Voter intimidation in rural constituencies

Following the announcement that Zimbabwe’s election will be held in July this year, there are concerns that this election may not be free and fair as expected because of intimidation of especially the rural voter.

According to Heal Zimbabwe Human Rights Report of 2017 Mutasa district is one of the districts among nine others where political harassment and intimidation are rife. In January, the human rights watch organisation had recorded cases of intra and inter party violence in both urban and rural areas and are both involving mainly MDC T and ZANU PF supporters.

Potential voters in Mutasa have raised concern over the continuous intimidation and harassment as the elections draw closer. While in most cases, perpertrators of violence and intimidations are men, for residents of Chitowa A  and B village in Ward 11 allegations are that Village head, Susan Sakupwanya has been spearheading intimidation in the area.

This intimidation includes forcing people to attend Zanu PF cell meetings and going door  to door collecting voter  registration slips serial numbers. It is alleged that those who have attempted to resist, have been threatened that they would be chased out of the village

Mutasa central Member of Parliament, Trevor Saruwaka who is an opposition politician with the MDC-T said that he had been receiving calls from a number of villagers from Chitowa village seeking help in getting the police to intervene.

“The collection of serial numbers has been rampant in villages and has left potential voters scared. Despite the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) clearly stating that requesting these slips from voters is a crime, it is still being done by especially Zanu PF politicians.

“The last time l reported a case to the police, they cautioned Sakupwanya. However, she still defies police warnings and continues to harass villagers to produce their serial numbers and forcing them to attend Zanu PF cell meetings ,”said Saruwaka.

He added that it was worrying that media is no longer following up on this form of intimidation and yet it is still very prominent.

George Buwu,  a villager of said ,” On Tuesday 17 April 2018 around 1600 hours, Village head Sakupwanya and her daughter Margret went around the village demanding that  we give her them our voter registration slips. I quickly raised the issue with Hon Saruwaka since we were told that it is against the law and human rights ,” he said.

Another villager, Nyere Bazil  said because of the door to door visits, they were now living in fear. Villager, Maria Chinwada, emphasised that fear was very high in the village as attempts to get the people to report the intimidation had failed.

“Villagers do not know that fear stands in the way of solutions. The perpetrators of intimidation feel powerful and when they do not see any reaction, they may think we are okay with their demands, ,”she said.

She added that on occassions that Village Head Sakupwanya had been confronted, she denied forcing people to attend cell meetings. Although some villagers maintained that she had said that if they did not surrender their o serial numbers to her it will automatically meant that we are supporters of the opposition party MDC T .

A female voter in the village, Miriam Mutasa said that women were most affected by the intimidation. She noted that during the meetings fertilizers and food stuffs are distributed, presenting a dilemma for them as they need the handouts.

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