By Thomas Madhuku
ZAKA – It’s time to prepare for political campaigns for political parties as the talk of an election grabs the country’s political agenda. But for people living at the back of the beyond, particularly those in rural Zaka, it’s time to look for shells to hide in.
For them it’s that time in their lives that they have to live with the fear of the political unknown as incidents of intimidation are on the rise. It’s that time when they have to put up with a life similar to that of sheep being led to the slaughter.
For villagers here, a day hardly passes by without threats of a repeat of the 2008 political violence. While the atmosphere appears to be generally peaceful for an outsider, most villagers testify of the unending tales of threats that give them sleepless nights.
“You don’t take it lightly when someone threatens to deal with you, it’s really frightening and we do not know what that means. Threats are very bad and it is just as good as violence itself and worse when they equate what they intend to do with the 2008 madness,” said Peter Imbayarwo, an MDC-T councilor.
Imbayarwo, himself living in fear, said that reference to 2008 when seven people and hundreds others were left injured and displaced is very unfortunate considering that the country is being governed by a coalition government.
Flora Nyamunda, an MDC supporter said threats of a repeat of the 2008 violence were nothing but just a campaign to harvest votes through fear but ordinary people never takes it lightly.
“To us the leadership who have been in the party for a long time, threats do not move us but we understand as well how ordinary party members feel when they get such threats,” Nyamunda said.
Another MDC supporter in Ward 7, Zaka West, Sodina Mutungire alleged that a known Zanu PF female supporter warned her against associating with MDC towards election period.
“One woman from Zanu PF in our area warned me against supporting the MDC, threatening me with some unspecified action come election time,” she said.
Mutungire added that even her daughter Serina has been disturbed by the threats and tried to get the names of the people threatening her. This has left her in fear as she does not know who to avoid since the area has so many Zanu PF supporters.
She has however decided to suspend her participation in politics and that means one foot less for the MDC on the ground.
Recently, Dzikamai Mavhaire, a Zanu PF politiburo member addressed a meeting in Chitora area, Zaka East where he told the gathering that all the MDC members who were running around on behalf of MDC would be tamed according to the villagers.
“Aiti iye vose vamuri kuona vachiminizika vachapera vose gore rino kana nguva yesarudzo yasvika (he told the gathering that all those who were active would be dealt with this year once elections time comes),” said a villager from Chitora area.
The eye witness who could not be named for fear of victimization added that they were worried when senior members in Zanu PF threaten them for supporting the MDC.
“Mavhaire is a politburo member and when he utters such dangerous sentiments, we assume he will be speaking what the party would have agreed, so it’s not something to take lightly,” he added. Several attempts to get a comment from Mavhaire were fruitless as his phone went unanswered.
There threats according to locals have also taken a different dimension. Chief Nhema is said to have summoned all the headmen and village heads in the area sometime last year to a meeting at his homestead. At the meeting, Nhema instructed them to instill fear in their people so that they vote for Zanu PF.
Zaka villagers added that Nhema was working with the Zanu PF executive members, Manyatera Venenzia, Festion Chinyanga and Jonathan Mafunga, all from Chemhazha Ward 21, in threatening MDC supporters.
President of the Chiefs council, Chief Fortune Charumbira is on record saying traditional leaders and Zanu PF are “inseparable.” Charumbira told the Zanu PF national conference in Gweru late last year that traditional leaders were going to actively campaign for the party in the forthcoming elections.
With such threats on the rise villagers in Zaka are planning to relocate once election dates are announced and only return when the situation gets calm.
James Mushonga, an MDC leader in Zaka confirmed reports of threats from Zanu PF members but advised them to report either to the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) or Police.
“JOMIC promised us that the coming elections will be peaceful and they are working against that, so people should approach them whenever such issues happen” Mushonga said.
Other people interviewed said there was a JOMIC meeting that was held at Jerera Growth Point and addressed by some Zanu PF officials.
While villagers claim the political environment is peaceful, they are not very sure if that would continue to be the case during the elections considering the intensity of threats they receive from their Zanu PF counterparts.
Though no one has been attacked to date, some of the villagers are concerned that such threats of violence were not just empty threats. Edison Gwenhure, one of the 2008 violence survivors is taking them seriously.
“They always tell us that we will not survive because we have links and ways to report to higher offices,” he added.
Asked to name the people responsible for issuing those threats, Gwenhure said doing so would only be a sure way of inviting the people to come after him and make him a victim again. Sibusisiwe Tamirepi, JOMIC Political Liaison Officer representing MDC, was indifferent to the reports of violence in the area.
“We work with reports that we receive at the office. So if they do not report how do they expect us to act? We have done quite a number of public meetings in Zaka and people are aware that they should report to JOMIC if they are harassed, intimidated or threatened,” she said.
Mandivenga Matutu who is the Political Liaison Officer representing MDC-T refused to comment on the issue saying his position did not allow him to talk to the media.
Raymond Takavarasha who is also the JOMIC Liaison Officer for Masvingo promised to get back to this reporter but subsequent calls did not yield anything as it went unanswered.