HARARE — For the last month Gibson Severe and his wife, Merjury Severe, known opposition supporters from Hurungwe district in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West Province, have been hiding out in the country’s capital Harare.
MDC–T supporters were forced to flee their rural home in Hurungwe district after Zanu PF militias threatened them for encouraging people to participate in the recently-ended mobile voter registration.
“It’s been a month since we left Hurungwe district after the Jochomondo militia, which has known links to Zanu PF, besieged our rural home accusing us of encouraging people to register to vote for the MDC-T,” Gibson Severe said.
Since last year, the Jochomondo militia has allegedly terrorised residents in Zimbabwe’s northern Hurungwe district, a Zanu-PF-stronghold, making it almost impossible for opposition parties to campaign in that region. Merjury Severe said that elections in Zimbabwe had now become associated with threats and violence.
“This is not the first time we have been subjected to intimidation. In the 2008 presidential runoff we were beaten up for being MDC-T sympathisers,” she said.
Zimbabweans go to the polls sometime this year to vote for a new president. Current President Robert Mugabe (89) has been in office for 33 years, a reign characterised by corruption, oppression, forced land seizures and a failing economy.
However, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently told media that the date for the elections would only be set after voter registration was completed. Although mobile registration has ended, voters can still register at the Registrar General’s office dotted around the country.
But as Zimbabwe’s first round of 30-day mobile voter registration ended on Sunday, May 19, the process was marked by long queues, slow registration and intimidation by violent gangs suspected to be linked to Zanu PF.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, director for the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, an independent public policy think-tank, said that the process had been fraught with chaos. “The mobile voter registration exercise was not done properly.
“It was chaotic and characterised by political gerrymandering.”
Zanu PF-linked militias, who call themselves Al-Shabaab, named after Somalia’s Islamic terrorist group, are alleged to have threatened the electorate in Midlands Province.
“The mobile voter registration exercise here irked Zanu PF stooges who have directed their anger towards teachers in rural communities, fiercely warning them against voting for the (two) MDC formations,” a local councillor from Midlands Province said.
The MDC split in 2006 into the MDC-T and the MDC-Ncube, which is led by Professor Welshman Ncube.
Officials from Marondera, the capital of Mashonaland East Province, situated some 72 km east of Harare, said villagers were forced by suspected Zanu-PF-linked militias to participate in the voter registration process.
“People were being abused by Zanu PF militias, who were singing liberation war songs and chanting party slogans, and forced to register as voters,” a local district official in Marondera said.