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Bulawayo Agenda trends analysis
Bulawayo Agenda

December 07, 2012

Bulawayo Agenda has been monitoring the political developments in the areas in which it operates and realises that in this period towards the watershed elections there have been worrying developments worth noting. We have received reports, confirmed and unconfirmed, observed and experienced through our networks and program staff a deteriorating democratic space. Clandestine terror (intimidation) campaigns, vote buying, denial of clearances for meetings and increased threats to civil society. Below are some of the noted cases;

ZANU PF terror campaign rears ugly head-Matabeleland North


Lupane - In the furtherance of the 'carrot and stick' approach in electioneering, ZANU PF has allegedly deployed the army to roll out a terror campaign, the Chinese to bait the communities, threatened civil society and distributed maize seed and food aid ahead of the forthcoming watershed elections, Bulawayo Agenda has learnt.

The unconfirmed reports have also alleged that Governor Mathuthu on Wednesday, the 5th of December met with the army officials, the police, unidentified Chinese, the Lupane President's office among other stakeholders to discuss election strategies. The meeting allegedly identified Civil Society as a 'national security risk' that needed to be clamped down.

The army officers, stationed in Lupane have allegedly been intimidating villagers through a clandestine terror campaign in Shabula and other villages in the surrounding areas where they are telling them to vote for ZANU PF as they have been given maize seed and food aid.

Minister Obert Mpofu who is the Member of Parliament for Umguza has also allegedly been distributing food aid and making other promises and feigning a peaceful political campaign from as far and wide as Victoria Falls to Umguza and Bubi. The desperation comes on the heels of a recent literal conversion of the Lupane State University graduation ceremony into a ZANU PF function.

Police bar Bulawayo Agenda activity


Gwanda - Police in Gwanda have barred Bulawayo Agenda from holding a sports festival citing lack of manpower to attend the meeting and maintain order. Bulawayo Agenda on Thursday the 29th of November, notified the police if intentions to hold the festival in Gwanda North's ward 1 (one) on Friday the 7th of December, 2012 to encourage the members of the community to register as voters and participate in the ongoing constitution making process among other key public processes. This is part of the organisation's ongoing civic education drive to ensure that citizens effectively participate in key public processes.

Having since criminalised civic education and being notorious of deliberately misinterpreting the law for political ends, the police who first cleared the meeting before notifying Bulawayo Agenda that their members were attending some 'conference' somewhere thus and could not clear the activity.

Police in Gwanda first queried Bulawayo Agenda's civic education activity citing that the organisation should not distribute any materials that encourages people to register to vote as this is political.

Matopo Police threaten Bulawayo Agenda members, staff

Matopo - Police in Matopo, on Monday, the 3rd of December summoned Mr. Precious Ndlovu, Matopo Agenda Chairperson over allegations of 'holding a political meeting without clearance'. This was after Bulawayo Agenda, through its local chapter, Matopo Agenda had held a sports tourney on Sunday the 2nd of December at Silozwi Primary School in Matopo to encourage members of the community to register as voters.

The police in turn issued a 'summon' through Mr Ndlovu, for Busani Ncube, Bulawayo Agenda's Programs Manager to appear at Matopo Police Station to 'withdraw his statements uttered during the tourney' in Matopo. He allegedly committed a crime by calling for the youths to participate in elections and other public processes.

The police then allege that the utterances were political in nature and the distribution of information materials, mainly t-shirts and flyers that encourage members of the community to 'register as voters' during the meeting has also been mentioned as one of the charges that Bulawayo Agenda has to answer to.

Analysis

Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and parts of the Midlands provinces have remained ZANU PF's weakest link thus boosting the alternative vote. In the previous elections, these areas recorded lowest voter turnouts with the apathy signalling a possible loss of hope among other things.

Bulawayo Agenda and other civic actors organising communities to register as voters and to meaningfully participate in key transitional processes were, in the ZANU PF conference held in Bulawayo last year (2011) identified as key threats to the party's election strategy. The persecution of CSOs that has always been part of the election strategy for the party seems to be still part of the strategy thus the current developments come only as confirmation.

Key local, regional and international players thus have to retain the foot on the pedal of piling pressure on the Zimbabwean Government to fully implement the SADC mediated election road-map and adherence to principles of free and fair elections.

Bulawayo Agenda continues to monitor socio-political developments in the communities and across the country and advocate for peaceful elections which should allow Zimbabwe to transition to a democratic dispensation.

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