On 20 June Chenjerai Rukweza, a village head in ward 9 (Connemara and St Patricks) of Chiwundura, announced to his subjects that they must not tolerate or accommodate opposition parties campaigning for the July 15 by-election. Rukweza is also the Zanu PF branch chairperson in ward 9. It is alleged that he told villagers that they must not allow those campaigning if they are not from Zanu PF to talk to them especially the NCA which is said to have also adopted the door-to-door campaign strategy.
Political intolerance continues to increase in Chiwundura. On 21 June it was reported that *John Mizi boarded public transport from Gambiza Business Centre which is in ward 10 to Gweru urban. It is alleged that upon boarding a bus while he was wearing an MDC-T T-shirt, Mizi was immediately told to remove the T-shirt he was wearing by Zanu PF ward 10 chairperson Albert Mbulawa. Mbulawa also said Mizi would be forced off the bus if he did not remove the T-shirt. Because Mizi had nothing else to wear he was forced to get off the bus.
On 22 June, it was reported that the Gweru District Administrator Mrs Chitiyo allegedly called for an urgent meeting with Chief Freddy Gambiza and all his kraal heads to be held on 23 June. The meeting allegedly resolved that those suspected to be working with opposition parties were going to be given a strong warning. It was also said that those among the kraal heads and other civil servants who are also going to be suspected to be working with opposition not Zanu PF are going to have their names removed from the payroll. The meeting was held at the District Administrator’s office in Gweru.
On 14 June a known MDC-T ward treasurer, from ward 10 Nyoka village, Chiwundura, was barred from attending a village development meeting because he does not support Zanu PF. It is alleged that Nyoka village headman, Bernard Nyoka had announced earlier that those who are not Zanu PF supporters should not attend the meeting. The meeting was for male members of the community to discuss and map a way forward for the repairing of a dam which was damaged by the past season’s incessant rains.
28 Zanu PF youths defaced National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) posters at Senga on 14 June. As part of their campaign, NCA youths were sticking posters around Senga township when Zanu PF youths led by someone identified as Michael ordered the NCA youths to leave Senga. The frightened youths abandoned their duty to stick posters and left when the Zanu PF youths became aggressive. Police officers that were in the vicinity did not stop the Zanu PF youths despite that defacing posters is unconstitutional.
The week ending of 9 June saw the Chiwundura by-election campaigns gaining momentum. It was reported that on 5 June a group of Zanu PF youths who were embarking on a door-to-door campaign for their party’s candidate Brown Ndlovu allegedly invaded a village near the Sino-Zimbabwe Cement Company located in Chiwundura resettlement area. It is reported that the group of about 15 youths who were chanting Zanu PF party slogans arrived at the vilage and ordered *Nicholas Kadenge to vacate his farm. Kadenge is a known MDC-T supporter who has been warned that the by-elections are paving way for the 2018 and by then the area should not have any MDC-T supporters. One of the youths, identified as Jacob, is alleged to have said Zanu PF youths are prepared to burn villages and properties of those not willing to join Zanu PF before the 2018 elections.
On 8 June, several Zanu PF youths were deployed in a number of wards in Chiwundura. The deployment takes place ahead of MDC-T rally slated for 10 June at Mkoba Stadium. This rally is going to be addressed by the MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai. Some of the rulling party youth are threatening villagers not to attend the MDC-T rally.
On 8 June at Muchakata Business Centre in Ward 10 Gambiza, it was reported that villagers were forced to attend a Zanu PF meeting called and organized by the Zanu PF ward 10 chairperson Desmond Gore. It was said that prior to the meeting Gore had informed people that every ward 10 villager was supposed to attend the meeting or risk untold suffering especially in the period leading to 2018 elections. He is alleged to have told villagers that under no circumstances must any villager think of rebelling and voting for opposition parties if they wanted to live freely and peacefully in the ward.
In Chiwundura ward 13 Chikutubwe, on 1 June, Zanu PF ward 13 Chairperson Jeremiah Mutupa called for a campaign meeting at Kuni Business Centre. It is alleged that villagers were forced to attend Zanu PF by-election candidate Brown Ndlovu’s campaign or risk losing their farming plots. Children were made to abscond classes and herd cattle while the elders attended the rally.
On 31 May, it was reported that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission arrived in Chiwundura to conduct voter education in the build up to the 15 July by-election. The commission is accused of calling for ward meetings to educate voters and conducting voter registration without using effective methods of information dissemination like the use of posters around the area. Instead of holding voter education from 1 to 7 June the exercise was held for one day on 31 May.
It was reported that MDC-T Chiwundura leadership accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of being biased towards Zanu PF in their operations. This followed claims by the opposition MDC-T party that Zanu PF and its supporters were kept in the loop in as far as the voter registration and education meetings were concerned through its constituency leadership. MDC-T leadership in the constituency is said to have argued that despite not fielding any candidate for the by-election, they deserved to be informed as they might have supporters who want to vote for other candidates.
*The names of victims have been changed.
