Elections: When politicians play Father Christmas

HARARE - Despite the reign of terror characterising the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe, campaign periods are like an early Christmas to many disadvantaged communities.

Successive Zimbabwean elections have been blighted by violence and allegations of rigging. But for some communities, campaign periods are a time to receive as politicians play Father Christmas in a bid to win the hearts of the electorate.

Aspiring candidates roll out development programmes in their bid to lure voters, much to the glee of communities.

Many in the communities even get so hooked that they become campaign agents for the various candidates for easier access to the source of goodies.

Interviews done by the Daily News show that though elections are synonymous with violence and displacement, ordinary villagers and institutions such as schools and healthcare facilities tend to benefit in one way or the other.

With election talk gathering momentum, elected officials from across the political divide, some who had gone into hibernation soon after their election four years ago, as well as aspiring candidates have reawakened from their deep political slumber.

They are now literally stampeding for political space, splashing donations to schools, communities and orphanages.

Some of the projects initiated leave indelible marks in the communities while others leave communities worse off because the politicians fail to sustain the projects once elected or defeated.

In the Matabeleland provinces where the effects of drought have hit hard on communities, many have benefitted from mega-rich Mines minister Obert Mpofu, who is also a Zanu PF politburo member, ahead of the elections next year.

In Hurungwe, district education officer Jaison Dzveta says despite the violence associated with electioneering in the district, several schools have benefited from the cut throat competition among politicians across the political divide.

Ten of the best students at Karambazuma Primary School in Hurungwe West constituency each received full sets of school uniforms and school fees for the next term from Wilson Makanyaire, who aspires to be MP on an MDC ticket.

Not to be outdone, Themba Mliswa of Zanu PF, who is also eying the same constituency, gave 10 bags of cement each for infrastructural development to Chikavanenyama primary and secondary schools.

During the same week, Chidzimamoto Secondary School in the same district received 10 bags of cement and a house for the school head from a Zanu PF sympathiser who preferred anonymity.

“We are still in the process of compiling a report of what our schools got from donations during the course of the year like we always do every year-end.

“I can, however, acknowledge that many schools benefitted from the activities of politicians and non-politicians,” said Dzveta.

In Chegutu West, Borden Primary School recently had prayers answered when Takalani Matibe, the MDC incumbent MP for the area, built a classroom block for the school that had been using tobacco barns as classrooms.

Chikomba in Mashonaland East Province is another district that bears testimony to the benevolence of politicians desperate for votes.

The province has been characterised by electoral violence which dates back to the time of the late Chenjerai Hunzvi.

But for Lameck Mahapa, a resident of Chikomba Central constituency, despite his father being brutally assaulted at Zvichemo Business Centre during the June 2008 presidential election runoff period, elections are not all gloom and doom.

Like many others in the community, Mahapa has benefitted from donations by aspiring candidates.

Developmental efforts by Goodrich Chimbaira, national chairperson of the smaller faction of the MDC and the party’s parliamentary candidate in the constituency is an example of how communities can benefit from elections.

Chimbaira has since 2010 sponsored poultry projects which have sustained hundreds of people in the community. He has also donated eight sewing machines for a women’s project at Unyetu Business Centre, a water pump for irrigation for youths’ projects as well as bicycles.

“Although we are still traumatised by the experiences of the past, this community has benefitted from these projects since 2010. Life for us has significantly changed because of the chicken projects and the
irrigation scheme.

“We pray that these acts of kindness continue because some of us would not have survived the drought,” said Mahapa. - Mugove Tafirenyika

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