The three who included the party’s youth secretary in the area Moses Mandigo were forced to tell soldiers anything that may lead to the arrest of the legislator for the area Oliver Chirume, provincial secretary for Information and Masvingo Urban legislator Tongai Matutu and party Chairman for Masvingo Wilstuff Sitemere.
“We were rounded up by about twelve soldiers who took us to the barracks where they started to accuse us of various crimes. The soldiers whose names we were not told started to force us to tell them the party’s ways of operations…we told them that we were too junior to tell them that.
“After going through the contact numbers in our phones, they then forced us to phone Chirume (MP) and pretend as if we were out to bomb the barracks. Because we were afraid, we just followed the commandments but Chirume was baffled by our gesture and shouted at us before switching off his mobile. We tried to do the same to Matutu and Sitemere but their mobile numbers were not reachable,” said Mandigo.
The three were later released without any incident but were told they may be picked up again if the need arises.
Chirume confirmed the incident.
“I am still shocked. I don’t know why they go to these extreme levels in order to paint us black. We are not villains. I was not aware that our youth were detained and forced to ask me nonsensical questions and I shouted at them… and my response to their calls saved them,” said Chirume.
Meanwhile, Soldiers from the Zimbabwe National Army(ZNA) have embarked on a door to door terror campaign in Gutu threatening villagers to vote for President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party in next year’s touted elections.
The military men are allegedly moving from house to house instructing the rural folks to support Zanu (PF) or risk losing their lives if they disobey their orders promising a devastating war should the party lose to long time political rivals Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
A recent visit by Radio VOP to Gutu during the Christmas break holiday revealed that the soldiers deployed from the district’s 4-2 infantry battalion were moving in troops of over 10 sometimes clad in their military fatigue and armed with AK-47 assault rifles. They have re-established bases that were used to torture opposition activists during the violent 2008 presidential elections run-off.
Villagers told Radio VOP that they were living in fear by continued threats and visits at their homesteads by the soldiers.
“Our families are so scared and frightened by the soldiers who have been making frequent visits to our homes forcing us to support Zanu (PF). This is very bad and our children are now even afraid of moving freely in the villagers as they were told that soldiers were deployed everywhere waiting to kill villagers,” said Tavakotsa Chikunhuwe from Makonese village in Gutu east.
Another villager said the elections should not be held next year as evidence of political violence has already been shown by the soldiers who are threatening them and forcing them to tow the Zanu (PF) line.
“I think these elections should not be held next year as some symptoms of political violence are beginning to show up, a good example is that of these marauding soldiers moving around our villagers promising a blood bath if we do not vote for Zanu (PF),” said Tichivnagni Mutamba.
She added that the action by the former ruling party of deploying the military in the rural area ensures that the elections would not be free and fair so there was no point of holding them.
Although ZNA provincial spokesperson, Kingston Chivave and Zanu (PF) party chairmen here could not be reached for a comment, MDC Gutu chairman, Lloyd Mufudze confirmed to Radio VOP that soldiers were terrorising villagers and party supporters in his district.
“It’s very true that they are moving door to door harassing and intimidating villagers especially those perceived to be our supporters. We think that the activities of the soldiers are in violation of the GPA and be stopped forth with,” said Mufudze.
He added that at some instances they have received reports of villagers who were assaulted by the soldiers for discussing political at different business centre and blamed Zanu (PF) of abusing state security agents to intimidate people and force them to support it ahead of election next year in a bid to steal the polls.
Business and Civic community have called for the postponement of elections next year, saying the country was not yet ready and urged the principals of the inclusive government to concentrate in rebuilding the economy and bring back investor confidence.
Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Chiefs Council President, Chief Fortune Charumbira on Monday ordered chiefs to whip people into voting Zanu (PF) party ahead of elections next year.
“I urge you chiefs to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the 2008 scenario here in Masvingo where we only won one seat. No, No, No. You should mend the people and educate them so that we do not lose to the MDC," said the chief.
He was addressing hundreds of people and other traditional leaders at his farm in Mushandike irrigation scheme. Charumbira said chiefs had to ensure that Zanu (PF) PF will regain lost seats which went to Prime Minister Morgan Tsangirai’s larger MDC party. Zanu (PF) only secured one seat in the district.
Mugabe who visited the area last week donated 60 tonnes of maize seed and 60 tonnes of fertiliser, to be distributed by chiefs. Mugabe also donated 1 500 gum tree seedlings, 300 guavas and 200 Munyii trees to the traditional leaders.
“The MDC cannot boast of having control in a district where the President’s uncle is chief and where he also hails from. We know people erred in last elections, but guide them this time so that they will not lose focus,” said Charumbira.
– Radio VOP