This comes just weeks after Tsvangirai visited the province, where he was canvassing support for the planned grand opposition alliance which will battle President Robert Mugabe and his warring Zanu PF in next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.
MDC legislator for Zengeza West Simon Chidhakwa told the Daily News yesterday that the ruling party had “resuscitated” its terror machinery because the brawling ruling party was fearful of receiving “a hiding” in the make-or-break 2018 polls.
He said they had gathered first-hand information from terrified villagers who were being intimidated by Zanu PF supporters after they attended meetings with opposition Members of Parliament.
“I myself recently went to Uzumba centre doing ward profiling. I started in ward 15 where I addressed our members.
“Zanu PF supporters came and started throwing stones. The amount of intimidation is so much that people who are still reeling from the 2008 violence now worry that life could get worse ahead of 2018.
“I even came across people who have lost their limbs and homes and people are saying if we show our support to the MDC, we will be beaten or killed.
“An old lady also appealed to us that we should never come back to her homestead, genuinely fearing that her home would be destroyed by Zanu PF supporters.
“One of the people who had been roughed up, whom we met, also said there was no recourse anywhere for victims of political violence and intimidation,” Chidhakwa told the Daily News.
Tsvangirai toured the volatile province in February, where he was told by traditional chiefs who opened up to him how they were already being roped in by Zanu PF to become part of the ruling party’s rigging apparatus, to ensure victory for the former liberation movement in 2018.
Traditional chief after traditional chief told Tsvangirai during the tour of the restive province’s continuing “horror tendencies”.
They said that they were being forced to not only join the ruling party, but to also lead its cells and wards — and to actively work to help rig next year’s polls.
In 2008, Mashonaland East witnessed horrific violence which left more than 200 MDC supporters dead when Zanu PF went on a retribution exercise to punish supporters suspected to have taken part in a rebellion which came to be known as Bhora Musango — which saw Tsvangirai and the MDC beating Mugabe and Zanu PF hands down in that year’s historic, albeit hotly-disputed polls.
However, the results of the elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities, amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud which were later revealed by former Zanu PF bigwigs who are now in opposition ranks.
In the ensuing sham presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in a murderous orgy of violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters were killed in cold blood, forcing the former prime minister in the inclusive government to withdraw from the discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he declared himself the winner.
However, Sadc and the rest of the international community would have none of it, forcing the nonagenarian to share power with Tsvangirai for five years, to prevent the country from imploding completely.
The MDC said yesterday that Zanu PF activists were making it “extremely hard” for the opposition to reach out to communities such as Uzumba, while allegedly acting with “complete impunity”.
“Because of the culture of impunity, perpetrators of gross human rights abuses such as murder, rape and arson still remain free out there because they are being protected by the Zanu PF regime.
“This has resulted in a culture of fear gripping most rural communities in Zimbabwe.
“It is an extremely big risk for villagers to attend opposition political party meetings or rallies in the rural areas because they will be victimised by Zanu PF thugs and misguided elements amongst traditional leaders.
“This is one of the major reasons why the MDC is strenuously pushing for the adoption of electoral reforms before next year’s plebiscite.
“The Zanu PF regime is harvesting from the culture of fear that has taken root amongst rural communities,” MDC spokesperson, Obert Gutu, told the Daily News.