Catholic Priests Assaulted in Zaka

THREE Catholic priests and three other church members from St Anthony's Mission in Zaka district were last week tortured by suspected Zanu PF supporters.

The incident happened after they met two officials from the United States Embassy in Harare.

The priest-in-charge at the mission, Father Joseph Odermatt, Father Joseph Wyss, Father Peter Chimombe, Philip Wuersch, Theresa Gweto and Afra Mukandwa sustained injuries following the attacks by the youths.

The Masvingo diocese of the Catholic Church yesterday described the incident as unfortunate as political violence continues to haunt the province ahead of the presidential poll over the weekend.

According to Reverend MacDonald Masvosva, the Vicar-General of Masvingo Diocese, the attack took place after the departure of the two officials from the US Embassy.

The officials had visited St Anthony's Mission and hospital to inquire about the performance of the hospital and the general situation at the institution.

After a tour of the mission, they met Odermatt.

They inquired about the situation in the area and the plight of people in Zaka who have been plagued by hunger and politically motivated violence.

Odermatt told the two visitors there were still clashes between Zanu PF and MDC supporters, resulting in the suffering of innocent people.

Following the meeting, Zanu PF supporters besieged the mission demanding to know who the visitors were.

The angry youths started slapping the priests on the cheeks without listening to their explanations.

Musvosva said: "It was so dramatic an event that it happened in a very short period of time. Just after their departure, the group of youths gathered and started interrogating the priest-in-charge. Hardly did they accord him time to explain."

The youths then beat them up.

The six were forced into a truck packed with Zanu PF youths. The beatings continued even in the car. They were taken to a Zanu PF base at Jerera growth point where they were severely tortured and later taken to the police.

The six were questioned by the police for two hours before their release.

Police in Zaka on Sunday confirmed the incident, but said investigations were still in progress.