Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Slain Activist Buried Away from Public View

Zimbabwe’s opposition had planned a huge funeral for their “national hero” Gift Tandare, but the government arranged a quiet ceremony far away from the capital.
By an IWPR
Opposition activist Gift Tandare, shot dead by riot police on his way to a prayer meeting organised by the Save Zimbabwe Coalition in Harare on March 11, was buried exactly a week later at his family’s home in the Mount Darwin district.

Members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, claimed the government put pressure on the family to bury Tandare near their rural home, 150 kilometres northeast of Harare, because it feared political demonstrations if the funeral took place in the capital.

The government insisted the quiet ceremony held on March 18 was in accordance with the family’s wishes. Zimbabwean state television reported that the funeral expenses were largely covered by Saviour Kasukuwere, a businessman and ZANU-PF lawmaker from the Mount Darwin district.

After Tandare was shot dead, in a police action which resulted in the arrest and beating of 50 opposition leaders and rank-and-file members, the MDC declared him a national hero.

A wake held near Tandare’s home in the Glen View suburb of Harare – a stronghold of opposition feeling – escalated into a protest against President Robert Mugabe’s rule on March 13. Police fired teargas and used water cannons as they battled protesters at the wake for several hours. At least two opposition activists were shot by riot police as they tried to lead a procession from the wake to a police station to demand justice.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had been expected to speak at the funeral and the opposition had planned a procession from Tandare’s Glen View home to the Mbudzi Cemetery. Thousands of mourners were expected to participate.

Police claimed the procession would be unlawful under a three-month ban imposed last month, but the opposition vowed to defy the ban, saying funerals were not outlawed under the moratorium.

“We are waiting for [MDC] president Tsvangirai to be discharged from hospital and then we will bury our gallant hero,” said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa early last week, when the opposition leader was still in intensive care. Tsvangirai left hospital on March 16, still suffering the effects of the beating meted out while he was in police custody.

“The party has purchased a… casket for this cadre, killed by a ruthless regime in his line of duty,” said Chamisa.

The killing of Tandare and the police assaults on those detained at the March 11 event and subsequently have galvanised the opposition and raised the level of violence.

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