For over two years there have been complaints that war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda is intimidating villagers across the country and forcing them to vote for Zanu PF in future elections.
He camped in Masvingo for almost a year in 2011, where he was reportedly in the habit of rounding up civil servants, traditional leaders and villagers to attend his rallies.
There were reports that he was forcing traditional leaders to compile lists of people who supported Zanu PF’s rivals.
Sibanda has repeatedly denied accusations that during his campaigns he threatens villagers with violence if they do not back President Robert Mugabe’s party. But in June 2011, he left Masvingo province unceremoniously after Zanu PF factions clashed over his unorthodox campaign methods.
A section of the party felt that the use of violence would alienate voters and lead to another defeat in the forthcoming elections.
Unwanted in Masvingo, Sibanda moved to Hurungwe in Mashonaland West, where he was reported to be intimidating villagers by invoking memories of the liberation struggle.
Yesterday NewsDay reported that he had since taken his campaign to Nyanga in Manicaland where MDC-T officials say villagers and traditional leaders are being warned against voting for any party other than Zanu PF. Nyanga South MP Willard Chimbetete (MDC-T) claimed Sibanda descended on the area last week and had already held meetings with traditional leaders and villagers.
Names of MDC-T members and perceived supporters were being compiled and would be handed over to the war veterans’ leaders, Chimbetete said. If what war veterans did during the 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 elections is anything to go by, the people of Nyanga have every reason to be alarmed by Sibanda’s presence.
But what is of greater concern is that the activities by the war veterans, appear to have the full backing of Zanu PF and, by implication, Mugabe himself. This is happening at a time when principals in the inclusive government have been taking every opportunity to preach the need for a peaceful election next year.
Sibanda’s activities are the most emphatic demonstration of how hollow Mugabe’s calls for peaceful election campaigns are.
Zanu PF is hunting with the hounds and running with the hares in as far as calls for an end to political violence are concerned.
The long-running campaign of terror by the war veterans also raises questions about the relevance of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic). Jomic, which was created to ensure full compliance with the Global Political Agreement and ensure that there is no repeat of the 2008 sham election, has been conspicuous by its silence on Sibanda’s nefarious activities.
As we draw closer to elections expected early next year, these campaigns are likely to get more intense and violent.
It is incumbent on Jomic to investigate Sibanda now and prevent an implosion that will soil the next election and render all the work done over the last four years pointless.