Air force officer behind pungwes

HARARE - A senior air force of Zimbabwe officer has been named as one of several military officers leading a campaign to force villagers in Manicaland to attend Zanu (PF) political meetings in the province.

Air Commodore Innocent Chiganze, whose name has become synonymous with terror in Makoni district, is a Nigerian trained fighter pilot. Instead of concentrating on his flying skills, the Air Commodore has been accused of waging an undeclared war on civilians in Manicaland. The former St Augustine Penhalonga high school pupil, who began his career in the air force flying fighter jets at Thornhill airbase in Gweru, is reportedly leading a ragtag unit of war veterans and militias pressing villagers to attend pro-Zanu (PF) meetings.

Kariba draft force fed

One such meeting will be held at Jani resettlement area in Makoni South on Friday beginning at 9am, where its been reported villagers will be told to support the Kariba draft. A local MDC councillor said that Chief John Rukweza, allegedly on Chiganzes orders, instructed all headmen and village chairmen to tell people based in their areas to attend the meeting without fail.

We have 34 headmen under Chief Rukweza in Makoni South and each of them leads about 300 to 400 villagers. You are looking at an entire constituency of about 13,000 people being forced to attend tomorrows (Friday) meeting, the councillor said. Villagers have been warned that if they fail to attend the meeting theyll either have their resettlement permits cancelled or ejected from the area altogether. Concerned by this apparent political blackmail, headmen and village heads approached the MDC in the constituency for advice.

Dont go MDC

Were telling our supporters not to attend any of these meetings. They shouldnt be afraid because if it means dying we all die together. We see Chiganze here almost every week and we know hes the one coordinating the war veterans and militias who are moving at night visiting known MDC activists and ordering them to attend these meetings. Its not a secret that they want to force us to adopt the Kariba draft, the councillor said. The councilors views were echoed by the MDC-T MP for the area, Muchauraya, who said individuals should refuse to be arm twisted or forced to support what they dont like.

Its not just Manicaland that is being affected. There have been reports from Mashonaland East, that Zanu (PF) have sent delegations to the area, under the pretence of talking about the constitution. But they are holding rallies where they threaten violence if the MDC are allowed to win the referendum or even allowed to come onto the property to talk about the constitution.

While the majority of Zimbabweans have overwhelmingly rejected the use of the Kariba draft as a basis for the new constitution, hardliners within Zanu (PF) insist on using the document, negotiated in secret on a houseboat on Lake Kariba three years ago. The draft leaves the president with vast powers, something Zimbabweans no longer want.

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