By Tonderai Saharo
DETHRONED Chief Phenias Makore of Gutu in Masvingo province says he is living in fear after a group comprising war veterans and Zanu PF youths recently besieged his homestead and threatened him with unspecified action.
The threats were meant to stop the former traditional leader from providing material support to members of the opposition party in the area.
A known MDC Alliance supporter, former Chief Makore has over the years been instrumental in spearheading the opposition party’s activities in Gutu district, often offering transport, shelter, and food to opposition activists in the area.
Gutu district is also MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s rural home.
At the height of the 2018 elections, Makore allowed his farm to house opposition members who had become targets of the ruling party members in Chihambakwe and Shenjere communal areas in Gutu.
The farm was given to him during government’s land reform programme.
The outspoken former traditional leader also uses his all-terrain vehicle which he received as part of the chiefs’ benefits to ferry opposition supporters within the district.
However, in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com this week, Makore said he was now living in fear after President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently stripped him of his chieftainship and awarded it to another family member within his clan.
He claimed he was now being intimidated by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters who call or visit his home ordering him to stop his opposition activism.
“I have never supported the ruling party although I benefited from government programmes which are entitled to chiefs,” he said in the interview.
“I am a bona fide chief in Gutu but was stripped of my chieftainship after I openly criticised Zanu PF’s policies in my area and started working with other opposition voices. Since then, my life has not been better.
“I am engaging the government through the ministry of local government to ensure I am restored as a rightful chief of my people.”
He added that he has wounds inflicted on him two years ago after a group of war veterans accompanied by Zanu PF youths bulldozed into his Yottam farm homestead and assaulted him, leaving him for dead.
No arrests were made although he reported the matter to the police.
The attack came after Makore had provided shelter to 13 MDC Alliance supporters who had fled Chihambakwe communal area after being attacked by Zanu PF supporters.
Makore added that despite numerous threats on his life and family by Zanu PF supporters, he felt it was his constitutional right to choose a political party of his choice.
However, he said he will soldier on as an opposition activist despite threats and intimidation.
Efforts to get a comment from the Zanu PF provincial officials over the harassment of Makore were fruitless.
However, the party has in the past declared Masvingo province a ‘one-party state’ and vowed to do everything within its powers to ensure the ruling party maintained its grip on the province.
Out of the 26 parliamentary constituencies in Masvingo, the MDC Alliance only controls one seat – Masvingo Urban.
The province is also one of the most politically volatile areas in Zimbabwe, which witnessed some of the horrific cases of torture and murder on opposition members over years.