Tables turn on Zanu (PF) supporters

A fresh report by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) on civil and political rights violations across the country shows that Zanu (PF) supporters have become the new targets of political persecution as factionalism intensifies in the ruling party.

The report covered the period prior to the June 10 by-elections in 16 constituencies which Zanu (PF) scooped in the absence of serious opposition as the two MDC formations boycotted.

In the past, election related political violence was mainly targeted at supporters of the opposition.

“A new phenomenon observed in May is that the majority of the victims of violence are Zanu (PF). Traditionally, the majority of victims of political violence have been from the opposition MDC-T but with the increasing intra party conflict in Zanu PF, there is a reversal of this trend,” noted ZPP.

Politically motivated intimidation and harassment were intense in the Hurungwe West and Headlands constituencies which had been held by expelled Zanu (PF) stalwarts, Temba Mliswa and Didymus Mutasa, respectively.

The ruling party was particularly under pressure to win in Hurungwe West where Mliswa stood as an independent after being expelled for his alignment with fired former vice president, Joice Mujuru.

The peace watchdog also noted that there was an “unusually high number of ‘unknown’ victims amounting to 332 during the period reviewed as targets of persecution failed to reveal their political affiliation for fear of further harassment.

The ZPP report says factionalism in Zanu (PF) and the opposition is worsening.

“Factional fights have become the hallmark of Zimbabwean politics.

Factionalism has been noted across most of the political parties.

Within Zanu (PF), factional fights are escalating and cascading to lower structures of the party,” noted ZPP.

It attributed the growing factional fights in Zanu (PF) to the purge of party members linked to Mujuru, popularly known as the “gamatox” camp.

“Across the provinces, ZPP has recorded incidents of harassment and assault of suspected ‘gamatox’ members.

“The situation has deteriorated to the extent that in some provinces like Masvingo, committees have been established to monitor gamatox suspects,” said the NGO, which added that factional fights “have also been recorded within the opposition movement”.

On May 26, violence erupted at the MDC Renewal Team offices when the party’s treasurer-general, Elton Mangoma, was allegedly physically assaulted by an executive member of the party who accused him of adultery.

The ZPP survey also discovered that In all other constituencies facing by-elections Zanu (PF) used intimidation and harassment laced with hate language, said ZPP.

“Vote buying was the order of the day as villagers regularly received bags of rice and maize in Tsholotsho North, Headlands and Dangamvura-Chikanga.

“Another disturbing trend noted in the run up to the by-elections has been the use of food to coerce people to attend political meetings.

The use of food compromises the integrity of the campaign process as the use of food during campaigns is vote buying,” added the organisation.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Principles and guidelines on the implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights notes under Article 86 that states should refrain from using access to food as a political tool to reward supporters, punish opponents or recruit militias.

“Most people including school children lived in fear (during the by-election period) as most of the activities including meetings and the public assault of opponents happened in schools,” said ZPP.

It linked a flare up in violence two campaign meetings by Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.

In Bulawayo, intra-Zanu (PF) conflict, said ZPP, escalated with various party members accusing and counter accusing each other of belonging to wrong camps.

Those aligned to ousted former provincial party chairperson, Callistus Ndlovu were sidelined from contesting the by-elections as they were accused of being in the Mujuru camp.

The intra-party clashes were also recorded in other parts of southern Zimbabwe.

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