As Zimbabwe draws nearer to the 2018 election, Kundai Marunya reflects on his experiences of past elections in his hometown.
It was around 8am when I woke up to the noise of women singing and chanting. For a few minutes I held my pillow over my ears trying to reclaim my stolen sleep. But with every ticking second the noise outside grew louder.
I could hear chants about elections and voting. Then it dawned on me – the Norton Constituency parliamentary by-elections were a few days away. Still I tried to shut myself away from what was happening outside. But the more I tried to ignore it, the louder it got. In frustration I jumped out of bed to check what was happening.
A culture of violence
I walked towards my gate to check out the street were the noise was coming from. I now could clearly hear voices singing ‘Temba unourayisa vana ava’ – a Zanu (PF) campaign song which can loosely be translated to ‘Temba (Mliswa) you will get people killed. My heart skipped a beat , when I remembered the violence that occurred just a week before. Zanu (PF) supporters tried to stop the rally of their former member who had chosen to standing against them as an independent candidate.
My fears were reinforced by a loud knock at my gate. I froze, my mind reliving the 2008 election violence that saw people being dragged from their home by a group of ruling party supporters. I thought of getting back inside to lock myself in and pretend there was no one home, but too late. I had been spotted by a woman peeping over the gate.
Door to door campaign
“Makadii henyu mukoma, tingapindewo titaure nemi? (how are you my brother, can we come in for a chat?),” she said. I hesitated. By the time I opened my mouth in response she was already pushing the gate open, “I hope you don’t have dogs,” she said. I just nodded and she walked in towards me followed by two other women.
They greeted me politely before asking for my vote in the coming election. The respect they showed gave me a bit of confidence to ask questions I have long had since the by-election candidates were announced.
“Who is this Ronald Chindedza guy and how come I have never heard of him before this election?” I asked. She responded with a question, “Have you ever been to our regular meetings kuGomba?” (Gomba is a nicknamed given to Norton Vocational Training Centre). This place was once used as a torture chamber in 2008. And I have never been there since then.
“If you had been attending our meetings you would have known who he is. Ronny Mugoni, Ronny mwanawevhu,” (Son of the soil) she chanted while the other two women ululated in support. I then asked what he has done for the community outside Zanu (PF) and the maize seed and fertilizer he is giving people to buy their votes. Before she could answer I asked what his campaign manifesto was.
Instead of giving me clear responses she asked if I knew who Temba Mliswa. And I told her about Mliswa’s expulsion
from Zanu (PF) and how he had stood up to his former party in Hurungwe West. With a frown, she told me that Ronald has been in the Zanu (PF) for a long time and that he deserved my vote instead of the ‘sell-out’ Mliswa.
To prevent our argument from getting out of hand I agreed with her and promised to vote come 22 October. With that they left to join their colleagues in the door-to-door campaign.
The incident got me thinking of how, over the years, Norton town has been represented by people who are not even active members of our community. Each time there is an election they come buying votes under the guise of community development, giving out donor funded food aid, which really should not be politicized.
They come proposing their little projects and deceiving people into believing they are in it for ” community development.” After a win, or even loss, they disappear to wherever they came from. Patrick Zhuwao did it. Christopher Mutsvangwa did it too. The latter is even worse. Rumour has it that he once funded the drilling of a borehole at Katanga Shopping Centre during his election campaign. After losing the vote, Mutsvangwa tore off the borehole pump, airing his frustrations over the electorate’s ‘lack of appreciation’.
We have had councilors, senators and members of parliament who just seek parliamentary seats for the sake of power or self enrichment, with no clue on how to represent the people. They are only elected to office because of the party they belong to rather than what they personally have to offer.
In the run up to the Norton by-election, candidates gave several donations which, in truth, is vote buying. Some donated plots of land, scholarships, food and even actual money. This is done without even consulting with residents over what they really need.
For me, an ideal representative is one who rises from the people. Someone for whom everyone – no matter which political party they come from – can be identified to have a passion for community development, not just the hunger for power. Someone who knows what people need, from having been living among them and facing the same challenges as they do.
It’s high time we look beyond political parties but assess our candidates as individuals.