Villagers forced to donate towards Mugabe rally

HARARE - At a time when most villagers are surviving from hand to mouth, the ruling Zanu PF party is reportedly forcing villagers to contribute towards transport to President Robert Mugabe’s rally next month in Marondera.

Villagers from Hwedza told the Daily News on Sunday that they are being squeezed as they have no money even to cater for their personal welfare, let alone foot a Zanu PF function.

Mugabe is due to launch his meet-the-youth rallies in Marondera on June 3, the first of 10 rallies he will address across the country.

The rallies are being organised by the Zanu PF youth league.

“The president is earning a lot of money, and I am just a peasant farmer who has virtually nothing. During the party’s congress, we were also asked to make contributions. Where do they expect us to get the money?” one of the villagers from Hwedza who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing victimisation said.

This is not the first time that struggling civil servants and villagers have complained about being coerced to make financial contributions to bankroll Zanu PF functions or national events such as Independence Day or Heroes Day celebrations.

In many of the cases, it is the civil servants such as teachers stationed in rural areas who bear the heaviest brunt of this thuggish fund-raising modus operandi by ruling party apparatchiks.

The fundraisers often threaten to unleash terror and unprecedented harassment on those who resist the coercion.

Those that do not pay are normally branded sell-outs and members of the opposition and often denied food handouts during government programmes.

“We are angry because we are giving people money that they misuse in the end.

“They claim the money is for hiring the bus to the stadium where the president will be holding his rally, but we do not have the money,” another villager complained.

He  added: “I actually came here looking for money because village leaders were ordered to call their subjects to speak about the amount of money that is supposed to be paid.

“But the sad part is that there is no cash in banks.”

He said that most people in rural areas cannot even afford to buy a bundle of vegetables for just 50 cents, yet they are being asked to foot the president’s function.

“I am a Zanu PF supporter but these actions by the ruling party are simply unacceptable. I have no doubt in my mind that this will clearly make me a member of the opposition,” he warned.

Zanu PF youth chairperson for Mashonaland East Kelvin Mutsvairo denied the claims that people were being forced to fund the rally.

“As we speak, there is no money that is being demanded from villagers. It is the province, with the assistance of lawmakers and other political leaders, that is facilitating the whole process.

“If there are people that are taking money from villagers under the guise that it is to hire buses for the president’s rally, they are lying and must be arrested because they are fleecing the villagers,” Mutsvairo said.

Asked to comment on claims that village heads had been ordered to collect the money from their subjects, Mutsvairo said they are only assisting with the mobilisation process.

“Chiefs and village heads are only doing the mobilisation for people to meet their president and nothing else,” Mutsvairo added.

Zimbabweans are living on the margins, with economists saying poverty levels have reached “numbing levels”, amid indications that the situation will worsen as the country hurtles towards the 2018 elections.

With tens of thousands of vendors fighting for survival, Mugabe and his government have shown that they have failed to fix the situation, making it even more difficult for villagers to get extra money to fund Zanu PF projects.

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