The Daily News recently visited Magunje’s ward 10, in Mashonaland West Province, where villagers said they last saw their legislator, Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa, during his campaign trail in 2013 but he still maintains a presence through zealous youths, councillors and village heads who harass villagers to submission.
The aforementioned happen to be his ears and eyes on the ground and soon — because of the impending 2018 elections — they are expecting him to resurface.
“We haven’t heard or seen Gandawa since 2013. We have so many problems, including the issue of water but we have no one to tell.
“His youths, councillors and village heads do everything for him and if they suspect you to be from the opposition, you will be in big trouble,” said a resident, Lovemore Muzavazi.
Now the Centre for Community Development (CCDZ) has been going around the province in areas which include Chinhoyi, Karoi, Magunje, Chedope, Batanai, Chishumba, and Badze engaging community leaders and faith-based organisations on rights awareness campaigns.
The campaigns are being held on the auspices of meaningful citizen participation in local governance from a human rights-based approach.
It was during one of these awareness campaigns that community working group leaders revealed to CCDZ director Philip Pasirayi that, they are even scared to attend any meetings in fear of being labelled MDC sympathisers by their local village heads.
From the community dialogue meetings, Magunje residents from wards 11 and 23 revealed to the Daily News that they had been warned against attending the meetings by their local village heads as their local councillor was not aware of the meeting despite it being cleared by the police.
The wounds of political violence that engulfed most parts of the country in the aftermath of the 2008 harmonised election in which MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai defeated President Robert Mugabe still linger painfully in the minds of many in Magunje.
Going back there or recalling the events is a nightmare they would not dare entertain as election fever hits the highest note with each passing day.
“We lost so many friends and relatives through violence here. It was a war zone. People watched as their homes were burnt, some just left and even up to now we don’t even know where they are.
“We have no choice but just to do what they demand (village heads) to stay safe.
“Masoja ari padhuze futi paMagunje apa saka pakarema wena (It is difficult because we have an army base nearby.)
“Some of our colleagues failed to attend because some of them are busy with seed beds (for tobacco) but most are scared to be labelled MDC supporters.
“That would create trouble for us because our councillor in ward 23 has been coming promising projects like chicken-rearing, and there was talk of another biogas project so they do not want to miss out on these projects because they will be called Zanu PF enemies,” Roy Mupukuta told the Daily News on the side-lines of the meetings.
With the politics of labelling rife in Mashonaland, it comes hardly as a surprise that an MDC star rally that was supposed to be addressed by the party’s vice president Nelson Chamisa in Karoi on October 7 was banned by the police.
Pasirayi bemoaned the growing habit of politics of labelling in the province, from which Mugabe hails.
“We are an apolitical pressure group, but we push for the promotion of dialogue between rights holders and duty bearers in terms of social service delivery using a human rights approach as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution.
“People should be aware of their fundamental rights in the constitution to monitor the provision of service.
“Communities should mobilise each other and push for political and civil rights as per section 67 of the Constitution.
“Even village heads who are stopping people from attending the community dialogue meetings in the pretext of them being politically-oriented need training as well because they might not even aware of their rights.
“There should be progressive realisation of rights. Citizen apathy will never aid development.
“It is a pity that our Constitution remains largely unimplemented, especially when you look at Chapter 14 which talks about devolution of power.
“We are here to demand democratic, accountable, responsible and transparent local government officials,” he said.
Pasirayi added that it is also high time that women begin to make a stand for their political and civil rights, especially with the 2018 election on the horizon.
“We have seen women being discriminated at almost all levels of society. Women should rise and make a stand in next year’s elections.
“We reiterate our calls for increased participation of women in political and civic matters.”
While the call for increased women participation in politics is aimed at gender responsive development, women who spoke to the Daily News in Hurungwe West bemoaned corruption and growing fear of name-calling in their area.
“It is a matter of life and death here kunzwikwa kana kufungirwa kuti uri weMDC ko kuzoti wanzi uri kuda kuita councillor asiri weZanu PF totosiira varume isu tichengete vana (It’s not safe to be assumed to be an MDC supporter, worse of an aspiring candidate. We leave it to real men),” said Pamela Dendera.
While empirical evidence on the ground suggests that Zanu PF has insulated the rural stronghold with political fear against opposition parties — the playing ground is far from being level. Daily News