Monday, April 7, 2008

Polls unite voters from unique Makoni West

By Clemence Manyukwe

RUSAPE, MANICALAND — Two rivers divide Makoni West voters, but last Saturday, one major thing united them.
As Tatenda Makono crossed Mucheke River, heading for a polling station at Chinyadza Primary School, at the other end of the same constituency, Albert Chirasasa was also crossing Rusape River to cast his vote at Tsanzaguru School.
Both had the same thing on their minds.
They both believed the presidential race was more important than the contest for Parliament.
Makoni West is a unique constituency, as it binds urban and rural voters together. Chinyadza lies in a rural area, while Tsanzaguru is in the urban.
I saw Makono being turned away just after 2pm at the polling station at Chinyadza School.
He voted at the same venue at the last election in 2005, but this time his name could not be found on the voters’ roll.
All he wanted was to vote in the Presidential election.
Asked why he believed the Presidential poll mattered the most, he chronicled the constituency’s woes, which he said could never be solved by any Member of Parliament (MP).
President Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, faced opposition from his former finance minister Simba Makoni, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and little know Langton Towungana, in the elections held last Saturday.
Makoni constituency had three senatorial candidates, namely Stanley Sakupwanya of ZANU-PF, Ethel Mtangadura of the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai, and Matilda Mutigwa of the other MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara.
Makoni West had five House of Assembly contestants, outgoing agriculture mechinisation minister Joseph Made, who was being challenged by another ZANU-PF member, Nation Madongorere, Webber Chinyadza of the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai, Collias Madechiwe of ZURD and Justin Kawonza an independent candidate.
Many voters here had been early to the polls, eager to avoid queues.
But there were no queues in this rural area. A polling station we visited at midday was empty, with nearly 500 people already having voted.
Unlike in previous years, Makono reported that chiefs and headman had not shepherded people to polling stations, allowing voters to go to the polls in peace.
At the last election, politicians had plied villagers with promises of income-generating projects. But many of these folded quickly as the economic crisis worsened.
The heaps of money poured into the projects had failed to sway voters.
“We had projects sponsored by the Ministry of Youth and Gender, mainly selling paraffin and poultry projects.
“All the paraffin projects collapsed, but a few poultry projects are still viable,” he said.
Most of the poultry projects here are run by women.
“At Dewedzo government hospital and at St Theresa Rural Mission Hospital, there is no life. Everything here is collapsing,” Makono added.
Both hospitals have no resident doctors, forcing residents and villagers to travel hundreds of kilometres for specialist treatment.
Makono would not say who he voted for, but anybody except President Mugabe would do, he said.
At Tsanzaguru, Makono’s fellow Makoni West constituent, Chirasasa, said although ZANU-PF boasts of achievements in education, residents in his area thought less of the ruling party due to years of empty promises.
“There is no school offering A’Level here. I wanted to go for A’Level, but my parents could not afford to send me outside our area.
“If we had a school nearby, I could have had much better prospects in my life,” Chirasasa said.
It appeared that the concerns are the same for a voter casting his or her ballot at Tsanzaguru, a high-density suburb, and for the voter at Chinyadza primary school, in a rural area, both want to respond to ZANU-PF’s failure to improve their daily lives.

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