Fears of political violence grip Bikita ahead of the byelection
BIKITA- Smarting from its first election defeat since the 2013 harmonized election the ruling Zanu PF party has vowed to use all means possible to retain the Bikita West parliamentary seat which fell vacant following the conviction and subsequent incarceration of Munyaradzi Kereke who was the area’s legislator.
Fears of political violence have gripped the constituency as the ruling party’s provincial chairman Amasa Nhenjana has ordered all party members to use all methods possible to retain the seat in a by-election scheduled for next year.
“We have to retain this seat at all costs,”said Nhenjana. “If it means we have to pray to defend our seat we will do so and if it means harassing people to win the seat we have no option but to to it,”he said.
“We are campaigning and we hope this will bring positive results because we can afford to go the Norton way,”said Nhenjana referring to the Norton by-election which the party lost to independent candidate Themba Mliswa.
Villagers in the drought hit constituency have expressed concern over fears of political violence following Nhenjana’s remarks.
“We are already living in fear because right now we are being forced to attend Zanu PF campaign meetings ,”said Innocent Jarava of Negovano village in Bikita West constituency.
“At these Zanu PF campaign meetings we are being threatened with death if we do not vote for Beauty Chabaya who is the party candidate,”he added.
Another villager Faustino Mugari said although no incident of political violence has been reported they are living in fear of political violence.
“A cloud of uncertainty hangs over us as we fear that violence might engulf this area anytime since Zanu PF officials have made threats to that effect,”said Mugari.
“At every ZANU PF campaign meeting people are reminded of the liberation struggle and threatened with death if the do not vote for the party,”he added.
President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF has over the years been accused by opposition political parties of using violence to retain power.
Mugabe and his party has however denied the allegations
In 2001 Bikita West constituency resembled a war zone following a by-election pitting the then Zanu PF candidate retired Colonel Claudius Makova and then MDC-T candidate Bonnie Pakai.
Zanu PF and MDC-T members fought several running battles which claimed at least five lives. The ruling party’s campaign was then being spearheaded by the late war veterans leader Chenjerai Hunzvi
The seat had fallen vacant following the death of MDC-T ‘s Amos Mutongi who had won the polls in the year 2000.
President Robert Mugabe has not yet set the date for by-election but government sources say polling will take place on January 21.
Zanu PF’s Beauty Chabaya will battle it out with Mardock Chivasa of the National Constitutional Assembly NCA and Zimbabwe People First’s Kudakwashe Gopo in the by-election.
The country’s main opposition the MDC-T is boycotting the polls arguing that the electoral paying field is not level.
The party however said it will support opposition candidates in fighting Zanu PF.