BIKITA – Villagers in Bikita who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday recounted horror stories of thuggery and intimidation by Zanu PF apparatchiks.
They said the sum total of the anti-democratic behaviour was to force them, as allegedly directed “from above”, to vote for the ruling party.
Many of the visibly-shaken villagers said they had ended up duly voting for Zanu PF, fearing that they would be dealt with ruthlessly if they disobeyed the “chefs” (Zanu PF bigwigs).
It was also claimed that some traditional leaders had either willingly, or under duress, also participated in the thuggery, amid allegations that many people had been told that they were being closely monitored even when they were in voting booths.
This was confirmed by Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) interim chairperson for Masvingo, Claudius Makova, who said regardless of the fact that on the actual voting day there was “a semblance of tranquillity”, the by-election could not be viewed as “free, fair and credible by any stretch of the imagination”.
“We know that there are some village heads who are acting as Zanu PF political commissars. One of the biggest culprits is village head Musavengana who told his subjects that they must vote for Zanu PF.
“They intimidate people and are introducing other mechanisms to rig this election. This must stop for the good of the nation,” Makova told the Daily News On Sunday.
Peace civic group, Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT), also noted “multiple” electoral malpractices in the run up to yesterday’s voting.
“Heal Zimbabwe is greatly concerned with the escalation of intimidation, forced attendance and unfair food aid and vote buying in Bikita West.
“The organisation views the escalation of human rights violations in Bikita West as a hindrance to the conducting of free and fair elections and limits the free participation of the voters,” its director, Rashid Mahiya, said.
“Heal Zimbabwe notes that the participation of village heads and the coercion of villagers to attend political gatherings is a grave and serious violation of the Constitution which provides for political rights where citizens should be free to participate, form or join political parties of their choice,” he added.
A local villager, who was on his way to vote at Maregere Shopping Centre yesterday, claimed in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday that they had been given Zanu PF membership cards on Thursday, in addition to being forced to fill “special” forms ahead of voting.
“They told us that they will know everyone’s vote through the forms. Village heads were also threatened by Zanu PF and were told that they must make sure that the ruling party wins,” the terrified voter said.