ZPP is concerned that even as untoward behaviour is condemned with every by-election that has been conducted since 2013 it seems no one is moved and they continue to perpetrate violence with impunity. The situation in Bikita West is cause for concern as the rights of the electorate are being flagrantly violated. The constituency has reported threat to life, physical violence, partisan food distribution, vote buying, deployment of soldiers, unwarranted voter assistance and intimidation by traditional leaders.
There are disturbing reports where the right to personal security of a candidate has been violated. The National Constitutional Assembly candidate, Maddock Chivasa, and his election agent, Thomas Mudzamiri, were assaulted and sustained injuries. During the attack, shots were fired in the air by perpetrators are alleged to be Zanu PF supporters bussed in from Marondera.
The threats have also cascaded to the Bikita West electorate as one Zanu PF supporter, Philip Dhliwayo is alleged to have announced that as of today (18 January) soldiers will be deployed in the constituency. These tactics of intimidation have left most people fearing for their lives. The threat of soldiers being deployed is being repeated after Minister Josiah Hungwe made the same threats sometime towards the end of 2016. The utterances by Provincial Affairs Minister Shuvai Mahofa that the electorate of Bikita West has to vote wisely all point to the rapid increase in hate speech, which is a trigger for physical violence.
Villagers from Mushanduri in ward 9 have reported to ZPP that they continue to experience intimidation as traditional leaders threaten to evict known opposition party supporters if Zanu PF loses the upcoming by-election slated for 21 January.
ZPP recognises the need for electoral reforms and draws attention to zero tolerance to political violence. A peaceful environment is pre-requisite for the conduct of all elections including by-elections.
ZPP believes it is the responsibility of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to address deficits in the environment and duly execute its responsibilities and bring to book parties that are perpetrating pre-election violence.
ZPP notes with concern how the government has failed to rein in its own who have issued threats of violence. Unless perpetrators are brought to book to account for their actions the trend is likely to persist. If environments in areas where by elections are due continue to be violent Zimbabweans need to be worried about what to expect in the 2018 elections.
In an attempt to garner support for Zanu PF candidate Ronald Chindedza ahead of the Norton by-election, Zanu PF officials have parcelled out food and stands among other freebies during rallies in Norton. Chindedza stands against independent candidate Temba Mliswa and David Choga from the National Constitutional Assembly.
To influence the Norton constituency, ahead of the rally, residents were issued with forms to register for the 5000 Urban Development Corporation (Udcorp) stands to be allocated along Sandringham Road. Udcorp is a government entity mandated to ensure the provision of housing in the country. Youths that attended the rally complained that previously one stand could be allocated to four people and they also added that they did not expect to pay for the stands citing that President Robert Mugabe assured them that land was for free.
Zanu PF Secretary for Youths, Kudzai Chipanga, reminded the youths to show their allegiance and gratitude on election day, 22 October 2016.
In another related incident, on 18 October, Zanu PF youths took over maize distribution after the process turned chaotic due to intra-party feuds when Zanu PF supporters from ward 4 are alleged to have complained that local leaders were giving first preference to those from ward 12. The food that was distributed consisted of maize and rice.
(Right) Part of the crowd that attended the rally on 19 October at Karina in Norton. (Right) Campaign posters on display.
Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) condemns victimisation, intimidation of voters and partisan food distribution in Chimanimani West ahead of the national assembly by-election to be held on 26 November 2016. ZPP and other concerned civic organisations are gravely worried about the risk of citizens in the constituency being victimised and disenfranchised.
It is alleged that Zanu PF, through village heads, has been intimidating villagers by making announcements to the effect that Zanu PF supporters are the only ones who should vote at the by-election. Zanu PF Provincial Youth Chairperson, Mbuso Chingono is also allegedly threatening known opposition activists that on election day there will be people ready to vote on their behalf. ZPP is therefore imploring the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to be strict about who qualifies to be an assisted voter.
It is also reported that at Nhedziwa Secondary School in ward 4 there was distribution of rice and sugar a few days back but only Zanu PF supporters and villagers who produced voter registration slips benefited. It is alleged that Zanu PF local leadership turned away beneficiaries that have not been attending the party’s meetings.
In Nyanyadzi (ward 8) at Rufaro business centre Zondai Mutezo and Gladman Mutezo tore *Lucky Reke’s t-shirt for distributing fliers with information on one of the election candidates, Edmore Mtetwa. Chingono, in the company of state security agents, has also been accused of visiting campaigners of contesting candidates and ordering them to stop their campaigns.
Uniformed forces like members of the Zimbabwean National Army and Zimbabwe Republic Police have also been spotted driving around Chimanimani West. Over the last two weeks, the sudden increase of army and police presence in the constituency is intimidating and curtails the activities of contesting candidates as their meetings are disrupted.
Mtetwa, the independent candidate, will be contesting against Nokuthula Matsikenyere of Zanu PF, National Constitutional Assembly candidate Pesanai Musakaruka and Peter Gugyanga of the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe. The Chimanimani West seat fell vacant after Munacho Mutezo was fired from Zanu PF over his association with Joice Mujuru, leader of Zimbabwe People First.