AS the nation slowly descends into the election season, one hopes that the “new” government under President Emmerson Mnangagwa — as well as Zanu PF — will totally break away from the past as they are parroting.

But reports on the ground appear to suggest a different story, particularly when party supporters threaten traditional leaders to throw their weight behind Zanu PF when they are supposed to be apolitical.

During former President Robert Mugabe’s reign, it had become the norm that traditional leaders across the country had become appendages of Zanu PF and the people who marched in the streets to pressurise the former leader to step down were hoping that such a political culture would go down with its patron.

If Mnangagwa is honest in his new gospel of “Zimbabwe is open for business” then he should read the riot act to his supporters, so that they stop harassing traditional leaders or railroading them into supporting Zanu PF if they so want.

This will be one of his litmus tests as he seeks to gain acceptance both locally and internationally.

There is a widespread feeling that while the damage done under Mugabe cannot be repaired overnight, the new government has so far failed to even do some of the most basic things to really prove that indeed, the story has changed and the intimidation of traditional leaders to support Zanu PF is one of those contentious areas.

If the voice of the people is indeed the voice of God as Mnangagwa would have us believe, then he is duty-bound to stamp his authority and rein in his party’s foot soldiers, particularly in the rural areas, who are in the business of intimidating people to vote for Zanu PF.

It is tragic that chiefs would be threatened with unspecified action if Zanu PF loses seats in their chieftainships.

These can only be signs of a new “error” rather than a new era. One of the true marks of a democracy is when people are allowed to vote whoever they want without being arm-twisted.