THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been petitioned by the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change leadership in Gutu over reports of an orgy of violence orchestrated in the district by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally and Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi (pictured).
In the electoral petition dated 10 July 2023 obtained by The NewsHawks this week, CCC Gutu cluster district elections officer Lloyd Mupfudze wrote that Zec, urging the commission to charge Togarepi for violating the electoral code of conduct for political parties which emphasises on the need to uphold peaceful campaigns.
The code applies to all election candidates. Togarepi is the Zanu PF candidate for Gutu West constituency and current legislator for the area.
Mupfudze’s electoral petition against the lawmaker was adressed to Zec’s Gutu district elections officer, Augustine Musasa.
Part of the petition reads: “We are writing to express our grave concern about violence and intimidation targeted at Citizens Coalition for Change members who were lawfully gathering at Mawungwa business centre in Gutu South constituency for a Campaign Launch on the 7th of July 2023.
“We are also gravely concerned by the reported torture of CCC council candidate for ward 25 Martin Muremba and four others following their alleged abduction at Mawungwa business centre on Friday, 7 July 2023 early morning after they attempted to attend the gathering mentioned above.”
Approximately 30 CCC activists, including candidates, according to the petition, were beaten up either at the venue of the meeting or on their way to it, and after the meeting on their return home.
“They were severely beaten and many suffered broken limbs. We are disturbed that the police despite their heavy presence failed to protect the innocent citizens who were simply exercising their freedoms.
“We are also deeply concerned by the failure by ZANU PF Party, its Candidate (Togarepi) and Supporters to comply with the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates compelling political participants and stakeholders to engage in peaceful conduct during political campaigns,” reads the document.
In the petition, Mupfudze said on 6 July 2023 at about 6pm a grey Toyota Land Cruiser double cab belonging to Togarepi was seen dropping off more than a dozen of youths clad in Zanu PF campaign regalia at Mawungwa Business Centre.
“They were dropped in front of a grocery shop belonging to Taka Rashai who is also Zanu PF candidate for ward 24. On the 7th day of July 2023 Zanu PF activists started to beat up CCC supporters who were coming to the meeting. They beat and abducted CCC candidate for ward 25 Martin Muremba with four others.
“Shops were forced to close. They continued to sing, dance and chant slogans at Mawungwa business centre as well as gathering at the school grounds purporting to be having their own meeting with their food being prepared at Rashai’s grocery shop.
“They spent close to 6 hours intimidating CCC supporters who were coming to grace the occasion, as well as making attempts to invade the actual gathering. This all happened in the presence of the police in particular Gutu Officer-in-Charge Muyambo. At around 4pm at the end of the event Zanu PF activists started to beat up people.
“The attacks continued until Saturday 8 July 2023 reaching out to other business centres like Mugoni targeting known and perceived Citizens’ Coalition for Change Supporters. On the 6th of July 2023 it is also reported that there where random attacks at Muchechete Business centre forcing the closure of shops and leaving behind people with injuries.”
Mupfudze said Togarepi, through his invlovement in the violence through sponsoring the hit squad, must be found guilty of violating the code of conduct and face disqualifiaction from contesting the 23 August elections.
Zec’s code of conduct in paragraph 5 stipulates that: “No political party or any of itsmembers or supporters, and no candidate, any of his or her supporters and no stakeholders may — (a) use violence, or threaten violence or incite or encourage the use of violence, against anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party or participation in the election; (b) intimidate, or incite or encourage the intimidation, of anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party; or act in a way that may provoke violence or intimidation.”
Mupfudze further called upon Zec to urgently convene an urgent multi-party liaison committee meeting to discuss the matter.
Contacted for a comment by The NewsHawks, Togarepi said the accussations against him were “all lies.”
“The reports are all lies. Some of the people they say were with me committing violence were not even in Gutu on that day. In fact it was the CCC which brought people from Masvingo to cause violence in our area. My campaign was peaceful. Even when Chamisa came in the area to meet his supporters, he saw me with a bigger crowd than he was with,” said Togarepi.
CCC has faced challenges in its campaigns in Gutu.
On 3 July 2023, the party notified the Masvingo East district police regulatory authority of its intention to conduct a campaign launch at Makombo grounds in ward 34 in Gutu central constituency.
In response, Masvingo East district police regulatory authority Taurai Joachim Mambure informed the party that it was not possible for the CCC to conduct its campaign launch at the venue since the venue was already booked for sporting activities by other political players.
He advised the CCC to submit a new notification letter with an alternative venue outside Gutu central constituency where the party intended to hold its event.
The developments therefore meant that the opposition party could not campign in its prefered area at the time of its own choice.
The trend has happened elsewhere in the country, raising concerns that the political playing field ahead of the 23 August elections is not even.