Zimbabwe and Chinese soldiers cause stir as homes are burnt

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A GROUP of Chinese soldiers caused a stir last night in the eastern
border city of Mutare as they patrolled the city centre along with
Zimbabwean security forces.

from our correspondent in Harare

About 20 Chinese soldiers all carrying revolvers, were part of a
heavy security deployment in the city centre as the oppostion strike
“until results are released’ was suppressed.

While the situation in the city was generally calm, as residents went
about their normal business during the day despite the call by the
opposition to stage a strike, policemen, all armed with AK rifles,
teargas canisters and baton sticks with some driving around in water
canons, patrolled the poorer residential areas of the city, residents
there said.

Confirmation from the Hotel

The Chinese soldiers, along with about 70 Zimbabwean senior army
officers are booked in at the Holiday Inn, in the city centre.

“We were shocked to see Chinese soldiers in full military regalia and
armed with pistols checking into the hotel,” said a hotel employee. she said its is strange for armed solders to be booked at hotels as
there are many barracks in Mutare. They are booked for a week, she said.

This comes amid widespread reports that incidence of violence
targeting opposition supporters is escalating in Manicaland Province.

This has prompting the MDC to make an urgent appeal for tents and
relief food supplies to assist hundreds of displaced people in the
rural areas.

Patrick Chitaka, the MDC chairman in Manicaland Province, says the
party requires, as a matter of urgency thousands of tents, food packs
and medical supplies to assist thousands of MDC supporters who have
been displaced in rural Manicaland.

Violence displaces over 1000

The MDC says about 200 people have been beaten up while more than
1000 have been displaced by the violence.

“The violence has now spread throughout the province,” Chitaka said.
“It’s a disaster and that’s how the Darfur crisis started. We have
reports of systematic violence against our supporters.

Apart from beating up people they are now burning houses. We are
going to have thousands of internally displaced people if the
situation is not contained fast.”

Chitaka spoke as ZimRights, a human rights watchdog, also raised
concerns over the spreading violence with MDC supporters as targets.

Reverend Stephen Maengamhuru, the ZimRights’ regional officer, said
MDC supporters were sleeping in the open in Chipinge and Mutare South
because they fear spending the night in their own homes.

The MDC and human rights organisations blame the violence on security
agents and members of the military who were angered by the reported
loss of Mugabe to the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

“We now have a situation where people sleep out in the open because
they fear spending the night in their homes,” Rev Maengamhuru said.

The MDC, on the other hand, said violence had now spread to Chipinge,
Nyanga, Marange and the farming communities of Burma Valley, Mutasa
South and Chimanimani.

MDC supporters arrested and their houses burned

The MDC chairman, Chitaka, said the most disturbing aspect was that
the police were arresting MDC supporters instead of protecting them.
About 50 huts belonging to MDC supporters had been burned on a farm
about 20 km west of the city forcing 103 people to flee into the bush.

The MDC supporters fled from EnVant Farm after a war veteran
identified as Muniya set their huts on fire around 4 pm on Monday.

Some of the affected people have lived on the farm for up to 30
years. The farm was allocated to Muniya, during the chaotic land
reform programme in 2000. He allowed the farm-workers to stay on. But
after he learnt last week that the majority of the farm-workers
people had voted for the MDC Muniya visited retribution on them.

“There is a humanitarian disaster,” said MP elect for Mutasa South,
Misheck Kagurabadza. “Children and elderly people are sleeping out in
the open. We need blankets urgently and a place where they can stay
for now.”

Chitaka said there were indications that the violence would soon
target MDC candidates who won the just-ended elections. Chitaka,
himself, won the Senate seat for Nyanga.

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