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Lacoste in controversial landslide

The alleged G40 factional representative who pulled out of the Masvingo Zanu PF provincial chairmanship elections at the last minute, Mutero Masanganise has made damning allegations against military bosses in the province, accusing them of threatening the electorate against voting for him.

By Everson Mushava

Ezra Chadzamira

Ezra Chadzamira

Masanganise and another factional colleague, Munyaradzi Shoko, president of the Children of Zimbabwe War Veterans Association (Cozwa) who is believed to be a G40 provincial official, accused Major General Engelbert Rugeje of leading a terror campaign against Masanganise, resulting in his withdrawal from the race.

Despite Masanganise’s pull-out of the poll citing campaign irregularities, the election still proceeded yesterday in a one-man vote which saw Ezra Chadzamira, believed to be a Team Lacoste representative, cruising to an easy landslide victory.

Masanganise and Shoko accuse Rugeje, Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa and Psychomotor minister Josaya Hungwe, of orchestrating, through threats and bribe, a G40 annihilation in the poll. All the three accused are alleged allies of Vice-President Emmerson Munangagwa’s Lacoste faction.

They, however, deny the allegations, with Rugeje saying he is baffled by the accusations, claiming he had in fact assisted Shoko in his time of need. He dismissed as unfounded lies that he had deployed soldiers to threaten voters in the province, saying he was in fact in South Africa reading for his doctorate and was unaware of political developments in Masvingo.

Masanganise withdrew from participating in the polls through a letter to Zanu PF secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo which letter was copied to national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.

Although Masanganise refused to shed light on the irregularities which led to his pulling out yesterday, The Standard is informed the reason had to do with the role played by the military and the two top party officials in the province, Mahofa and Hungwe.

According to sources who preferred anonymity, army-led Chadzamira campaigners had become a common sight in the province campaigning through threats and other forms of pressure.

“They were covering all wards in Masvingo province, ordering Zanu PF supporters to vote for Chadzamira saying he was the party’s preferred candidate,” said one senior Zanu PF official.

Hungwe and Mahofa were also accused of using food aid to drum up support for Chadzamira.

In one instance, Rugeje allegedly clashed with Shoko over his spirited stance against Team Lacoste.

The Standard is in possession of text messages that were allegedly sent by Rugeje demanding that Shoko make peace with him.

Shoko confirmed the text messages, which he alleged Rugeje sent him after he unsuccessfully forced him to support Mnangagwa.

“Young man, you are being unfair to yourself. These groups that you continue to allege that I threatened; you tell me. Leave Bikita to us. You have crossed a very difficult line in your life. The war is on,” reads one of Rugeje’s alleged messages sent to Shoko on April 15.

“Answer my phone and know that I am very angry with you. By the way; ku Bikita kumusha kwangu [Bikita is my home].
If you talk rubbish about me, you are gone,” another of the 20 threatening messages sent on the same day reads.

Shoko said he unsuccessfully tried to open a crime docket against Rugeje with police in Bikita as he was referred to the Police Law and Order Department in Masvingo. He alleged the officers in Masvingo also refused to deal with the matter, saying only their officer-in-charge, who was not there, could handle it.

“One day at Afribank [in Masvingo], General Rugeje called me and asked me why I was working against VP Mnangagwa yet I come from Masvingo,” Shoko said.

Rugeje, a chief of staff in the army, is said to have been attending Zanu PF Masvingo Provincial Coordinating Committee meetings allegedly at the invitation of Hungwe and Mahofa when he is not in the party structures.

“I told him to stop threatening us and to stay in the barracks. As Cozwa, we are not deterred or intimidated by any one of these successionists who want to divide the country on tribal lines. He is banning me from Bikita but I cannot take a passport to access my birth place and right. He is abusing his office to do tribalism and factionalism,” Shoko charged.

Masanganise, in his letter to Chombo also fingered Rugeje, Mahofa and Hungwe for intimidating party supporters, ordering them to vote for Chadzamira.

“In fact, my opponent led by Cde Shuvai Mahofa and Cde Josaya Hungwe’s team, have intensified their activities by further illegally compromising party structures by the use of military personnel who are intimidating members in the rural constituencies. Major General Rugeje is at the centre of these activities,” Masanganise stated in his letter dated May 2.

Rugeje yesterday denied military involvement in the Zanu PF Masvingo factional wars. He said he was a serving member of the military whose duty was to protect the country and that he was not commanding any force to prop up Chadzamira.

“I don’t know why Masanganise has been mentioning my name. In fact, I am currently in South Africa studying for my Ph.D. I don’t even know what is happening in Masvingo,” Rugeje said.

On the issue of Shoko, Rugeje said he had only met him once and gave him a 20-litre fuel coupon when he was stranded and wanted to visit his home in Rusape.

“I asked him why he was saying bad things about me on social platforms but he said people were lying. He said that he respected me and never said anything bad,” Rugeje said.

He said he only visited Mahofa at her offices to discuss developmental issues.

Mahofa and Hungwe were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, Masvingo proceeded with the one-man election yesterday, with many districts casting their vote. However, there were unverified allegations that some people invited to preside over the elections were not in Zanu PF structures. They are said to have included a named well-known retired police officer.

In Bikita South, most voters were said to have snubbed the election, but Chadzamira was leading by wide margins in most constituencies.

Masanganise said he did not pull out, but decided not to participate because of several factors that needed to be addressed.

“If the issues are resolved, I will gladly participate,” Masanganise said yesterday.

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