Teachers have reportedly fallen victim to Zanu PF’s intimidation and manipulation tactics ahead of the Bikita West by-election set for January 20.
By Own Correspondent
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president, Obert Masaraure, in an interview said Zanu PF had resorted to manipulating desperate teachers through offering “petty financial rewards” to campaign for the party.
He said defiant teachers had received threats of violence, as well as displacements from their work stations.
“The teachers are either being manipulated as political players or are being coerced to campaign for the Zanu PF candidate. The ruling party has taken advantage of the poor working conditions of the teachers, who have become susceptible to manipulation,” Masaraure said.
“You will know that teachers are not getting their salaries on time and they have become subjects of manipulation. We have also received reports of teachers from Bikita West receiving death threats if they do not campaign for Zanu PF.”
Zanu PF will be represented by Beauty Chabaya in the by-election, which will also be contested by five other candidates.
Teachers from Zanu PF strongholds, particularly rural constituencies, have often fallen victim to the ruling party’s violence, as they are often blamed for sympathising with the MDC-T.
Masaraure expressed concern that quite often, rural schools are reduced to campaign platforms and this is often followed by threats to defiant teaching staff.
“As is the case with Bikita West, normal learning will obviously be disrupted, thus, denying children their right to education. The ruling party seems to be capitalising on fear, which was instilled on teachers in the past elections,” he said.
The Bikita West parliamentary seat fell vacant following the incarceration of Zanu PF legislator, Munyaradzi Kereke, who was convicted for rape last year.
Independent candidate, Heya Shoko agreed that Zanu PF was in a vote-buying spree.
“On Tuesday, some villagers were gathered at a ward centre in ward 9, where they were given some sorghum, as part of vote-buying tactics by Zanu PF. They were also given some posters of Chabaya and told to carry them home,” he said.
Masvingo Human Rights Trust (MHRT) has expressed concern over the rights violations by Zanu PF activists working in cahoots with traditional leaders.
“The human rights situation is deteriorating, as we move towards the by-election. Cases of politically-motivated violence and intimidation are on the rise. We recommend the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to be on the ground to probe the violations and take corrective measures,” MHRT co-ordinator, Masimba Gonese said.
Masvingo-based civic society organisation, Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development Trust (Cotrad), said the political situation in Bikita was fast becoming volatile.
“Zanu PF youths are the major perpetrators of violence, as they are moving in wards in the constituency threatening villagers that they are going to unleash violence if they did not vote for Beauty Chabaya,” Cotrad programmes manager, Zivanai Muzorodzi said.
Chabaya could neither confirm nor deny the reports. She promised to call back, but did not do so and failed to respond to a text message sent to her.