Soldiers take charge of inputs scheme

The army has taken over the distribution of farm inputs in parts of Manicaland province under a controversial operation that sees the security forces working with Zanu (PF) and traditional chiefs to disenfranchise known MDC-T supporters in the region, The Zimbabwean learnt this week.

The operation, code named “Operation Zunde Ramambo” and being done through the traditional chiefs, has seen soldiers from the Three Brigade based in Mutare being deployed to various parts of the province to spearhead the Zanu (PF) campaign strategy under the guise of leading an exercise to improve food security.

The soldiers are openly campaigning for President Robert Mugabe, telling the villagers they would be killed if they do not vote for Zanu (PF) in polls likely to take place by March 2013.

Senior MDC-T officials in the province told The Zimbabwean this week that the soldiers have instructed traditional leaders in areas such as Chipinge, Chimanimani and Nyanga to compile names of their subjects who are known MDC-T supporters.

The listed MDC-T supporters are being denied free seeds and fertiliser which are only going to Zanu (PF) activists.

“In some of the affected areas, our supporters have been told to go get the inputs from (Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai because the seeds and fertiliser currently being distributed belonged to Mugabe,” a provincial MDC-T official said.

This is despite the fact that seeds and fertiliser are part of a government-initiated subsidised input scheme announced by Finance Minister Tendai Biti recently.

The official also revealed the MDC-T was reliably informed that the lists of its supporters compiled by the traditional leaders were being handed over to the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) in Mutare which was allegedly working with the Registrar General’s Office to doctor the voters’ roll.

“We have it on good authority that CIO is also involved in this operation, whereby it is conniving with the Registrar General’s Office to remove the names or alter information of known MDC supporters on the voters’ roll,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation by the army.

The Zimbabwean could not verify this information with Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede. The incidents in Manicaland are part of a wider Zanu (PF) campaign to victimise and intimidate opponents ahead of the elections.

The campaign to cow opponents ahead of the polls has also seen a spike in incidents of political violence across the country, with human rights groups reporting a rise in cases of violence and human rights abuses – including assault, intimidation, rape and torture.

Traditional chiefs from Manicaland province have also already been summoned to a “indoctrination workshop” where Three Brigade commander Douglas Nyikayaramba allegedly told them to support Zanu (PF) or they would be deposed from their positions.

Zimbabwe is next year looking to hold a referendum on a new constitution followed by elections that many analysts have warned could see a return to violence without political, security and electoral reforms.

Zimbabwe’s elections have been characterized by political violence and gross human rights abuses with the last vote in 2008 ending inconclusively after the military-led campaign of violence and murder that forced then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from a second round presidential ballot.

A power-sharing government formed by Mugabe and Tsvangirai after the flopped poll was tasked to stabilise the economy, easy political tensions and write a new and democratic constitution that would ensure future elections are free and fair.

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