Temperatures boil over in volatile Lupane

Loughty Dube

TEMPERATURES are running high in Lupane as Zanu PF and the opposition MDC square up in a crucial by-election starting tomorrow.



ns-serif”>Up to 64 MDC youths were on Tuesday arrested on allegations of assaulting Zanu PF members during the week. They were later released without a charge.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) in a statement yesterday said the situation was volatile in the constituency.

“The political temperature has since risen,” Zesn said, “with the unleashing of war veterans and youths by Zanu PF and the MDC’s retaliation through its youths as well.”

“Thus the political environment, especially when assessed from the electorate’s point of view, is that of fear, while others are keen to get over and done with this election so that their lives can hopefully return to normal.”

The election is a key test for both parties on their level of support ahead of the general election next year.

The MDC is seeking to maintain its stranglehold on Matabeleland North where it collected all the contested seats in 2000 while Zanu PF is seeking a breakthrough in a province where it is regarded with suspicion if not outright resentment.

The peaceful campaign period was shattered this week when Zanu PF supporters and war veterans attacked a team of MDC activists who were putting up posters for a star rally.

The MDC candidate, Njabuliso Mguni, said he was optimistic of victory in this weekend’s election that pits him against Zanu PF’s Martin Khumalo.

“Despite acts of intimidation by war veterans our campaign is on course and I am confident that I will win,” Mguni said this week.

He however said he was disturbed that the MDC was not getting protection from the police when war veterans disrupted several of the party’s meetings.

The Zanu PF deputy national commissar, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, also said his party was confident of snatching the Lupane seat from the MDC.

“Preparations for this weekend’s election have been thorough and we are confident of winning the Lupane seat,” said Ndlovu.

“We have done our homework, the party lost in 2000 because we were not listening to the people but things have changed now,” Ndlovu said.

He said the government, through Zanu PF, had been developing Lupane so that it meets its status as the provincial capital.

This week both parties held several rallies to drum up last-minute support ahead of tomorrow’s elections.

Several Zanu PF leaders, including Elliot Manyika, Andrew Langa and Ignatius Chombo, addressed rallies in the constituency while MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai addressed the party’s star rally at Somhlolo stadium on Wednesday.

Zesn said Zanu PF youths and war veterans staying at bases in the constituency were harassing and intimidating the opposition as well as force-marching the electorate to the ruling party’s rallies.

The report includes a list of incidents of violence, most of which were perpetrated by Zanu PF supporters.

“At Mkhombo primary school there was a base for Zanu PF youths who, when they spotted the Zesn vehicle, stopped it and were interested in knowing Zesn’s business in Lupane.