By Mashonaland East Correspondent
Mutoko: THE Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) says campaigning for the Mutoko North by-election this Saturday has been marred by a few incidents of intimidation with Zanu PF aligned war veterans linked to death threat claims on opposition supporters if the ruling party lost the seat to its MDC rivals.
The disturbing claims come amid a relatively peaceful environment prevailing in the once volatile constituency ahead of the country’s first by-election since the disputed July 30 elections.
The mini poll is pitting Boniface Mushore of MDC, Rambidzai Nyabote of Zanu PF and Edson Mugoma of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
The seat fell vacant after Mabel Chinomona of Zanu PF was elected president of the Senate.
Mutoko North, which falls under Zanu PF’s stronghold Mashonaland East, has been dominated by the ruling party according to past election results.
However, despite what looks like an easy job for Zanu PF to retain the seat, ZESN has reported a number of violations in an area that has been declared a “no go area” for the opposition at Zanu PF rallies.
“At a rally held in Dandara Village, Ward 6, one speaker reportedly said, ‘Nzvimbo ino nyangwe zvikadii haitongwe neMDC’ (Come what may, this area will never be governed by the MDC). The war veterans were identified as the main perpetrators of intimidation,” the ZESN report notes.
Further threats of loss of lives, destruction of property and failure to access food aid were issued if the people voted for the MDC candidate.
Government vehicles were also reported to have been used for campaigning by Zanu PF in Wards 8 and 12.
At a Zanu PF meeting at Chitekwe Community Hall in Ward 12, some party officials are said to have resolved to follow and disrupt meetings by MDC.
“In Ward 4, people were cautioned that they risked losing their property if they voted for an opposition party.
“People also choose to associate with the ruling party so that they do not risk losing out on aid that is deliberately politicised. As observed, food aid is being distributed along partisan lines.
“In Botsanzira Village, those who would vote for the MDC Alliance were cautioned that they risked losing their lives.
“It was reported that those seen participating in activities of the MDC Alliance would not get any benefits from the government programmes.
“At the same rally, it was reported that a speaker warned that blood would be spilt if people were to vote for the opposition,” the ZESN report said.
ZESN said it had also received reports on violations of rights and freedoms suffered by the electorate.
“In general, people were not free to speak about politics. Reports to that effect were received from Wards 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12.
“People were not at liberty to say anything negative about the ruling party or anything positive about the opposition for fear of victimisation by Zanu PF supporters.”
Villagers were also informed that the MDC was behind the current mounting economic challenges that Zimbabwe is facing.
However, comment could not be readily sought from Zanu PF which has often denied any hand in politically motivated violence.
Reports from international observers who monitored the country’s harmonised elections July 30 implicated Zanu PF in the abuse of state resources to gain an unfair advantage over opponents.