No hope for displaced voters

HARARE - As heavy rains pound Muzarabani, many who used to call this place home can only read about the situation in newspapers or from the radio.

Those who fled here in 2008 after an upsurge in political violence are losing hope they will ever return to their old homes.

Hundreds of MDC supporters displaced as a result of political violence that characterised the June 2008 presidential run-off in Muzarabani have not returned home since the time they fled for safety.

Their fears range from further victimisation by perpetrators of violence who still hover around unscathed to fractured relations with fellow villagers.

Muzarabani, in Mashonaland Central Province, is one of the known Zanu PF strongholds and political hot spots in Zimbabwe.

In 2008, the area was hit by unprecedented levels of political violence which among other things displaced hundreds of villagers. The area has an estimated population of 60 000 and is largely a cotton farming district.  

According to locals in the area, Muzarabani means a frequently flooded area. In an almost similar style the area was flooded by political violence which left trails of destruction and deserted homes across the district.

According to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDPMC), the displacement of MDC activists and ordinary voters in 2008 was not merely a by-product of violence, but was part of a systematic attempt to change Zimbabwe’s political landscape by driving people away from the wards they were registered to vote in and to ensure that those affected by the abuses cannot return home.

An investigation into the issue of displaced voters in Muzarabani revealed the majority of people who were displaced in the 2008 political violence never returned to their homes and there is no hope they will return before an election is held.

President Robert Mugabe’s call for elections in June 2013 indirectly means the political environment is conducive for an election to be held.

Parties are gearing up for an election, but the question remains, are people ready for an election?
The environment in Muzarabani proves otherwise as there is no hope that those who fled will return to vote for fear of a repeat of the 2008 violence.

Itai Charumbuka, a victim of political violence who later returned home after the 2008 terror campaign said he is still living in fear of a repeat of the madness.

“As of now the Zanu PF youths who terrorised us are on a low profile but they will be monitoring our movements. When the talk of elections intensify they will ravage like fire.

“I am always in fear of what may befall me if elections come. I was once a victim and villagers were warned not to associate with me,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.

Medium Chidhindi, a 56-year-old displaced voter from Machaya Ward 3 who is still being haunted by the experiences she had in 2008 expressed no interest of going back home before an election is held.

Her homestead was destroyed by Zanu PF youths who were terrorising people in the area.

Her property was burnt down and her herd of cattle was taken to the Zanu PF base to feed the youths.

“I loved my rural home but I don’t think I have the guts to go back there, I am rather safe here in the city. I had invested a lot in building my homestead but I lost everything I worked for in a few minutes,” she said.

Chidhindi went back to try and settle after the run-off but she was attacked again and left her rural home for good.

Her son Josphat Chidhindi, 22, was attacked by an axe when he had gone to check on a few beasts they had left.

Chidhindi’s homestead has dilapidated and there is no hope of resurgence.

The house was destroyed to the ground. Remains of property destroyed five years ago are scattered around the yard.

Norman Chamunorwa, 40, also from Machaya Ward fled in May 2008 after his houses were burnt by Zanu PF youths.

In March 2012 he would have wantecd to go back and start over but was told by his headman Bernard Chibaya that he no longer had a place in the village because he was a trouble causer.

“I was told by the headman that my field and stand were given to someone else because I was causing havoc in the village by supporting the MDC,” he said.

Norman was a registered voter in Muzarabani but he is now living in Harare where he found refuge after escaping death threats in his village.

Sitembile Chinzou (65) and her family fled from their homestead in July 2008 after being severely beaten and accused of creating a Harvest House in Muzarabani.

Her homestead was burnt and an engine for one of their grinding mills was thrown into a well.

With experience being the best teacher, Sitembile said she will not go back and be a voter in Muzarabani.
Sitembile said her husband, Freddy Chinzou, passed on in February 2012 due to stress and the injuries he sustained from the beatings.

“My husband was the MDC chairperson in our ward. The Zanu PF youths said they had come to destroy the MDC Headquarters, Harvest House; we had created in the area. We were told to go and live in Britain with Tsvangirai,” she said.

Since 2008, Sitembile said she was unable to enjoy her conjugal rights with her husband who is now late because she sustained severe injuries after she was assaulted on her private parts and back.

“I was forced to open up my legs and was beaten with a baton stick on my private parts,” she said.

Villagers who were displaced in Muzarabani have not come to terms with the experiences they had in 2008.Without assurance that a recurrence of the 2008 terror campaign will not see the light of day many have vowed not to go back to their homes.

Their lives have changed for the worst, their cattle, goats, chickens were slaughtered during the 2008 madness.

They all confirmed that life is terrible in their new locations.

And, hopes are fading fast that they will ever return to their old homes.

No hope of return for displaced votersRegistrar General Tobaiwa Mudede has been accused of oiling the Zanu PF election rigging plots in the ensuing elections. - Gamuchirayi Masiyiwa

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