US diplomat besieged as cops look on

United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray was besieged by marauding Zanu ( PF) youths when he visited the city to witness the launch of the Zimbabwe Organisation of Youth in Politics.

US Ambassador Charles Ray: “Some political parties remain afraid of allowing a free exchange of ideas.”
US Ambassador Charles Ray: “Some political parties remain afraid of allowing a free exchange of ideas.”

Witnesses told The Zimbabwean that war veterans, women and youths from Zanu (PF) clad in party regalia, mobbed the entrance of Kwekwe Theatre, venue for the launch, which had been sanctioned by the police.

“They started chanting party slogans and made abusive statements to the effect that they did not recognise the ambassador and all those behind the youth forum,” said a witness.

“Other youths who came in an army truck began pasting posters and wielding placards with unbecoming language against the ambassador,” another witness added.

In full view of the police, the thugs prevented the ambassador from giving his remarks. When The Zimbabwean news crew arrived at the scene, heavily armed police were dispersing attendants at the meeting, while casting a blind eye to the Zanu (PF) thugs.

Sources said those behind the disturbances included Owen Matava, a Zanu (PF) functionary who is also secretary to the local Affirmative Action Group.

Ray said the incident was unfortunate – particularly as the various political parties had just concluded a roadmap to elections in which they agreed to “re-engage” western countries.

“It is regrettable that elements of the security sector and some political parties remain afraid of allowing a free exchange of ideas and have yet again shown themselves intent on barring members of the public from engaging in genuine dialogue,” he said.

Ray added that the US was “committed and eager to engage the full cross-section of Zimbabwean society – political parties, the business community, the youth, and beyond.”

Speaking in a telephone interview, Jaspa Maphosa, the ZOYP Programmes Officer – who has gone into hiding – said the conduct of the police at the meeting was surprising because they failed to understand that the meeting was not supportive of any particular party.

“We had invited youths from all political parties to witness the event so we were by no means partisan,” Maphosa said.

The meeting planned to discuss governance issues, like the need for youths to rally behind the constitution making process instead of being passive, he said.

Investigations carried by this paper revealed that the Zanu (PF) activists did not want the meeting to take place because Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya had been invited.

Chikwinya is the one who moved the motion to debate on security sector reforms in parliament. Some placards carried by the Zanu (PF) activists read: “Chikwinya leave our Generals alone.”

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