Uniformed soldiers continue their Blitzkrieg in Manicaland, with Nyanga now firmly targeted as a "No Go" area for the MDC
- Last Updated on 01 October 2012
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In its issue of the 23rd of July 2012, the Crisis Report reported on how 400 members of the army were alleged to have invaded the peaceful villages of Magondo and Chipanguri in Ward 26 of Makoni Constituency in Manicaland Province, causing serious fear to creep into the villagers and panic to sink in. In that same report, the Crisis Report contained testimonies from villagers of harassment of civilians that was politically motivated that the soldiers were reported to be carrying out. The bases occupied by the army then were said to be serviced and commandeered by one Major General Kafesu.
The army's Blitzkrieg in Manicaland Province seems to be continuing with their presence now extended to Nyanga South Constituency. The campaign, which seems to be a direct response to encouragement by Major General Chedondo (the army Chief of Staff, general Staff), who in May 2012 implored members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to participate in national politics, as part of remaining loyal and defending the nation's territorial integrity and interests. The Major General uttered these sentiments, which seem to have been taken as command, while addressing over 3 000 troops from 2 Brigade undergoing a battlefield training exercise in Mutoko
Villagers from Nyanga South Constituency have reported that there has been a recent influx of army personnel, who have declared that no MDC rally should be held in the area. They further reported that uniformed soldiers are conducting meetings with traditional leaders ordering them to support and enforce this embargo on MDC meetings. A similar incident was reported in Magondo and Mupanguri villages of Makoni South in July this year where an estimated 400 armed soldiers were reported to have intimidated villagers, chanting and singing ZANU PF slogans and songs. This worrying trend has heightened fears of a repeat of the bloody run-up to the sham 2008 presidential election run-off which was characterised by systematic violence and intimidation. Outside of the violence of 2008 which is generic, Nyanga has had specific episodes of intimidation, specifically in February 2011 which saw some Nyakomba villagers deserting their homes to stay in mountains and others streaming into neighbouring Mozambique and others areas.
Villagers who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety purposes stated that in areas which include Ruwangwe, Fombe and Nyakomba villages, Headmen and Chiefs were forced to gather on the 29th of September 2012, and were expressly told not to allow the MDC-T legislator for Nyanga South constituency, Hon Douglas Mwonzora to organise any meetings in the area.
Hon Mwonzora confirmed to the Crisis Report Team that traditional leaders in the area, had indeed delivered the message to him, and added that there had been a heavy police and army presence registered in his constituency with constant patrols. He however remained adamant that their party would continue carrying out their meetings both public and private despite the soldier's intimidation schemes.
"Although soldiers have besieged our constituency to coerce people to vote for Zanu PF, we will continue with our work and carry on with our meetings. Zanu PF is using state apparatus to send the wrong message to the electorate, but that strategy is tired and will not work €, emphasised Hon Mwonzora.
Honourable Muchauraya Pishayi, who is the Member of Parliament for Makoni, also confirmed the reports highlighting that soldiers' entry into Nyanga, is just a continuation of a trend that started May 2012, and included his constituency where villagers are living in great and continuous fear of the unknown.
€It is true that soldiers are threatening villagers. They are holding meetings in the entire province telling traditional leaders to bar MDC meetings €,
Hon Pishayi said.
Some Villagers, are however disturbed but unperturbed by the Army presence. Sekai Gombe a local from the Nyanga South Constituency, expressed concern at the intimidating presence of uniformed soldiers in the constituency. Gombe said that
"soldiers should not interfere with our day to day business, instead they should remain in the barracks. Their presence is stirring up fear in villagers of later being tortured by soldiers after being identified as a MDC supporter, €