Soldiers besiege Mutoko

SOLDIERS, together with Zanu PF supporters, have besieged Mutoko North and South constituencies, threatening to deny food aid to starving villagers if they do not support President Robert Mugabe’s party despite his call for an end to political violence.

Report by Wongai Zhangazha

Army officers from the 2.1 Infantry Battalion are force-marching villagers to Zanu PF meetings in the constituencies, according to villagers.

The terrified villagers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of harassment, said the soldiers were using black Loncin motorbikes, which are also being used by Zanu PF youths, ordering villagers to attend party meetings. Loncin is a leading Chinese manufacturer of motorcycles, scooters and engines.

The party recently acquired 550 vehicles — an assortment of single and double cab 4X4 vehicles including Toyota Hilux, Nissan NP300, Ford Ranger and Mazda BT50s valued at US$14 million — and motorbikes for 68 districts to ensure its campaign managers and foot soldiers reach all areas including remote districts to mobilise voters.

The soldiers, names supplied, have been addressing meetings at Mukombwe and Tsiga primary schools in Ward 26 where they are openly campaigning for Zanu PF.

“They come and address villagers who would have been ordered to gather by headmen, claiming to be prominent farmers telling people to register and vote for Zanu PF,” said one villager.

“These same people are known soldiers who used to work for Operation Maguta. They were also involved in the intimidation of villagers in the 2008 violence. The level of intimidation is serious; people are living in constant fear.”

Assistant Commissioner Everisto Pfumvuti, former Central Intelligence Organisation operative, one Shumbamhini, wife of former army officer, Mapiti Mushimbo, and Senator Edmond Jacob are fighting it out for the Mutoko South seat.

MDC-T Mashonaland East Jomic representative, Pineal Denga, said they have received reports of soldiers intimidating people.

Denga said: “What we have heard lately is that soldiers were given motorbikes and I can confirm seeing one truck (of soldiers) loaded with motorbikes on its way to Mutoko. These motorbikes are being used to intimidate villagers who are being told to vote for Zanu PF.

“The soldiers are even threatening that villagers who don’t support Zanu PF will not receive the drought relief support.”

Denga said Jomic would meet next week to discuss the issue.

The Zimbabwe National Army had not responded to questions e-mailed to its communications department by the time of going to press.

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