KACHIMANA, a small very hot and dry village in Mudzi West constituency a Zanu PF stronghold, suffering from underdevelopment and severe food shortages is still battling economic and political emancipation 38 years after independence.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Despite their hard efforts in farming the rocky and mountainous landscape along the Mudzi River, very long dry spells mean often they have to rely on government food aid and donations to get through to the next season.
It is the food aid and political violence in these areas that has kept them loyal voters to Zanu PF over the years and with another dry season beckoning just before the July 30 general election, the captive voters said they had no option but to vote Zanu PF.
Denis Chishumba, a father of six who only managed to harvest three bags of maize and has no other source of income, said it was a choice between voting the opposition and suffer from hunger or keep Zanu PF in power and get donations.
“We were told clear options by the political leadership here, that food aid will not come if we do not vote Zanu PF, and as a family man one takes the option that puts food on the table,” he said.
Economic activity in this area is limited to selling grains to the Grain Marketing Board or illegal mining along the Mudzi river bed.
The other option is to trek on foot close to 30 km to Makaha for illegal gold mining were many perish underground in search of the illusive precious metal.
Tonderai Ngirandi one of the many youths who grew up in Mudzi, went to school some 10 km away from home at Nyamatawa Schoo. He spends most of his time drinking a potent local brew Kachasu and periodically the famous scud, says change of leadership is needed.
“The choices here are limited its either you are mining in Makaha or waiting for food aid. There is no work or any other option for the youth here. Those who want a better life have to leave this place, it’s time for a change of leadership but I doubt it will come because of our parents are entrapped in the history of Zanu PF politics, they fear violence and they pass that message to their children,” he said.
Ngirandi occasionally works the mines in Makaha where a Zanu PF membership card is a major facilitator to go around. He says many have been buried in those pits as they search for a living.
First time voter Juliet Chikukwa in Chikona village tells of chilling threats of violence at a meeting called by headman of the area only identified as Para.
“We were told by some men who came to the village for the first time that if we failed to vote for Zanu PF and if there was ever going to be a run off, we would suffer the consequences. They said August 8, would be bloody going into the run off,” she said.
The 2008 run off effects are still fresh in the minds of many who were victims of a brutal system that went all out to violently punish opposition forces mostly in its rural strong holds.
Juliet’s sister Trainer gave a graphic detail of how suspected opposition supporters were tired onto a traditional shelf used to keep plates out of animal reach just after being washed and had their feet thoroughly beaten.
“We are like goats here and we belong to Zanu PF, if you attempt to go into a kraal of other goats, you will be attacked, it therefore is not by choice that we stay in our place, people were beaten up some lost their lives so just imagining that scenario is heart rendering and frightening,” Trainer says.
Many she says left their homes and were sleeping in a mountain called Chigari and a number of other caves as they evaded retribution.
“We chose peace, we chose to vote Zanu PF so that we stay in our homes and even if we are hungry and the future is bleak, it’s better than being hunted like animals by fellow human beings,” she says.
The only real place where there is economic activity is Kotwa the home of government offices and a few hotels were the lucky few run flea markets mainly of pre loved cloths smuggled in from the Nyamapanda border.
The Grain Marketing Board depot, is there, Register General ‘s office is also located at Kotwa so are the district education offices, while the provincial officers are in Marondera.
The poor farmers have to travel over 40 km on foot or in Scotch Carts to get basic government services, because public transport is virtually none existent, the snaking dust roads that connect most of Mudzi West have been forgotten and major bus operators who used to ply these routes have abandoned them limiting reach to the Harare Nyamapanda Highway.
Election observers who included the European Union, IRI/NDI and Commonwealth in their reports on the just ended elections raised concerns of the issues raised by Trainer saying there was an uneven political playing field coupled with overt uses of food aid and state resources, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders in contravention of constitutional requirements for their political neutrality as well as intimidation of the electorate negatively impacted on the democratic character of the electoral environment.
A former senior Central Intelligence Official Magna Mudyiwa of Zanu PF is legislator in the area getting into parliament through a by election in 2015 after, garnering 9 837 votes against, George Kawaza of the National Constitutional Assembly who got a paltry 107 votes in Mudzi in an election boycotted by the main opposition MDC –T.
Mudyiwa complained of fierce interparty violence in her constituency which shook her out of her bid to get elected in 2013.
“My work in the President’s Office did not allow me to be active in politics, but whenever I visited Mudzi, I always met people who persuaded me to join mainstream politics and in 2013, I heeded the call. However, I faced a lot of intra-party violence which was so fierce that I could not make it into Parliament that year,” she said.
She was to win again in the July 2018 general elections to retain the seat with Mudzi West seat with 14 289 beating Gift Danai Mutereko of MDC Alliance who managed just 1 147.
In a summary of the findings by commissions prepared by Civil Society Organisation for Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and government, there was need to heal the tensions that are constantly used to inflict fear without the use of actual violence.
“IRI/NDI and ZCC said due to tension over unresolved and lingering past hurts and pains, the nation is deeply divided hence the need for all political parties to make concerted efforts to unify the country as well as urgent redress through a holistic process of nation building and envisioning,” reads the report.
Elections watchdog Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) called on the parliament of Zimbabwe to take note of issues raised by observers so that they are corrected before 2023 general elections.
“Support from the VMCZ IJ Fund.”