HARARE – Zanu PF has embarked on its own aggressive door-to-door voter registration exercise — raising fears that the warring ruling party is “sharpening” its rigging machinery ahead of next year’s make-or-break polls.
This comes as opposition parties are ratcheting up their protests against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) over the government’s hijacking of the acquisition process of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits — a move they also say is another attempt by Zanu PF to rig the 2018 elections.
At the same time, civic groups are reporting an increasing cases of intimidation and violence, which they claim are being perpetrated by Zanu PF supporters.
The door-to-door visits which the ruling party is making in Harare and Chitungwiza, where it is also selling party cards, have spooked the residents of affected areas — particularly as Zanu PF officials are said to be recording people’s national identity and mobile phone numbers.
Opposition groups say this “thuggish exercise” is an attempt by Zanu PF to create a parallel voter registration exercise, which they suspect is being used as a dry-run for next year’s elections.
But Zanu PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, told the Daily News that they were merely gearing up for next year’s elections and were thus on the ground to ensure that they would prevail in the polls.
“At the moment, the party is in an unassailable position and we are working hard to ensure that we win all the elections that will come.
“The party is focused and we are soon going to start mobilising as we gear for the 2018 election. Zanu PF is the only viable party in the country,” Kasukuwere said.
However, and while Kasukuwere said Zanu PF was leaving no stone unturned in its push for electoral victory next year, civic groups are reporting increased cases of violence perpetrated by supporters of the former liberation movement.
“Zanu PF youths visited Ngaritutwe Bottle Store in (the Harare township of) Mbare and forced the proprietors to close down the bar, accusing them of holding MDC meetings at the bar.
“Zanu PF youths have imposed an economic embargo against members of other political parties in Mbare and are carrying out these activities with impunity as police officers seem reluctant to deal with the known perpetrators,” the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) said.
Peace building and monitoring group, Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT), also raised concerns over the conduct of traditional leaders in Guruve South, where it said opposition supporters were being denied food aid.
“Heal Zimbabwe expresses concern over the conduct of some traditional leaders in Guruve South constituency who are threatening opposition party supporters with denial of food aid and eviction from their villages if they fail to purchase Zanu PF membership cards.
“On March 25, 2017, village head Charles Mukodzani, who also doubles as Zanu PF chairperson for ward 11, and village head Killer Chigonero convened a meeting at Nyamhondoro Secondary School.
“At the meeting, the two village heads announced that people were supposed to purchase Zanu PF membership cards that cost $3 each, if they still wanted to continue receiving food aid.
“They also announced that if anyone defies the directive, they risked being evicted from their villages,” HZT said.
The same allegations emerged last month when opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was concluding his successful tour of Mashonaland East, where he interacted with traditional leaders.
Speaking to the Daily News then, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the former prime minister during the era of the stability-inducing government of national unity was gravely concerned by the “overwhelming information” that the MDC had received, which pointed to the fact that Zanu PF was “already in the process of stealing next year’s elections”.
Among some of the “dirty methods” that the ruling party — which is wracked by its deadly tribal, factional and succession wars — was allegedly using to rig the 2018 polls, was hijacking the country’s BVR process, as well as abusing traditional leaders.
“There is a plan by Zanu PF to steal next year’s elections. We have been on the ground here in Mashonaland East and what we are seeing and hearing is that Zanu PF wants to steal the next elections again, after they took over the BVR process, in addition to commandeering chiefs, village heads and headmen on board this devious scheme.
“However, we will do all that we can to ensure that traditional leaders are not abused and absorbed into Zanu PF structures? Indeed, the rights of traditional leaders must and will be observed,” the resolute Tamborinyoka said.
Traditional chief after traditional chief had apparently told Tsvangirai during his tour of the restive Mashonaland East province, which is traditionally a Zanu PF stronghold, 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.
“The fearful village heads all said they were forced to be chairpersons of Zanu PF’s cells. That way, Zanu PF will coerce them to frog-march people to vote for the ruling party.
“So, the sum total of Zanu PF’s ploy is that it is assimilating traditional leaders into its partisan structures, abusing them in the process,” Tamborinyoka added.