It’s Saturday afternoon and preparations are underway for a high-profile Zanu PF fundraising meeting at Koffman Shopping Complex in Matapi, Mbare, home of the infamous Chipangano.
Hordes of youths, mostly in party regalia, are busy setting the stage and sitting arrangements for distinguished guests and ordinary party members. In no time, Zanu PF songs are blasted as delegates start trickling in. Food and beverages, including beer, are on sale and the party begins.
Youths, numbering close to 30, mill around the entrance, apparently ready to “take care” of infiltrators.
The demarcation line between Chipangano and genuine Zanu PF members in Mbare is so thin as to be comparable with the thinness of a thread and many in the suburb identify the youths with the militant group.
NewsDay had to sneak in, at huge risk and followed proceedings, which point to a party determined to outwit opposition, come rain come the deep blue sea.
“We will crush them by hook or crook. Mbare can never be left in the hands of detractors anymore,” said one youth with a Lion Lager quart in hand.
Around 3pm, parliamentary aspirant Tendai Savanhu arrives and cheers, ululations and whistles engulf the shopping centre. He is addressed as “Honourable”, despite failing to land the seat in the past parliamentary elections.
About an hour later, businessman Phillip Chiyangwa pitches up to put the icing on the cake. They sang, danced and partied well into the evening, donating numerous amounts for the party’s “projects”.
Ward seven, for example collected $125 from its members.
However, Chiyangwa refused to comment on his involvement in Chipangano, but went on to say there was nothing sinister about the meeting.
“It was a self-help scheme where sadza and soft drinks were being sold and the money is for the people of that constituency and has nothing to do with Savanhu.
“I do not call it a fund raising, but a self-help scheme and we have been doing it for a long time. Our mothers used to call them ‘marounds’,” he said.
Savanhu echoed the same sentiments, but also refused to talk about Chipangano.
However, some residents in the area believe the money, together with collections being illegally fleeced from various traders in the suburb by Chipangano, will be used to fund the infamous group that has been treated with kid’s gloves by police.
“I think the worst is yet to come from Chipangano. They are leaving no stone unturned to ensure Zanu PF’s victory,” said a resident from nearby Matererini flats who requested anonymity.
On Tuesday night, NewsDay followed the party’s district meeting at Paget House, next to Carter House in the suburb. Again, scores of youths were manning the entrance, ensuring there were no “gatecrashers”.
However, after sweet-talking their leader, NewsDay managed to gain entry. One Cde Salama, the district secretary, was rolling out a funeral policy scheme for members that had been organised by Savanhu.
He said starting that day, a party membership registration exercise commence in the district as they would begin by identifying their genuine members. Each member was to pay $1 for the insurance, in addition to party contributions, demanded from each household. At the end of the meeting everyone was ordered to leave except the youths.
“You can all go now and only the youths must remain. The remaining business is just for youths,” said Salama, without giving details of the executive’s agenda with the highly feared youths, most of whom are believed to be part of the shadowy Chipangano.
But, who exactly is Chipangano, the shadowy outfit Zanu PF officially constantly disowns?
Those in the know claim the outfit is a brainchild of the late aspiring councillor Ali Manjengwa who formed it in 2001. Harare youth chairman Jim Kunaka and Central Committee member Cornelius Bwanya have also been fingered as leaders of the organisation.
Residents say the group has structures at virtually every business entity and is also represented in all residential areas. At the Mupedzanhamo flea market, they are the gate marshals, collecting “rentals” from each stallholder up to $10 per day, our investigations revealed.