Student elections in Zimbabwe have always been hotly contested.
Now with a day to go before union polls at the Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe National Students’ Union leader at the university, Joana Mamombe, says First Lady Grace Mugabe’s name is being used by Zanu PF activists who are meddling in student politics.
Mamombe, who is vying for the presidency in the university’s Students Representative Council, says the Zimbabwe Congress of Students’ Union (ZICOSU) is distributing T-shirts emblazoned with the face of the First Lady, a move she says is desperate and also meant to intimidate students into voting for candidates with links to the ruling party.
He said, “We are seeing that our main opponents ZICOSU have roped in (Mrs.) Grace Mugabe who provided them with 1,500 T-shirts to use (for campaigning). It’s a form of intimidation, these elections are focusing on student issues but surprisingly they are bringing in national politics where they intimidate students by wearing these unconquerable t-shirts of (Mrs.) Grace Mugabe … so to us it’s very unfair because we expect this election to be fair and to focus on student issues not national politics.”
Mamombe said the ZINASU has petitioned the university administration and security to demand that ZICOSU members be told to stop wearing the Grace Mugabe T-shirts.
But ZICOSU aspiring presidential candidate Watson Mabasa defended his team for wearing the first lady’s T-shirts.
“These are our parents nothing should stop us from wearing T-shirts with Amai Mugabe because our ideologies are the same,” he said.
The message on the T-shirts reads, “Gore rino tichadzidza zvakawanda” literally meaning “this year we will learn a lot” in the front and on the back the message continues: “Gore rezvidzidzo-Unconquerable-munhu wese kuna amai” or ‘the year of learning, unconquerable – everyone to the First Lady.”
Zanu PF sources, who declined to be identified at the Chinhoyi Zanu PF provincial offices, distanced the party from student elections, adding the T-shirts had not been distributed by them.
But ZICOSU aspiring secretary-general Tawanda Marange insisted that they were given the T-shirts by the first lady during a rally at Murombedzi Growth point.
Despite their differences, both ZINASU and ZICOSU are in agreement, through their manifestos, that learning conditions are tough at the university where some students are still taking classes under trees.
Most students are loving the campaigns because to them it means free meals from aspiring candidates.
At least eight candidates are vying for the presidency of the university students’ union as many students complain that the administration should create a better learning environment for them.