By Nomusa Bhebhe
Past election campaigns in Zimbabwe have been marred by intimidation and violence, which has resulted in the death of hundreds of opposition people according to Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a human rights watchdog.
A ZANU PF elected Councillor in Gokwe South in the Midlands Province Oliver Chanda, convened a meeting at Nemangwe Business Centre last month where he threatened those in attendance with food aid withdrawal if they failed to buy ZANU PF membership cards and also registering their national identity cards.
Councillor Chanda warned people that anyone who refused would have their name struck off the food beneficiaries list. The cards were selling at $3.00 each and several members failed to purchase the cards as they failed to raise the money.
Partisan distribution of food aid and farming inputs was also part of the gimmick by Zanu PF and the various districts such as Shurugwi, Zvishavane and Chirumhanzu in the midlands province. Village heads say a ZANU PF party card is a “passport” to gain farming inputs.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an independent human rights organisation, is concerned that Zimbabwe is far from meeting the standards of free and fair elections whose results are uncontested.
A political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya, former News Editor for Zimbabwean independent newspaper Daily News, echoed the same sentiments saying the vote buying gimmicks by the ruling party have almost become the norm.
There are genuine fears of violence and loss of lives in 2018 given the violence that obtained in the past.
Meanwhile, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is concerned that the next elections could be nothing but a costly charade with pre-determined outcomes.
While, traditional leaders are crucial in maintaining and upholding the fabric of our society such that our national identity and cultural values can be upheld from one generation to the other but the current scenario in Zimbabwe is reflective of a partisan political players.
In terms of the supreme law of the land, our traditional leaders are supposed to be apolitical at all times.
At the chiefs conference held in Bulawayo last month, Zanu PF announced that it had purchased 226 Isuzu twin cab vehicles for the 226 chiefs in Zimbabwe. The timing of this assessment is obviously coincided with the dawn of the electioneering season in the country.
At a time when the public health delivery system has virtually collapsed and when 70 percent of the country districts hospitals do not have an ambulance, according to Citizens Health Watch 2016, a local health research watchdog.
Lawyer and MDC political analyst Obert Gutu said Chiefs shouldn’t be reduced to become Zanu PF’s political commissars, whose loyalty and support is bought by the purchase of cars and other perks.
“The Zanu PF regime has just shown that they do not have any genuine respect for the institution of chieftainship. If anything, the Zanu PF regime is trivialising and trashing the role of chiefs in much the same way as the racist colonial regimes of yesteryear used to do.”
“It would have made much better sense for the government to purchase these essential machines for our public hospitals rather than spending millions of United States dollars in importing brand new Isuzu motor vehicles to distribute to 226 chiefs,” he said.
“Whilst our chiefs certainly deserve to have some decent means of transport, at the present moment in time, there are other more pressing national issues that should have been prioritised,” according to local human rights activist and Mandela Washington fellow, Vivid Gwede.
Most of the country’s major roads are in a terrible and dilapidated state because of years of neglect and poor maintenance.
The motor vehicles that will be distributed to the 226 chiefs will be forced to travel on extremely poor and neglected roads.
Thus, it would have made better sense to urgently repair the country’s major roads and highways before splashing millions of scarce foreign currency importing brand new Isuzu motor vehicles.