Headlands - Zimbabwe's premier said on Thursday President
Robert Mugabe's party was losing its grip and resorting to violence after the
young son of a local party official was burnt to death by suspected supporters
of the elderly president.
Mugabe, 89, in power since 1980, and his longtime foe, Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, were forced into a power-sharing government in 2009
and will resume their rivalry in elections expected around July.
Christpowers Maisiri, 12, whose father is in Tsvangirai's
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, was set on fire while sleeping in a
hut with his brothers last weekend in Headlands district, 170km east of Harare.
The MDC quickly blamed Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, saying the
alleged killers were after the boy's father, Shepherd. Zanu-PF denied killing
the boy and accused the MDC of trying to fan pre-election tensions in the
southern African state.
"Zanu-PF is under siege. They are in a corner and this
is a desperate act from a party that is losing power," Tsvangirai said
while addressing mourners and supporters attending the burial in Headlands, a
Fighting back tears, Shepherd Maisiri said he had been
subjected to violence and intimidation from Zanu-PF supporters since 2000. His
son had been born in the bush because his parents had to flee from opponents,
Tsvangirai said he had shown Mugabe pictures of the charred
remains of the boy during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and that the president
had "shrunk" in disbelief and ordered a full investigation.
Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of using violence to cling to
power. The former trade union leader was forced to quit a presidential run-off
race in 2008 after 200 of his supporters died in political violence blamed on Zanu-PF
"We are hurt but not intimidated. This has to end,
starting with the arrest of the people who committed this heinous crime,"
said Tsvangirai. He said he could not vouch for Mugabe's sincerity when calling
for peaceful elections.