VILLAGERS in ward 27 of Gutu South have defied the common myth in Zimbabwe’s politics which says Zanu PF is dominant in rural areas by voting for an opposition councillor since the year 2006 despite being sidelined from many public programmes by the Zanu PF government.
Jeffrey Tangemhare, who was first elected in 2006 on a Movement for Democratic Change ticket, is now an alderman after being re-elected in 2008, 2013 and 2018.
He recently informed villagers that he had run his course and will no longer be available to contest in any election, but villagers in his area turned down his request and asked him to contest in 2023.
As is the case in other areas led by opposition councillors, Tangemhare is sidelined from many government programmes like the Presidential Inputs Scheme and social welfare aid distribution. Recently, a programme funded by a well-known donor was cancelled by ruling party officials despite the programme being designed to benefit school children in his area.
Ward 27 under Chief Makore is also the home of member of Parliament for Gutu South Pupurai Togarepi but villagers continue to vote for the opposition in the area despite his presence.
Villagers who spoke to The NewsHawks during a visit to the area last week said they attend all Zanu PF meetings, but during elections they vote for the opposition and they will not change. They added that despite threats of violence, they are determined to challenge any ruling party candidate fielded in their area.
“We’ve voted for the opposition since 2006 and l am happy to tell you that from that year up to now, we have a single councillor and we are still confident of his leadership qualities. We are a rural ward, but we are not afraid of anything. They tried to intimidate us on several occasions, but we are not moved. It is our hope that in 2023 more rural wards will emulate what we are doing here and vote for change,” said a community leader.
“This area was neglected by ruling party politicians since 1980 and the situation was worsened by the late legislator Shuvai Mahofa and from that time we agreed as the community that we should find an alternative solution, which is voting for a proper leader. Our area is behind in terms of development, if you look at our local township, Muvunde, you can see that we do not have electricity and proper toilets despite having a power line nearby,” said a local businessman.
Tangemhare told The NewsHawks that as a leader he always consults his people on all development issues. He said the local legislator and ruling party activists are always throwing spanners in all his programmes including blocking a scheme by World Vision aimed at assisting school children in his area.
“There is a donor, World Vision, who came to my area with the intention to assist school children and the issue was at an advanced stage of implementation when state security agents and ruling party activists visited my home at night with the intention of abducting me but luckily l was not at home. They then tried to stop the programme which was supposed to benefit thousands of pupils in seven schools in our ward. I have been the councillor for ward 27 since 2006, but l am not allowed to lead the Presidential Input Scheme and social welfare programmes and these programmes are implemented by a Zanu PF shadow councillor who is abusing these programmes,” said Tangemhare.
Citizens’ for Coalition Change spokesperson for Masvingo province Derick Charamba told The NewsHawks that Tangemhare wanted to step down as a councillor in 2023, but the party consulted ward 27 people, who said they still need him.
“Tangemhare is the Citizens’ Coalition for Change chairperson for Gutu South. He has been the councillor for that area since 2007, making him the longest-serving opposition councillor in Masvingo with other serving councillors in Zaka and Bikita coming in 2008,’’ Charamba said.
The MP for Gutu South, Togarepi, told The NewsHawks that it is not true that he is sabotaging Tangemhare but the issue of a donor coming to ward 27 was not unusual since people wanted to steal money from the community by asking them to pay money to join the programme. He said as a legislator his role does not allow him to interfere with a councillor’s business.
“Those people are not telling you the truth, but what l can tell you is l have never heard of a donor who demands money from people before giving them assistance. Those people wanted to steal money from our people as they asked them to pay money before getting assistance. We work with many organisations and l can tell you that our relationship with World Vision is good and we have nothing against it; our only worry is when people are asked to pay money before being assisted,” said Togarepi.