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Violence Grips Hurungwe West Ahead of Parly By-Election

FILE: A woman carrying a child casts her vote at a polling station in Domboshava, about 45 km (28 miles) north of Harare, July 31, 2013.

A member of Zimbabwe’s ruling party has been captured on video allegedly intimidating villagers in Hurungwe West to vote in favor of Zanu-PF ahead of parliamentary by-elections next month.

Violence and intimidation is escalating in most of the 16- constituencies ahead of the June 10th parliamentary by-elections. The epicenter of the violence remains Hurungwe West constituency, where expelled Zanu-PF lawmaker Temba Mliswa is battling it out with the ruling Zanu-PF’s Keith Guzha.

Hurungwe West villagers told VOA studio 7 that state security agents, retired army members and Zanu-PF youths have been deployed in the constituency and are terrorizing villagers.

Campaigning in the volatile constituency, Ignatius Chombo is recorded telling villagers that their headman will write down their names and herd them to the polling stations.

For years, opposition parties have been complaining about this practice without evidence. But Chombo unwittingly exposed the strategy.

“We are going to give a book to every headman in this constituency to write down the names of all people in his ward on Election Day. The head must lead his people to the polling station and ensure that everyone votes and their names are ticked,” said Chombo.

He was not available for comment as he was not responding to calls made on his mobile phone.

Reacting to the alleged intimidation, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network called upon the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to investigate the reported incidents of intimidation and abuse of traditional leaders in order to create an environment that will lead to the holding of free, fair and credible by-elections in the constituency.

In another statement, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) confirmed that members of the Central Intelligence Organization have been deployed in most schools in Hurungwe West and are threatening to abduct those who are supporting Mliswa.

ZPP also called on ZEC and the Zimbabwe Human Rights commission to intervene.

Reached for comment, ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau said that she was not in the office and will be prepared to respond next week.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said reports of violence are a cause for serious concern.

“We’ve been checking all elections since the harmonized elections in 2013, and in all our reporting as the Election Resource Centre, we’ve indicated that we remain very worried by the failure of the political parties in Zimbabwe to respond to what observers have often said are incidents of malpractices, that render our election process unfree, unfair and not credible. So it is quite disturbing but not surprising to be hearing reports out of Hurungwe West.”

In Harare, some smaller opposition parties are also complaining about the intimidation and violence allegedly caused by Zanu-PF. Media and liaison officer Leonard Kone of the Progressive Democratic Party said Zanu-PF youths are disrupting their campaigns.

“We are facing a challenge of violence, intimidation from our members, because some of our posters right now are being removed, torn into pieces. Obviously we suspect the Zanu-PF youth who are doing such things, because as soon as we put our poster, you see a Zanu-PF poster on top of our poster.”

Zanu-PF candidate Guzah refused to comment, saying he is not aware of any radio station known as VOA Studio 7.

Following reports of alleged violence, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is believed to have sent a high powered delegation to Hurungwe West to investigate reports.