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Red flag raised over Bikita West poll

Human rights and civic organisations have raised a red flag over alleged rigging in the upcoming Bikita West by-election following claims by villagers that Zanu PF was only giving food aid and farming inputs to its supporters.

BY TATENDA CHITAGU

The revelations were made at a meeting of rights defenders from Bikita West convened by the Election Resource Centre (ERC), Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) in Masvingo on Friday.

There are fears of a repeat of the bloody 2001 by-election in the constituency.

The monitors from the three organisations narrated threats of retributive violence by Zanu PF officials, some of whom were recorded threatening that there would be trouble if Zanu PF candidate Beauty Chabaya lost.

“We were told that we will be expelled from the area if Chabaya does not win, or they will deploy soldiers to deal with us.

“Some of the Zanu PF officials sometimes pin-pointed suspected MDC-T supporters and made unspecified threats to them,” one of the villagers in the meeting, whose identity could not be disclosed for security reasons, said.

Others said they were being forced to attend Zanu PF rallies and meetings, while food aid was only being given to party supporters after producing proof that they had registered to vote in the by-election.

“The food is being given to Zanu PF supporters only after producing voter registration slips.

“Some of the officials took serial numbers of the voter registration slips and said they will be able to track those that did not vote for Zanu PF.

“Others were ordered to register at specific polling stations in the area that are not of their choice,” said another lady.

Flashpoints of the vice are Wards five, nine, 10, 11, 12 and 32, said the monitors who are on the ground where Zanu PF youths are said to have told villagers to fake illiteracy so as to be assisted to vote.

“With such submissions, it is unlikely that the by-election is going to be free, fair and credible.

“As usual, Zimbabwe is synonymous with disputed elections. We have seen a lot of electoral frauds here and there and that entails a nation that fails to run elections with all the provisions of democracy. Bikita West is not going to be unique; it will be just like other by-elections we have seen.

“Indications are that it is very difficult for the people to exercise their rights without being muzzled,” ZimRights director, Okay Machisa said.

He said the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission investigated the cases after they appealed, but said its recommendations may not be implemented.

ERC executive director Tawanda Chimhini said rigging had already started in Bikita West. Rigging, Chimhini said, did not start on the polling day.

HZT director Rashid Mahiya said his organisation would hold a peace concert next week Thursday at Nyika Growth point to forge political tolerance among political activists in Bikita West.

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