Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF in Election Mode

Photo: IRIN
Election day in Harare in 2008.

ZANU-PF's increased activity and presence across the country has heightened expectations for an election President Robert Mugabe wants with or without a new constitution.

This has heightened anxiety among a restive population seemingly weary of the violence that has accompanied previous plebiscites.

President Mugabe's insistence that elections would be held this year was reinforced in December by the ZANU-PF annual conference, which also rallied behind its leader and immediately triggered an election mode within the party.

Rugare Gumbo, ZANU-PF's secretary for information and publicity, could neither deny nor confirm that the increased activity is synonymous with election preparation, preferring to say his party was currently restructuring in "urban and even rural areas" as a way of improving outreach programmes.

Contacted this week for comment, Gumbo said: "The party is restructuring in the urban centres and even rural areas. We always want to make sure that people know the party and even get new members so that we are ready in the event of an election".

Harare has seen an increased number of youths moving around town some wearing their Border Gezi Youth Training uniforms or just their party regalia. Some youths have invaded some commuter termini in town, collecting "fees" from every outgoing vehicle.

Previous elections have been characterised by violence, with the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations blaming the Border Gezi trained youth militia.

Last week, some youths in ZANU-PF party regalia could be seen directing kombi crews and collecting money from those ferrying people from the Hatcliffe- Borrowdale termini at the corner of Kwame Nkrumah and Chinhoyi Street in Harare.

The Financial Gazette is informed that all termini in the capital are under the ZANU-PF youths. The youths have also erected illegal roadblocks along some roads leading into Mbare, where they demand "toll" fees.

The trend has also been reported in Hurungwe where youths are demanding money from motorists intending to use particular roads.

But Gumbo professed ignorance on the activities of the youths, referring all questions to the provincial leadership.

The youths' activities might be linked to reports that the party militia had been removed from government payroll and so they are hunting for alternative sources of income.

MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, however, said his party was not worried about ZANU-PF's strategy and preparations.

"We are not really worried about their preparations for elections because we know that we are going to beat ZANU-PF come election time. But the presence of the youths is part of a grand plan to unleash State sponsored violence on the urban population," said Mwonzora.

Two weeks ago, four ZANU-PF youths were arrested in Bulawayo on kidnapping and extortion charges after they had forcibly driven some touts from a commuter terminus to the party's Bulawayo provincial offices and demanded US$50 per route plied.

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