Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party faithfuls are sceptical the violence unleashed by Zanu PF supporters and suspected state security agents during the 2008 polls, which left dozens dead, and thousands injured and displaced, will not haunt them ahead of elections planned for next year.
The supporters, who met Tsvangirai on Saturday at the Civic Centre Hall, also put under the spotlight the role of traditional leaders in oiling the Zanu PF election violence machinery.
Their fears come against the backdrop of reports that traditional leader, Chief Serima, born Vengesai Rushwaya, assaulted an MDC-T activist with a brick last month.
Another traditional chief, Chief Nhema, is also accused of housing self-proclaimed war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, who is intimidating villagers in Masvingo.
Tsvangirai met about 200 leaders from the party’s cell structures and briefed them on problems affecting the coalition government, the constitution-making process as well as conditions to be set before next year’s elections, to ensure they will be free and fair.
“Some traditional chiefs used to set up bases at their houses where they kept Zanu PF militia and state security agents. They also spy on us and force villagers to go and vote. Those who do not vote were threatened with eviction from their areas, or discriminated against when it comes to food relief,” a party supporter told Tsvangirai.
Another supporter said as long as traditional chiefs continue to dabble in politics, the election will be tilted in favour of Zanu PF.
“Zanu PF is interfering in the selection of chiefs. (President Robert) Mugabe has politicised chiefs. As long as chiefs continue to side with Zanu PF, then the playing ground will not be level.”
Recently, chiefs were promised hefty allowances and new cars, something which analysts believe Zanu PF wants to use to buy their loyalty.
Tsvangirai, however, assured the supporters that the election would be violence-free.
“We will lobby the international and regional community to ensure a credible election. We need international observers and a Sadc peace-keeping force to monitor the elections. We will ensure that there will be no repeat of what happened in 2008,” Tsvangirai said.
This is the second time within a week that Tsvangirai has assured his supporters that elections will be free and fair.
Last week, he told party supporters in Mabvuku that next year’s elections will be violence- free.
Tsvangirai has also come under attack from party supporters who have questioned what measures will be in place to ensure peace during the polls.
The MDC-T claims over 200 of its supporters were killed, hundreds injured while thousands were displaced as a result of violence perpetrated by Zanu PF militias in 2008.
Tsvangirai pulled out of an election run-off against President Mugabe citing violence against his supporters.
MDC party spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said his party demands a reform of the voters’ roll and a completion of the constitution before any polls are held.