19 June 2017

Zimbabwe: MDC-T Says People Forced to Attend Mugabe's Rallies, Appeals to SADC, ZEC

Photo: New Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe (file photo).

THE MDC-T has urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to pull rank and stop Zanu PF from marshalling innocent citizens to President Robert Mugabe's on-going rallies around the country.

Party spokesperson, Obert Gutu, also urged SADC leaders to exercise their influence on their elderly peer fearing this could tilt next year's vote in Zanu PF's favour again.

"This state of affairs doesn't bode well for the holding of free and fair elections in 2018," Gutu said in a statement.

Organisers of President Mugabe's 'Youth Interface' rally have pulled all the stops to boost crowds during the provincial meetings which are being attended by all age-groups including school children.

Manicaland provincial affairs minister Mandi Chimene and other provincial party officials declared a business 'shutdown' in Mutare so that everybody could be driven to the venue.

Chimene also went on to offer a temporary reprieve for unroadworthy vehicles to return to the roads on the day in order to provide transport to those attending the rally.

As it turned out, multitudes were seen at Sakubva stadium, scenes that have set the Zanu PF propaganda machine into overdrive with claims President Mugabe was still a popular leader.

But MDC-T has said that those who did not attend Mugabe's rallies were being threatened with death or some other such grievous consequences if they stayed away.

"There is a pervading atmosphere of fear that is still being felt throughout the country as the toiling masses of Zimbabwe are being driven like lambs to the slaughter, to attend Zanu PF rallies," Gutu said while urging Zec to take a stand against the parties found intimidating people into attending their meetings.

Gutu was adamant this could affect the credibility of the watershed polls next year.

He continued: "We also call upon SADC and the AU to take note of the continuing and unchecked behaviour of the Zanu PF regime that ashamedly forces and commandeers innocent and defenceless Zimbabweans to attend its political rallies," he said.

"This rabid and terrorist regime is harvesting from fear and of course, this is a grim indicator of the fact that this regime is reluctant to reform itself in order to allow for the holding of a credible plebiscite next year."

The MDC-T calls for intervention follow similar condemnation by the rights group, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) which has said forced attendance to rallies was in violation of citizens' freedom of association.

Quizzed over this in parliament last week, Vice President Emmerson Mnangawa denied, saying it "not Zanu PF policy to force people to attend Zanu PF rallies".

It is however unlikely that Zec could respond effectively to opposition calls to reign in the ruling party as similar complaints by opponents against alleged Zanu PF vote buying tendencies have failed to deliver any positive outcome.

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