By Brenna Matendere
VILLAGERS in Shurugwi South constituency, Midlands province, were last week reportedly forced to contribute money towards the district and provincial independence celebrations by Zanu PF youths.
The villagers told Southern Eye yesterday that some Zanu PF youths, clad in the party’s regalia and purporting to have been sent by top ruling party officials, demanded ZWL$5 from every household.
Shurugwi South MP Edmund Mukaratigwa (Zanu PF) was fingered as the mastermind behind the illegal activity. He, however, denied the allegations.
“Those are false reports and I am not aware of that. Councillors organised and co-ordinated the successful hosting of the Independence Day celebrations in their respective wards,” he said.
Asked where the councillors got the funding, Mukaratigwa said: “All I can say is that I personally contributed ZWL$3 000 to the constituency, shared by all wards.”
But Norman Pfeveni, the Shurugwi South district MDC chairperson insisted that villagers were forced to bankroll the Independence Day celebrations and that known opposition supporters were particularly targeted.
“It is so sad that we witnessed such an occurrence. The people here cannot even afford money to put food on the table and the majority are of advanced ages, with no sources of income. It was pure victimisation,” Pfeveni said.
Another MDC official, Daniel Mabonga, who contested and lost in last year’s parliamentary polls for Shurugwi South constituency, also confirmed the development, describing it as “very disheartening”.
“Villagers here were forced to contribute ZWL$5 per household for independence celebrations,” Mabonga said.
“That was horrible because these are poor people who cannot afford even a tablet of soap. Those who did not afford the money were threatened that they will be denied maize, as most crops here are a write-off and there is drought.
“I live just after Chanaiwa shopping centre and when I drove past the area on Independence Day, the villagers were being forced to sing Zanu PF songs and the gathering did not reflect any celebrations, as there were no festivities to talk about. I wonder where the collected money went to.”
Villagers who spoke to Southern Eye confirmed being coerced to fund the Uhuru celebrations by the Zanu PF youths.
“We were shocked on April 17 when Zanu PF youths came early in the morning to our houses, demanding ZWL$5 each per household and carrying a book in which they would enter names of those who paid and those who did not. They said they were carrying orders from above and that the money was compulsory,” Douglas Tanyanyiwa, a villager in the district, said.
Another villager, Tendai Mharakure, said those who did not contribute were threatened with exclusion when it came to accessing government aid such as food relief and agricultural inputs.