VIOLENCE has broken out in some constituencies ahead of the by-elections set for June 10, forcing many people to flee their homes.
ZANU-PF, which is contesting the polls in the absence of its major electoral challenger, the Movement for Democratic Change, which is boycotting them citing lack of electoral reforms, is being accused of instigating the violence, although the party has denied it.
In the affected areas, a number of people have sustained injuries of varying degrees.
The violence has since spread to all constituencies where by-elections will be conducted on June 10 with the worst affected being Hurungwe West.
In Hurungwe West, ZANU-PF candidate, Keith Guzah, is locked in a fierce contest with former Member of Parliament for the area, Temba Mliswa.
Mliswa is standing as an independent following his expulsion from the party for hobnobbing with former vice president, Joice Mujuru.
Mujuru was toppled at the height of an internal purge that rocked the party late last year.
Many villagers have been displaced from their homes in Hurungwe West and are now living in mountains and forests.
Six village heads are reported to have been savagely assaulted soon after a ZANU-PF meeting at Sengwe Business Centre last Saturday.
“We have seen big cars coming to business centres, particularly Sengwe and Kahonde daily laden with strangers who are terrorising people. Only today (Monday) a white double cab arrived at Sengwe and the people who came out of it started beating people indiscriminately and defacing Mliswa’s campaign posters,” said a ZANU-PF youth.
A youth leader from Zvipani area who identified himself only as Tigere said he was beaten up on Monday afternoon for sporting a Mliswa campaign T-shirt.
“It is now a crime here to be seen wearing those T-shirts or to receive things that Mliswa is using in his campaign…The people here have refused to beat each other and they have resorted to bringing strangers to beat people and this is very sad,” he said.
On Tuesday, marauding attackers were said to have stormed Gachekache area only to find that most of their targets had been tipped of their unwelcome visitors and had fled.
“They then started beating everyone they could find in the villages demanding to know our whereabouts,” one villager said.
“People are fleeing their homes to live in mountains. I am actually fleeing to Zambia until this madness has ended because if they find me, they could do anything to me. I fear for my life,” said another villager.
One Nomore Gambiza, the Pamasanga district youth chairperson in Hurungwe West said he was now living in the mountains adding “I am being hunted down like a wild animal.”
With more than a month to go before the polls, some independent candidates and smaller parties contesting in the by-elections said they were having difficulties accessing the constituencies.
Reports from Headlands, which was vacated by former ZANU-PF heavyweight, Didymus Mutasa, suggest that there was voter intimidation and sporadic acts of violence.
At the weekend, terror was also unleashed in Harare where Budiriro MP, Costa Machingauta of MDC-T was left for dead after being assaulted by suspected ZANU-PF youths along with 10 other opposition party activists.
They were coming from an MDC-T rally addressed by party President, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Although the MDC-T has pulled out of the elections, it is understood to be backing some independent candidates, particularly in Harare and Bulawayo.
ZANU-PF Harare provincial youth chairman, Godwin Gomwe, also had his house petrol bombed by youths suspected to belong to a rival faction in ZANU-PF.
Tashinga Tsvarai, independent candidate for Highfield West, said the violence and intimidation was worrisome as it had brewed a lot of fear which was affecting his campaign.
“You can step at someone’s door and they turn you away immediately saying they feared that their houses could be bombed or they could be beaten for associating with me. Some of the people I have interacted with are even afraid of associating with me anymore as they fear for their lives,” he said.
Last week, a ZANU-PF meeting in Kwekwe ended in chaos as violent clashes erupted between rival youths in a latest manifestation of factionalism in the party.
Many feared that this was confirmation that the country had returned to the dark old days, of settling political scores violently.
ZANU-PF spokesman, Simon Khaya-Moyo, said no reports of violence have reached him.
“I have not received any such reports at all. As far as we are concerned, the campaigns are going on smoothly and we are confident of victory as usual,” he said.
National police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, declined to comment when contacted by phone.
“I cannot comment on that right now. I am driving. You will have to check with me after thirty minutes,” she said after which she was not picking up calls.
The year 2008 witnessed the bloodiest elections in the history of post independent Zimbabwe when thousands of opposition activists were killed and injured. Financial Gazette