HARARE – Traditional leaders are becoming de facto political commissars for Zanu PF in Mount Darwin, Mashonaland Central Province, and are reportedly spearheading terror in villagers ahead of the general elections President Robert Mugabe wants next year.
This is despite Article 14 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which restricts them from engaging in political activities at national and community level.
Investigations carried out by this reporter in Nyamazizi and Karanda, Mount Darwin East, approximately 50km from the main town revealed that chief Dotito, war veterans and the Zanu PF militia are threatening to kill and evict suspected MDC supporters in Nyamazizi and Karanda.
“People must know that this country came as a result of the liberation struggle, so giving it away by the pen is a complete betrayal of Mbuya Nehanda and those who lost their lives in the struggle,” said Lovemore Matasva, a Zanu PF youth.
This reporter established that youth militia (names supplied) working under chief Dotito’s orders, are forcing people to attend nocturnal meetings, compelling villagers to vote for Zanu PF.
Calvin Chimwanzure of Ward 12 in Nyamazizi said in mid-July this year, chief Dotito and war veterans held a secret meeting at Border Gezi Youth Training Centre in Mt Darwin to deliberate over the disbandment of the District Coordinating Committee (DCC).
He added that after the meeting chief Dotito summoned all village heads in the area, instructing them to force people to vote for Zanu PF or face abductions and evictions from the area.
A village head who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were given strict orders by the chief to force people to support and vote for Zanu PF in the next elections.
“The chief said we should evict those suspected to be MDC supporters. He is under immense pressure from the war veterans and youth militia to mobilise support by whatever means necessary,” he said.
Another villager, Miriam Katsande of Ward 14 in Karanda expressed concern over the way the chief and Zanu PF are operating in the area saying she is now fearing for her personal security.
“The situation is getting worse; we are being threatened with abductions and eviction by George Manyika and Jongwe from the chief’s home.
“We are now afraid to express our views in public as we no longer know what will happen to us thereafter,” Katsande said.
Joseph Murewa (35) of Nyamazizi village, a victim of the 2008 political violence could not hold his tears as he narrated how his house was torched by Zanu PF youths.
“It was around 2am when I heard people chanting Zanu PF slogans and clamouring for my head. They ordered me to get out of the house before torching it.
“My wife and I managed to escape unhurt,” he said, adding nothing had been done to address the issue of violence in the area, exposing villagers to terror attacks by war veterans.
Further investigations in Karanda and Nyamazizi village showed militias distributing the Zanu PF position paper on the constitution, coaching villagers and subjecting them to verbal and physical abuse.
Isaac Gandari, a Nyamazizi village headman said the war veterans and the militia have extended orders to punish and evict MDC supporters who do not ascribe to the authority of Zanu PF leadership.
“I have just received orders that I should vacate the throne, but I don’t know the person who gave that order. So many people are taking the law into their hands and can do anything they please in this area.
“It’s quite unfortunate that since this violence started in 2008, perpetrators have been on the loose and no mechanism has been put in place to protect people from victimisation.
“We are now living in perpetual fear as we are continuously being threatened with abductions and death,” said Gandari.
ZimRights director, Okay Machisa said cases of war veterans and chiefs terrorising villagers are a huge cause for concern in Zimbabwe.
“People have the right to cultural practices of their choice, the right to choose a political party of their choice and the right to choose a soccer team to support so the chiefs must respect those rights,” said Machisa.
Heal Zimbabwe Trust director, Rashid Mahiya said traditional institutions should stick to their national mandate of guiding the communities under their jurisdictions.
Mahiya added: “If the state allows institutions especially those that are supposed to provide protection to the people to harass them then it means something is wrong.
“We therefore call upon the government to intervene and ensure that such cases are stopped and the security of the people is guaranteed,” said Mahiya.
MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that cases of victimisation of people by chiefs, war veterans and the police were rife in Mashonaland Central province.
“We are aware that chiefs and war veterans are harassing people in Mt Darwin and the harassing is widespread in Mashonaland Central Province, but unfortunately there is no protection from the state,” Mwonzora said.
He said his party is working with Jomic to make sure that political violence is stopped in the country.
However, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo refuted claims that chiefs in Mashonaland Central Province were terrorising villagers on behalf of his party.
He said: “The people making those claims are just bent on tarnishing the image of the party. If they have genuine cases, why don’t they report to the police than rushing to the papers,” he said.
National police spokesperson, assistant commissioner Charity Charamba said such developments have not been brought to her attention. – David Chidende