- Last Updated on 03 October 2012
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Traditional leaders in Bikita, Masvingo have been ordered to attend a meeting at the army headquarters in Masvingo in a controversial decision widely suspected to harbour clandestine political motives.
MDC provincial Information director, Honest Makanyire told the Crisis Report Team that in Bikita, local chiefs and headmen received a circular from Local District Administrator, Mr Edgar Seenza advising them to attend the meeting scheduled for October 12 at 4 Brigade Army Headquarters in Masvingo.
A section from the letter from the DA`s office dated September 30 reads:
"To all chiefs and headmen. - Invitation to attend traditional leaders' day at the Officers' Mercy at HQ 4 Brigade. You are expected to attend the meeting."
Traditional leaders who spoke to The Crisis Report Team on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised said the move insinuated a sinister political motive ahead of the highly anticipated referendum and elections. The leaders were concerned that the army would move in to intimidate villagers ahead of the two crucial plebiscites.
A local headman who also requested anonymity also said he suspected the move was meant to drill traditional leaders ahead of the referendum. He added that the latest development signifies the army`s desire to influence the outcome of the referendum through intimidation and coaching.
"We suspect they want to drill traditional leaders ahead of the referendum. This move shows that members of the Zimbabwe National Army are keen to take control of the referendum. We have never heard of such a day and why should it be held at the army headquarters? There are clear indications this will be a strategic meeting meant to influence villagers to support the Zanu PF position ahead of the referendum, "he said.
Another headman said the move reflected desperation in the Zanu PF camp. He said: "Zanu PF is desperate to use the army and traditional leaders to influence the outcome of both the referendum and elections. €
"I know that some traditional leaders are also part of the whole ploy but I do not support such a sinister move. I know that some Chiefs will definitely support the move-which is very regrettable. The dubious meeting is obviously meant to indoctrinate traditional leaders as the nation braces for the watershed polls," he said.
This incident comes barely a week after uniformed soldiers were reported to have conducted meetings with traditional leaders in Ruwangwe, Fombe and Nyakomba villages in Nyanga on the 29th of September 2012 ordering them to support and enforce the embargo on MDC meetings in the constituency. Earlier in 2011, the commander of 3 Brigade in Mutare, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, summoned close to 200 traditional leaders from Manicaland province for a two-day 'indoctrination' workshop where the military ended up telling the traditional leaders not to allow the MDC to hold any meetings in their areas.