waged a ruthless campaign of violence to force Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from a second round presidential poll.

This is the group that appointed Mashingaidze to be the second-in-command to Major-General Engelbert Rugeje, to direct the violent political purges in Masvingo province. Mashingaidze was last week appointed to sit on the ZBH board by Shamu and Dr Paul Chimedza is the new chairman of the Transmedia board. He is notorious for leading political violence against MDC activists in Gutu South.

Due to his involvement in political violence, the former medical superintendent for Harare Hospital had his lucrative consultancy contract with the European Union terminated. Chimedza, whose chequered past saw him being removed from the top post at Harare Hospital following routine conflicts with other consultants, is no stranger to controversy. His intended move to assume the post of deputy secretary in the Ministry of Health in 1994 was also blocked following objections from doctors citing his dictatorial tendencies. Since then he has been in private practice.

Chimedzas involvement in the political violence last year broke the notion that only war veterans and militias perpetrated violence in the rural areas. Other professionals, notably the gun-totting former Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, were heavily involved in the torture and killing of opponents in Murehwa, Mashonaland East province. When it came to organising the crucial 2002 presidential elections, Mugabe again heavily relied on military personnel who were appointed to a number of key positions. Lawyer and former colonel and head of military intelligence, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, was appointed chair of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, while Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba was appointed chief elections officer. Through his patronage system, Mugabe has managed to keep the army leadership close to him by rewarding them with privileges, including generous payouts and lucrative mining contracts in the DRC and the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

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