The leaders said Sibanda was an unwelcome guest in their district and there was no reason why he should be allowed to continue striking fear into the hearts of the inhabitants of the drought-prone province.
Sibanda, who invaded Zaka a few weeks ago, has travelled the length and breath of the district drumming up support for President Robert Mugabe.
He is accompanied by hordes of war veterans who are determined to wrestle Zaka district in Masvingo province from the MDC-T. While some people may see nothing wrong with people canvassing support for their preferred candidates, it is Sibanda’s campaign methods that are causing anxiety, mostly among the communal leaders.
They said Sibanda’s primary business in Zaka was fear-mongering and witch-hunting for MDC supporters.
They noted that under an operation code named Budiranai Pachena, Sibanda was summoning villagers to meetings where he and the other war vets took turns to threaten villagers into disclosing those who supported the MDC-T.
Villagers said they were presented with two choices: either to support Zanu PF and live in peace or support MDC and face violent consequences from war veterans.
A village head who spoke on condition of anonymity said Sibanda was in the habit of threatening people and denouncing Tsvangirai. “We are constantly reminded that we will be severely beaten up if we vote for MDC-T again,” he said.
“They are not even afraid of talking about killing people.”
The village head said he was surprised that the powers that be, including Tsvangirai, are not taking the issue of Sibanda’s activities in Zaka seriously.
“We need our peace. We have never gone to Sibanda’s home area to disturb his peace, why should he be allowed to disturb our lives?”
Another angry village head said Sibanda and his charges had threatened to banish them to London if they failed to produce the lists of MDC-T supporters in their areas.
Zaka Rural District Council chairman, Peter Imbayarwo said Sibanda had perfected the art of fear-mongering.
“He (Sibanda) must have been trained to intimidate,” remarked Imbayarwo at Jerera growth point last week.
“When people leave his meetings, they are evidently struck by fear. It’s something that is worrying us, especially considering that we may go for elections next year.”
Imbayarwo said Sibanda’s threats were being taken seriously by villagers in Zaka who witnessed unmitigated violence during the 2008 elections.
“We live with people who sustained horrific injuries from the 2008 attacks. Sibanda and his group openly say they are going to finish them off. You can imagine the effect such statements can have on defenceless people.”
Imbayarwo is one of the people who are personally affected by such threats.
As coordinator of MDC-T activities in Zaka during the 2008 elections, he was part of the party activists who worked at the MDC-T makeshift office at Jerera which was petrol bombed by people in army uniform on June 3 2008.
Three MDC youths died on the spot and those who managed to survive sustained horrific injuries that haunt them up to this day.
Imbayarwo was away on party business in Masvingo town when the attack took place. Last Sunday he led us into the room where his colleagues perished.
For a minute, he stood quietly starring at the burnt-out walls that are clear evidence of the hideous work of the men in army uniform. He said the offices accommodated many people as they were also doubling as a safe house for victims of political violence. Some of these people were in transit to either Masvingo or Harare where they sought specialist treatment.
The place could at one time carry up to 40 people, he said, adding the assailants may have wanted to kill as many MDC-T youths as possible.
“Considering the atrocities that happened here, I don’t think Sibanda should be allowed to come and tell us that what happened here can be repeated in a big way,” said Imbayarwo.
“What he is doing is wrong and someone in authority should have the guts to tell him to leave us in peace.”
The MDC-T has said over 200 of its supporters were killed by suspected security agents in the run-up to the June 2000 violent elections.
The party last year forwarded names of the victims and those of the suspected murderers to the Attorney-General’s Office for prosecution but up to now no one has been charged.
The council chairman gave us an assessment of why Sibanda and his protégés may have targeted Zaka after his unpopular forays in Bikita.
Since independence, the district which is prone to poor rainfall and high temperatures was a stronghold of Zanu PF.
But things dramatically changed after March 2008 elections which ushered in an MDC-T dominated rural district council.
Out of the 33 contested wards, MDC-T got 20, with the remaining 13 going to Zanu PF.
For the parliamentary elections, out of the four constituencies at stake, three went to MDC-T and one to Zanu PF.
“The U-turn by Zaka inhabitants must have shocked them. This was a Zanu PF territory since independence, and for them violence is the only way to reclaim lost territory.”
Sibanda could not be reached for comment yesterday. He has however in the past denied that he is threatening people. Sibanda said he was peacefully campaigning and any suggestions that he was tormenting villagers were mischievous. – The Standard