CAMPAIGNING for the March 29 harmonised polls shifted into top gear this week with candidates from both the ruling Zanu PF political party and the opposition winding up their election campaign.
Independent presidential hopeful, Simba Makoni, got a shot in the arm when chiefs in Makoni District, his home area, endorsing his candidacy. Makoni, a former finance minister in President Mugabe’s cabinet, got the endorsement when he addressed about 6 000 supporters at Vengere Stadium in Rusape, 187 km east of Harare . It is very rare in Zimbabwe for traditional leaders to publicly back an anti-Mugabe campaign. Mugabe’s Zanu PF has over the years enjoyed unwavering support from traditional leaders who were instrumental in mobilizing support in the rural areas.
Headmen Mapako and Mukuwapasi told Makoni’s supporters at Vengere Stadium that they were solidly behind Makoni.
The headmen said all other traditional leaders in the district were behind Makoni and would ensure he wins in their respective area of jurisdiction.
This now means three senior Cabinet Minister in Mugabe’s government now face the danger of losing to candidates being sponsored by Makoni. The powerful security minister, Didymus Mutasa, agriculture minister, Joseph Made and justice minister Patrick Chinamasa are contesting seats in Makoni District.
While Makoni was in Rusape the ruling party was hosting a rally at Odzi Country club which attracted about 3000 people. The rally was organised by the Zanu PF candidate in Mutare North, Charles Pemhenayi, a tobacco farmer and businessman.
The rally was addressed by the Zanu PF chairman in Manicaland province and also provincial governor, Tinaye Chigudu.
Chigudu pleaded with Zanu PF supporters to refrain from using violence when campaigning. The rally was marred by news that three Zanu PF activists had died in an accident while traveling to the rally venue. About 20 were injured at taken to Mutare General Hospital .
The opposition MDC candidates also intensified their campaigns throughout the province. In Mutare, Innocent Gonese, who is contesting in Mutare Central, addressed cheering supporters at Sakubva Beit Hall, encouraging them to vote out Mugabe.
Gonese accused Mugabe and his government of running down a once promising country through skewed economic and political policies.
In Mutare’s central business district campaign posters bearing images of Mugabe were plastered all over on shop walls and trees.
The posters are inscribed messages such as “revolutionary, yesterday, today and tomorrow”, “for principles, consistent and fearless leadership” and “the fist of empowerment”.
There were reports that the Zanu PF candidate for Mutare South, Fred Kanzama were telling villagers in the constituency that if they vote for the opposition MDC the country will be plunged into a civil war.
Kanzama and his campaign team repeated the threats at Gombakomba and Zimunya Primary School, 20 km south-east of Mutare that Morgan Tsvangirai will not be allowed to rule the country even if he wins the poll.