Traditional leaders are reportedly intimidating voters ahead of the Mwenezi East by-election slated for Saturday. The ruling Zanu PF is also accused of vote-buying, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights).
By Tatenda Chitagu
In an alert yesterday, ZimRights said it was particularly worried by evidence of partisan involvement of traditional leaders in campaigns.
The Constitution bars traditional leaders from partisan politics, yet chiefs and kraal heads in Mwenezi are acting to the contrary, openly canvassing for support for Joosby Omar, the Zanu PF candidate, said ZimRights.
The human rights watchdog said at a field day on March 29 at Rata business centre in ward 2, six kraal heads — Masvasvuke, Matande, Manhondo, Masvosva, Tengera and Zihwa — under Chief Negari reportedly endorsed Omar.
It alleged on March 24, Chief Maranda and Headman Chomupapa held a meeting at Chinyu Primary School to tell people under their jurisdiction to vote for Omar. Chief Negari and Chief Neshuro reportedly addressed villagers ferried by Omar to Matande Primary School in ward 2 on March 25.
“In a bid to lure religious communities to Omar, Chief Chitanga and Chief Negari held a meeting on March 25, 2017, with Bishop Lyphet Matenda Mugaviri of Zion Christian Church and Bishop Aleck Mabhena of Zion Apostolic Church to drum up support for the Zanu PF candidate,” the human rights watchdog said.
The group said on March 19 at Rutenga Primary School in ward 18, Omar and the Zanu PF leadership held a meeting with Chiefs Chitanga, Maranda, Mawarire, Negari, Neshuro, Mazetese and Murove, where the traditional leaders were reportedly told to instruct people to vote for the ruling party.
“On March 9, 2017, Chief Chitanga, together with Zanu PF national commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, were part of the people who addressed a meeting in the constituency where participants sat in the rain and were forced to buy membership cards at $2 each,” ZimRights added.
The organisation said Omar reportedly gave people bags of maize and fertiliser at campaign rallies at Kuwirirana Secondary School, Rata business centre, Rutenga Primary School and Rutenga business centre in a case of vote-buying, which is outlawed in the code of conduct.
“Kraal heads and councillors, throughout the Mwenezi East constituency, were urged to write down Zanu PF activists to be beneficiaries of the maize and ammonium nitrate fertiliser, which was reportedly coming from the Department of Social Welfare,” ZimRights said.
Omar could not be reached for comment, as he was said to be addressing rallies, while Zanu PF Masvingo vice-chairperson, Amassa Nenjana is on record saying that opposition parties were free to dish out freebies to the electorate.