THE announcement of a presidential run-off date by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the event that there is no clear cut winner in the elections set for July 30 has struck fear in the hearts of the rural populace, who are still haunted by the violence that rocked the previous presidential poll re-run in 2008.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
In separate interviews on the sidelines of a rally at Tshovani Stadium last Sunday, villagers from rural Chiredzi, who were bused to be addressed by Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, said they came just to get T-shirts and be on the safe side in the event of a run-off.
“Who knows what will happen. We had to succumb to the pressure to be bused to come here. We also wanted to get Zanu PF T-shirts to be on the safe side if there is a re-run. Again, we no longer want to be branded MDC-T supporters, as this will have grave consequences for us, not only in the run-off, but if Zanu PF wins, as we will be denied food handouts from government,” a villager from Boli, who did not want to be named, said.
Another villager from Chilonga said they will go to all rallies addressed by the main parties just to get T-shirts from both Zanu PF and MDC-T.
“We want the T-shirts and the freebies that may be dished out at rallies. I got to the rallies of both the MDC-T and Zanu PF. But I know where I will put my vote,” elderly woman said.
For the impoverished rural people, election regalia can also be a useful piece of clothing, which they can wear even after the election period.
Mnangagwa, promised a peaceful election and has urged his supporters to desist from violence.
Chiredzi villagers say the mere mention of the runoff date has brought back sad reminders of the bloody one-man run-off of June 27, 2008 when former President Robert Mugabe was beaten by then leader of the MDC-T, the late Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of elections — where the results were announced after three weeks — and had to resort to violence to win the re-run.
Tsvangirai boycotted the run-off and went into hiding in Botswana, citing the murder, torture and displacement of his supporters by Zanu PF militia.
Thousands of MDC-T supporters fled their homes after the orgy of violence that included the notorious “short sleeve” and “long sleeve” torture method, where suspected MDC-T supporters had their hands allegedly hacked off by machetes and homes burnt in retributive violence for voting the opposition party.
When Mnangagwa proclaimed the election date, he also set September 8 as the date for the run-off in the event that there is no outright winner under the first-past-the-post electoral system adopted in Zimbabwe.
Under the system, a presidential candidate requires 50% plus one vote for an outright win. In the event that no candidate gets that, a runoff will be held between the top two.
Much as he has made the call, however, villagers say things may change if Zanu PF is defeated in the first round of election, just like what happened in 2008 where the party unleashed violence mostly during the run-up to the run-off.