Tsvangirai’s big gesture to assist victims of political violence

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MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday launched an initial Z$150 trillion
(approx $US300 000) welfare fund to assist victims of political violence which has seen dozens of his party’s supporters killed and thousands displaced since Zimbabwe’s harmonized elections on March 29.

from our correspondent in Harare

Tsvangirai also pledged to unveil a similar fund in July that would compensate victims of the 1980s Matebeleland massacres, and the strongly condemned 2005 slum clearance exercise, Operation Murambatsvina in which over 700 000 were left homeless.

The MDC leader, who faces Mugabe in a watershed presidential run-off poll on June 27, said the initial tranche of the fund was raised through well-wishers, among them, businesses, churches and civic organisations.
“Today, Tuesday 27th of May, I am launching the President’s Fund for Victims of Violence,” Tsvangirai said at a press briefing in Harare.

“Today, I am saying to the nation that rebuilding our beautiful country begins now […] The beneficiaries will be assessed and assisted through the provincial and district welfare committees created for that purpose. The monies in this fund will go to those who need it the most.” The fund would assist those who lost their houses and other property, orphaned
people and the physically incapacitated.

A Board of Trustees from churches and grass-root organizations to administer the fund has been identified and would be subjected to regular auditing by an independent firm of accountants. Tsvangirai appealed to well wishers to donate generously to the fund, details of which would be published in the press this coming weekend.

The MDC says at least 42 of its supporters have been killed by Zanu-PF thugs, out to punish sections of the electorate believed to have voted against the Zimbabwean leader.

No arrests of the culprits have been made to date. Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of sanctioning violence among his supporters in order to defend his rule. “I have been saddened that Zimbabweans are willing to shed the blood of other Zimbabweans over political differences,” he said, “I have been angered by the fact that a man who once offered the people so much is refusing to listen to their cries for change.”

Tsvangirai said the President’s Fund for Victims of Violence would begin by providing an initial Z$150 trillion (approx $US300 000) to begin the process of supporting victims of political violence.

An estimated 25 000 people died in the predominantly Ndebele-speaking
Matebeleland regions and the tribally-mixed Midlands region at the hands of Mugabe’s notorious Fifth Brigade in the 80s. The North Korea-trained army, led by some of Mugabe’s serving lieutenants both
in the army and government, was ostensibly deployed to flush out armed
insurgents believed to be sponsored by the then opposition leader, Dr Joshua Nkomo.

The massacres, known as the Gukurahundi atrocities, remain a highly emotive issue in Matebeleland.

Mugabe, who has refused to take direct responsibility for the atrocities, only described the era as “an act of madness” when he spoke at the burial of Nkomo, who was then vice president, in 1999. But that was not enough to pacify the highly-marginalized region that has consistently rejected him in successive elections.

Nkomo died a bitter man after his now defunct PF-Zapu was wooed into merger with the then ruling Zanu-PF in what was seen by some as a humble way of ending bloodshed among his supporters in Matebeleland.

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