As Zimbabwe’s contentious by-elections draw near, desperate political party leaders have gone into overdrive with President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is also party leader for ruling Zanu PF, cracking down on Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs) while opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has resorted to online prayers.
The elections which are slated for this Saturday, March 26, 2022, will fill 28 parliamentary seats and 105 council seats emanating from recalls, deaths, and dismissals.
As the campaigns were hotting up, President Mnangagwa laid into NGOs accusing them of trying to manipulate voters and overstepping their mandate by meddling into politics.
President Mnangagwa said that while his party, the Zanu-PF rejects violence and wants peace, NGOs could be chased away for lack of people’s mandate.
“NGOs that step outside of their mandate will be chased away. We can do without them,” he said while addressing supporters at a rally in Binga.
“We want to remind you that as Zanu-PF, we are the ruling party, and what about you? We simply say to you leave our country and there is nothing that you can do about it because we have the powers to do,” he warned.
The fate of NGOs in Zimbabwe also hangs in the balance as the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill, which was gazetted in November last year, seeks to ensure that NGOs do not meddle in politics among other things.
The bill has been castigated for not clearly defining this issue. Many have said this piece of legislation will further shrink the democratic space.
While the Zanu PF camp is cracking the whip on NGOs, the youthful CCC president Chamisa instead turned to divine intervention and successfully hosted an online prayer for his followers last Wednesday.
“Thank you, Church Leaders and all the citizens, for the overwhelming response to this day of prayer and fasting. What a powerful online prayer and dedication service this morning led by Bishop Ancelmo Magaya, Rev. Milson Ndlovu, and intercessors!” said Chamisa.
He then called on people to join the online one-hour lunch prayer session at 1 PM.
The online prayer sessions made it possible for Chamisa to meet supporters online, as the opposition leader’s campaign rallies were either been mired with violence perpetrated by the Zanu PF stalwarts or totally banned.
Police consistently frustrated his efforts by denying him the opportunity to hold rallies, claiming that they did not have enough manpower to provide adequate security.
But rallies by President Mnangagwa were not interrupted and masses continued to be bused and carted off to the venues.
School children were among those being bused to Zanu PF, something that the teachers’ unions decried vehemently.
“We do not want politicians in our schools. Our schools should never be abused in terms of private political beings,” said Obert Masaraure of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz).
Meanwhile, the voters roll that was put together by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was said to be in shambles and opposition members pointed out several irregularities in the days running up to Saturday’s elections.
These include duplicate entries in the database tables. ZEC, however, announced that the voters’ roll should not be availed to the public, citing data protection concerns as a reason.
ZEC had since announced that the voters roll will no longer be supplied outside permission from its CEO.
A prominent Zimbabwean lawyer Thabani Mpofu laid into ZEC dismissing it as corrupt, biased, and compromised.
“ZEC has unashamedly chosen to do the bidding of ZANU-PF. We need to win resoundingly even without reforms because ZEC will not yield to the wholesome restraint of the law,” he said.