BY MOSES MATENGA
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa says his tour of Masvingo that invited a backlash from Zanu PF mobs exposed President Emmerson Mnangagwa as an unpopular leader.
Chamisa’s visits to many parts of the province, largely considered to be Mnangagwa’s stronghold, were met with violence from groups of Zanu PF supporters who tried to prevent him from meeting MDC Alliance supporters.
Some MDC-Alliance officials were allegedly abducted by the rowdy Zanu PF members and forced to denounce their leader on camera.
Chamisa told The Standard on Friday in an exclusive interview that the reaction by the ruling party to his meet-the-people tour showed that Mnangagwa’s supporters were no longer confident that their leader still commanded popular support.
“It is clear Zanu PF and Mnangagwa are not wanted, but use all those tactics to win,” said the MDC Alliance leader, who narrowly lost the disputed 2019 election to his Zanu PF rival.
“They use intimidation and violence to force people.”
Chamisa said he was humbled by the amount of support he was given by the villagers, who said they were ready for change.
“What surprised and humbled me is how the ‘Ngaapinde Hake Mukomana’ mantra is everywhere,” he said.
“You ask teachers, they talk about it, in the army they talk about it.
“It’s like a common phrase in bottle stores, nightclubs. It’s everywhere.”
“The feeling in areas I visited is that there is no leadership in this country.
“Even Zanu PF people are disappointed with what they are seeing.
“The political leadership is so unpopular and detached from the people.”
“They had a mythical view of Mnangagwa and now that he is in power, they are really shocked.
“Get it from me; Zanu PF is extremely unpopular and not people-centred.
“It is the biggest enemy of the people.”
He said Zanu PF officials were resorting to violence because they had realised that it would be impossible to win a free and fair contest.
“It (Zanu PF) is unelectable in rural areas, hence the violence you see. Nobody beats up a person, who likes him like what Zanu PF does,” Chamisa added.
“After this tour, I now understand why they use violence and intimidation, especially in rural areas.”
Chamisa and his entourage were harassed in Chiredzi, Bikita, Zaka, Chiredzi and Ngundu.
Zanu PF acting political commissar Patrick Chinamasa claimed that Masvingo villagers were refusing to be addressed by the MDC Alliance leader, hence the violence.
Police were also accused of failing to deal with the violent Zanu PF supporters, but the mainstream opposition leader said the law enforcement agents were constrained from carrying out their duties.
“Our police are also victims of repression from Zanu PF,” Chamisa said.
“You can even tell from their body language that they know what they are doing is wrong, but they are just protecting their jobs.
“There is a very concerted effort to conflate the police and Zanu PF when in fact the state does not belong to a political party.”
Chamisa said government workers and traditional leaders were also unhappy with the alleged abuse by Zanu PF.
“Traditional leaders are living in fear and lamenting abuse and being treated like mujibhas for Zanu PF,” he said.
“Those working in government say they are being forced to work as Zanu PF commissars.
“They say there is no separation between the party and government. that is a big issue and they say it affects their standing in communities.”
He claimed that villagers living close to the border with Mozambique also expressed concern about vote-rigging during elections.
“I heard the issue of vote-rigging and that people from Mozambique have identity documents and come here to vote,” Chamisa added.
“They also spoke of the issue of multiple voters and it is a big issue they want addressed.
“We met doctors, teachers and other civil servants who spoke on the issue of dilapidated infrastructure, especially in hospitals, it’s decaying.
“They spoke of their welfare and how the government has neglected them,” Chamisa said.
Added Chamisa: “People have a lot of issues they are raising.
“I spent the whole week in Masvingo and they are saying they need a new kind of politics based on development, life-changing ideas.
“They are also saying there is need for their representatives like Members of Parliament and councillors to be accountable and accessible.
“Most of them are not. People want MPs and councillors who are accountable to them, it is a big thing.
“There are issues to do with Chingwizi villagers where locals were displaced without proper alternatives.
“Women said politicians are taking advantage of their poverty and politicising food aid.
“Politicians are riding on the people’s poverty and saying if you cannot support us, there won’t be food for you.
Some of the Zanu PF supporters that waylaid Chamisa said they were not happy about his alleged role in the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe by western countries.
“On sanctions, people do not understand what they are,” Chamisa said.
“They said they just heard it from Zanu PF and they think it is a political party.
“They think sanctions are a political party that will challenge Zanu PF working with Chamisa to remove Mnangagwa.”
The MDC Alliance accuses Mnangagwa of trying to create a one-party state by closing the democratic space and sponsoring a rival party led by Douglas Mwonzora.