Zanu PF on Tuesday reportedly used intimidation tactics to cow villagers from Mutoko and Murewa to support its position on the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill.
Source: Villagers intimidated to support centralisation of power – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 18, 2016
By Edgar Gweshe
During public hearings on the Bill in Mutoko and Murewa, Mashonaland East province, NewsDay learnt that some of the people in attendance were bussed from as far as Marondera to support Zanu PF’s position that the Local Government minister should be given ultimate power to suspend or expel councillors.
The move has been widely seen as a move by the ruling party to victimise MDC-T-led councils, particularly in urban areas.
Civic society organisations, who are in support of the setting up of an independent tribunal, also contend that centralisation of power was against the principle of devolution enshrined in the Constitution and that it would lead to abuse of office by the minister responsible for Local Governance.
In Mutoko, the hearings were held at Nyamakwere Hall and at one time, Glen Norah MP, Webster Maondera who was chairing proceedings had to read the riot act to a soldier who had come clad in his uniform and was urging villagers to support centralisation of power.
Mutoko is one of the political hotspots in the country and uniformed forces were notorious for victimising opposition supporters in the area.
It came out during interviews with villagers that some of them were not even aware of the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill, but were “just abiding by an order from party leaders”.
“We were told early in the morning by youths from our area that we were supposed to attend a meeting at Mutoko Centre were we were supposed to support the idea that the Minister of Local Government should be given ultimate powers and as for myself, I am not even aware of what this whole issue is about, but I had to follow an order,” a villager said on condition of anonymity.
During the hearings in Murewa, villagers who had been force-marched to the meeting expressed ignorance over the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill, but were, however, vocal in their support of centralisation of power.
Said one Evangelista Chimbwiti: “The Minister was appointed by the President and the creation of a tribunal would lessen the Minister’s powers yet he is an appointee of the President. Creating a tribunal is no different to challenging the powers of the President.”
Another villager who identified himself as Kavhumbura said: “To me a tribunal is just a waste of resources. We have one centre of power in our President so what makes it difficult for us to give ultimate power to the Minister who is an appointee of the President.”
MDC-T deputy spokesperson for Mashonaland East province, Graham Nyahada confirmed that villagers were coerced to support Zanu PF’s position on the bill.
“Firstly, there were not even awareness programmes that were carried out and secondly, what the villagers said in support of centralisation of power was out of fear of victimisation. There were groups of people who were ordered to raise their hands and speak in support of Zanu PF’s position and they were warned with unspecified action in the event that they fail to do so,” Nyahada said.
However, some villagers vehemently opposed the centralisation of power.
“Before you have even implemented the Constitution, you want to violate it by giving super powers to the Minister. I think you are taking us for granted,” said one Mutize.
Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) director, Philip Pasirayi said centralising power, as proposed by the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill was unconstitutional.
“People voted for a Constitution that speaks of devolution of powers and that is the supreme law we have at the moment so anything to do with centralisation of power is very much unconstitutional. Government must be obliged to respect the wishes of its people rather than implement policies that do not only go against citizens’ wishes, but violate the Constitution,” Pasirayi said.