Suspected secret service agents have burnt
a truck belonging to The Zimbabwean, a weekly newspaper distributed in Zimbabwe and run from the United Kingdom
by exiled journalists, writes our correspondent.
On May 24, eight men in civilian clothing,
brandishing brand new AK-47 assault rifles, burnt a pick-up truck distributing
copies of the popular The Zimbabwean On Sunday outside Masvingo, along the Zimbabwe-South Africa Highway.
Editor and publisher of The Zimbabwean and The Zimbabwean On Sunday, Wilf
Mbanga, said the armed men intercepted the South African-registered truck
carrying 60 000 copies of the next dayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s edition of the paper at Ngundu Halt,
some 150 km south of Masvingo, at 10pm on Saturday night.
He said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey kidnapped the driver and the distribution assistant, bundled
them into two vehicles ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ a Toyota
and an Isuzu pick up truck. They were driven to isolated spot in Mandamabwe,
near Masvingo, where they were forced to move the newspapers to the back of the
truck and sprinkle petrol all over them.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe truck's tanks were drained of diesel which the men decanted into their
vehicles. The men then fired a volley of shots into the back of the truck, setting
the newspapers on fire. The driver, Christmas Ramabulana (a South African
national), and distribution assistant Tapfumaneyi Kancheta, a Zimbabwean, were
then severely beaten with rifle butts and dumped separately in the bush,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said
Mbanga. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe condemn this barbaric attack against our staff and the newspaper
and vow to leave no stone unturned until the perpetrators of this atrocity are
brought to book.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
He said Kancheta's passport was confiscated and burnt, but Ramabulana was
allowed to keep his. All their clothes, shoes, blankets and groceries were
Mbanga said the men who kidnapped them had
been wearing surgical gloves so as not to leave any finger prints.
Said Mbanga: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œKancheta said his head was badly
swollen from the savage beating, and the driver was having problems breathing.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The Zimbabwean on Sunday was launched in February
this year as a sister paper to the popular weekly The Zimbabwean, which since
last year has become the largest selling newspaper in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean sells about 200 000 copies a week
and set a new record of 230,000 copies a week during the run-up to the landmark
Both papers have are widely seen as alternative
news voices in an environment where journalists live in fear following recent
abductions and arbitrary arrests.
The Zimbabwean and The Zimbabwean On Sunday are
published by Mbanga and printed in South Africa and then
trucked into Zimbabwe.
In another incident, suspected security agents have attacked Zimbabwean freelance journalist Sydney
Saize and left him with a swollen lip and loose teeth after they accused him of
being a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œsell out".
The former Daily News and
Eastern Star reporter was assaulted in Mutare on May 17 by four men in an
unmarked 4×4 double cab truck that trailed him to a bus stop where he was
hoping to catch a lift home.
Saize said the incident
occurred around 8.30pm when he was on his way home.
He said he initially did
not suspect anything when four men who were travelling in a Nissan double-cab
vehicle pulled over and offered him what was supposed to have been an innocent
Saize jumped into the back
of the canopied double-cab which sped off. It soon stopped, said Saize: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe four men then proceeded to assault me
with booted feet and fists and accused me of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“sellingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ the country. I only
noticed that the vehicle, a Nissan double cab, was unmarked as it drove away
after they had assaulted and dumped me by the roadside.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Security agents and war
veterans have been implicated in the savage assaults of journalists and
supporters of the opposition of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the
last six weeks.
Victims of their attacks
have all reported of their attackers as driving white 4×4 unmarked twin cabs.
Saize assaults comes
barely three weeks after soldiers beat up Matthew Takaona,
President of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), who is still recovering
from the wounds sustained in the attacks.
Takaona was assaulted
together with his brother by assailants in military fatigues at a shopping
complex in Chitungwiza, just outside Harare.
So far, police have arrested 12 journalists in the crackdown against