Voter intimidation on July 31 characterized the voting environment in Mutoko East with notorious Zanu PF activists and traditional leaders reported to have driven and ‘assisted’ villagers to cast their ballot, a church organization monitoring the election in the area has revealed.
Multiracial Christian Democrats, a local church organisation, said hordes of Zanu PF militia at Rukawu Primary school, Lot Business centre and in places like Masango, Mudzonga, Jembere, Kaunye and Mushimbe polling stations led villagers and instructed them to vote for Zanu PF.
The church had deployed its members who visited the polling stations and found hundreds of voters’ queuing to vote.
One member of a church monitoring the election in the area, who refused to be named for fear of victimization after the election, confirmed that they had been shepherded to the polling stations.
“This did not start today as the order was given to us well before the election date. Starting last month we were being told that we should be led by youths who would assist us when casting the ballot”, said one villager.
Another youth who identified himself as George whom we met at Kapondoro polling station said, “We were told yesterday to group at Kapondoro polling station as early as 4 in the morning. We did comply but I for certain, I can tell you that I did not vote for Zanu PF because of the coercion.”
A female voter who also requested anonymity said they were told to vote for President Robert Mugabe’s party candidates when casting the ballot.
“Like what they did during the 2008 Presidential runoff election, they said we should say we are unable to read and write while casting the ballot so that we could be assisted by the teams which they deployed,” said the female voter.
Reverend Kuratidza Sandati the church leader confirmed voter intimidation in Mutoko.
“I am actually roving all the polling stations here in Mutoko East and I can confidently confirm that intimidation is rife. People are not freely voting here.
Early in the morning, I went to Rukawu Primary in All Souls, where I cast my vote and witnessed Zivanayi Mabhavhu, a notorious Zanu PF youth, leading villagers who are our supporters. This is one of the examples I am giving you. What I can say to you is that even village heads were this morning driving villagers to the polling station,”said Sandati.
Sandati said after witnessing the intimidation he quickly alerted his party.
MDC-T party National organizing Secretary Nelson Chamisa confirmed receiving the Mutoko intimidation reports.
“We are receiving reports people are being frog marched to the polling stations by village heads and Chiefs not only in Mutoko but in the rural areas throughout the country, and that is a point of worry which we have raised with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,”Chamisa confirmed.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy Chairperson Joyce Kazembe admitted “We have noted and got some statistics in some areas that there are quite a number of assisted voters. We really want to find out what really is the reason for those many assisted voters. We cannot give you an answer on that.”