By Stephen Tsamba
AS the country gears for 2023 elections and political tensions rise, a report by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) highlights how traditional leaders and Zanu PF activists are coercing villagers across the country to align with the ruling party’s political activities.
According to the ZPP’s August report, on 22 August, villagers in Mudzi North, Mashonaland East were forced to a meeting by Zanu PF activists Portia Chijaka and John Sarafunga who ordered them to assist former freedom fighters and war collaborators by contributing either cash or grains such as maize or groundnuts.
The contributions are meant for the welfare of the war veterans and collaborators who receive monthly pensions from the government.
“On 22 August close to 30 villagers were forced to convene at Nyamuyaruka Business Centre, Ward 10 in Mudzi North. It is alleged that Zanu PF activists Portia Chijaka and John Sarafunga forced villagers to convene before forcing them to contribute money to assist local war veterans and war collaborators. Villagers with no cash were told that they could support the process through providing maize grain and groundnuts,” the latest ZPP report reads.
The villagers were also forced to chant Zanu PF slogans and sing revolutionary songs at the meeting.
In Murewa also in Mashonaland East province, the ZPP added; “…Vendors were told that only Zanu PF supporters would be allowed to sell their wares at the Murewa vegetable market.”
Meanwhile, in Mashonaland West, it has been reported artisanal miners, popularly known as “makorokoza” have realigned themselves with the ruling party and are terrorising residents, especially in Chegutu district.
“A Zanu PF aligned artisanal mining syndicate led by Denboy Makombe is reported to be harassing, intimidating, and assaulting villagers in Chegutu West at Muchakata gold mill, Pickstone and they use dangerous weapons such as knives, machetes, and knobkerries,” the ZPP said.
“In Muzvezve, artisanal miners are now digging some of their tunnels in residential areas, risking the lives of ordinary citizens, whose houses may collapse.
“ZPP has observed that in some parts of the area, newly built houses are developing cracks, and yet the activities of the artisanal miners continue simply because some of them have political protection from Zanu PF, and they are a strategic tool for coercion as campaigns heat up.”
Elsewhere in Muzarabani, Mashonaland Central province, the police allegedly continued to deny the MDC Alliance clearance to hold meetings due to lockdown regulations but Zanu PF was holding its meetings regularly without disturbances.
In Matabeleland North province, Chief Saba of Binga North Ward 9 continued intimidating opposition supporters instructing all village heads to report any meeting convened by the members of the opposition.
Saba has instructed village heads to draw up a list of any opposition members carrying out any political activities and threatened that they would be ‘dealt with’.
Added the ZPP: “Matabeleland South province, in Silozwana village, Matobo North, a Zanu PF activist identified as Martin Sibindi allegedly intimidated villagers telling them that they shall be monitored if they vote for the MDC Alliance.
“It is said that Sibindi made these remarks during a community meeting as he was encouraging people to register to vote. It is reported that Sibindi warned that a mechanism had been drawn up to monitor and punish those that might vote for other MDC Alliance and other parties.”