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War veterans invade Bikita

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Controversial war veteran leader Jabulani Sibanda was yesterday reported to have led a group of Zanu PF youth militia and ex-combatants who descended on Bikita district where they were allegedly intimidating villagers into complying with Zanu PF views when the Copac teams come to the area starting Friday.
Sibanda was said to have set base at the Bikita Institute of Manpower Development near Nyika Growth Point from where he was commanding his troops doing rounds in the villages.
Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora confirmed he had been informed about Sibanda’s “invasion” of Bikita and that he was force-marching terrified villagers to rallies where they were coached on the “proper” way to respond to the constitution talking points.
“I have received a report of intimidation in Bikita and we are worried by Sibanda’s activities,” Mwonzora said. “We are looking into the matter and we have raised the issue with Zanu PF.”
He said while there was nothing wrong in political parties campaigning for certain positions in the constitution, it was wrong for anybody to use force or intimidation while lobbying for their cause.
“Political parties can campaign for what they want,” Mwonzora said in a telephone interview. “But if it becomes intimidation, then that is not acceptable. We are worried by people who want to promote lawlessness in the programme. We are doing a circular which prohibits political parties from campaigning about the constitution two days before the outreach teams arrive.”
He said he had received information that teachers were a target of intimidation in rural areas where they were threatened against participating in the constitutional outreach programmes. The teachers were being reminded of the bloody June 27, 2008 presidential election run-off.
Villagers in Bikita said yesterday that the war veterans’ chief was forcing villagers to attend his rallies where he was allegedly telling them what to say in their contribution to the constitution-making meetings.
“He has been calling for rallies since last week,” said a villager who refused to be named.
“Everyone was ordered to attend by the war veterans and Zanu PF terror militia. He is actually putting words into our mouths.”
Another villager said at a rally at Gwindingwi grounds last week, Sibanda instructed villagers to campaign for 99-year leases instead of title deeds on land ownership. He is also said to have preached about the banning of non-governmental organisations in the new constitution.
“He told us the position of war veterans, which he said because they were the liberators of this country, we should follow. He said the war veterans did not liberate the country so that what they fought for would go to waste,” said the villager in Bikita.
Sibanda could not be contacted for a comment due to network problems.

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