BY TATENDA CHITAGU
MASVINGO-BASED think-tank, the Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD) has revealed that minority groups in Zimbabwe are coerced to vote for the ruling Zanu PF party due to glaring information gaps.
In a document titled Indigenous Minority Groups, MACRAD said the minority groups in the country, particularly the Shangaan and the Venda continued to vote for Zanu PF by coercion, not by choice.
The research studied various electoral processes in post-independent Zimbabwe and considered the plight of minority tribes in the context of the broader shrinking democratic space in Zimbabwe.
“Available evidence has proved that, despite resounding voting statistics amongst the Shangaan and Venda in favour of Zanu PF, there are high possibilities of induced participation. The government has been taking advantage of their minority status, vulnerability to poverty and residing in precarious agro-ecological zones as the strategy of limiting their knowledge horizon on their decision-making during elections.
“Through MACRAD’s research and engagement, it discovered wide ranging deprivation which retards their conscious participation and decision making during elections.”
The Shangaan and Venda tribes are domiciled in the southern parts of Zimbabwe and they fall under parched natural regions four and five, which receive low rainfall.
This makes them susceptible to annual droughts and leaves them often in need of food aid.
Their livelihoods are mainly based on subsistence smallholder agriculture, working in commercial farms and migration to neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa.
“The Shangaan and Venda’s reliance on government, via line ministries like Social Welfare, makes them recognise the government as the only option available in elections and voting. Furthermore, their trust on opinion leaders in their local circles gives no room for individual thinking — givers of voting directives.
“For example, the opinions of spirit mediums and Vhomakadzi among the Venda are respected and followed without doubt or despair. In this line, the governments through manipulative politics have been, or are still using them in influencing opinions.”
The report said in most cases, opinion leaders are used in campaigns, which closes avenues for individuals’ democratic thinking and voting behaviour.
“Among the Shangaan, the paramount chiefs are respected by their people and in turn, they are valued as custodians of government, hence making them to incline the masses towards a one directional political opinion. The predictable outcome of the voting directives amongst the Shangaan and Venda, have in the past years produced straightforward outcomes in favour of Zanu PF.”
The report said that despite constitutional provisions of free participation of ethnic groups in Zimbabwean politics, the Shangaan and Venda tribes experienced closed democratic space for them to be liberal in their political participation.
The study recommended creation of information centres and kiosks to cover up for the unavailability of cellphones and radio and television signals, as well as the establishment of human rights clinics in the area to educate them about their rights.
Statistics show that the Venda and Shangaan in conjunction with other minority groups constitute less than 10% of the Zimbabwean population.
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