ZANU PF has promised to give incentives to hundreds of traditional leaders in Masvingo province for them to mobilise people to vote for the party during the 2023 general election while also moving to make village heads cell chairpersons in a move that has infuriated the opposition.
This was disclosed by the party’s second secretary Kembo Mohadi (pictured) during a one-week visit to the province a fortnight ago where he met traditional leaders together with Zanu PF district coordinating committee (DCC) members in all districts.
The use of traditional leaders by the ruling party is one of the issues usually raised by opposition parties like the Citizens’ Coalition for Change as a rigging tactic used by Zanu PF to threaten rural folks. The ruling party usually dominates in rural areas but in 2008 the opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai managed to win three constituencies in Zaka as well as in Bikita and Gutu.
Mohadi promised to give the traditional leaders, including all village heads, US$50 on a monthly basis and a bicycle, a move seen by opponents and analysts as a vote-buying gimmick meant to force community leaders to mobilise for the party. Traditional leaders have often been used to threaten and intimidate villagers during the election period.
In some cases traditional leaders have been known to keep voting registers working in laison with Zanu PF officials.
In Zaka, Mohadi appealed to the community leaders to ensure that what happened to 2008 should not
be repeated and all those who support the opposition should be brought to book. Back in 2008, the then president Robert Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential election to the MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai, forcing a runoff which resulted in the military taking over the ruling party’s campaign and unleashing violence which resulted in the opposition leader pulling out of the race.
A chief from Chiredzi told The NewsHawks Mohadi’s tour of all districts of Masvingo was good but it was misguided since he is no longer a government employee and was unable to answer critical questions raised by traditional leaders. He said his visit was aimed at mobilising traditional leaders so that they campaign for the ruling party in 2023.
“We thought his visit was going to solve many issues like approved chieftainships which are taking long before being legally installed. This is an issue which needs urgent attention. Promising village heads and headmen extra money and bicycles so that they mobilise people to join Zanu PF cells and structures is something some of us are not comfortable with. This will affect our leadership in communities,” said the chief who requested not to be named.
A village head from Masvingo West who attended Mohadi’s meeting at Nemamwa said village heads are being paid peanuts by government and it is surprising that they are now being promised foreign currency just because they want to use them.
CCC spokesperson for Masvingo province Derick Charamba told The NewsHawks that what Mohadi was doing in Masvingo is nonsensical. Charamba said the ruling party cannot declare that village heads are now cell chairpersons of Zanu PF yet they should be leaders of everyone, including those with divergent views.
“All what he was doing in Masvingo is nonsense, considering that he cannot come and make a declaration that all village heads are now chairpersons of Zanu PF cells in their villages. A traditional leader is for all people, including those in opposition hence they should not be involved in politics,” said Charamba.
Addressing a belated World Press Freedom Day commemoration organised by the Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Masvingo chapter at Sikato Primary School on Saturday, Chief Nemamwa said traditional leaders should not be involved in politics as outlined in the constitution of Zimbabwe. He said chiefs are leaders of people with different opinions and they should accept that without favouring some.
A snap survey by The NewsHawks in different parts of the province found that, since the week Mohadi met traditional leaders, many people are now being forced to attend ruling party meetings in their areas, with village heads declaring that they were given powers to arraign those who miss ruling party meetings to their courts for hearing.
In Masvingo North and Zaka district, village heads were seen leading proceedings during Zanu PF “cell day” a weekend ago. The traditional leaders were telling villagers that they will receive farming inputs in line with meeting attendance registers.