Elections tempers escalate in Mutare Central, as racial slurs onslaught on CCC’s Brian James unfold

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Elections tempers escalate in Mutare Central, as racial slurs onslaught on CCC’s Brian James unfold

(L-R) Honourable Misheck Mugadza incumbent legislator Mutasa South and Zanu-PF aspiring candidate in the 2023 national assembly elections, Gilbert Gapara aspiring senator for the Democratic Union of Zimbabwe (DUZ), Regai Tsunga the CCC Mutasa South aspiring Member of Parliament and Brian James the CCC Mutare Central aspiring MP during the TellZimbabwe election engagement press discussion in Mutare last Saturday.

…Undemocratic elections will increase ZDERA embargo’s: Economist

Ngoni Dapira

AFTER enjoyIng a generally peaceful environment in Mutare Central constituency ahead of the 2023 general elections, the tables turned last week Saturday when the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) aspiring candidate for the national assembly in the constituency, Brian James, was forced to cancel his campaign launch after being intimidated by some thugs believed to be affiliated to Zanu-PF.

As if that was not enough, later on that evening during an election engagement press discussion at a hotel in Mutare, which was organized by the Masvingo based newspaper TellZimbabwe, drama unfolded after a group of ruffians again allegedly linked to Zanu-PF came to disrupt proceedings. They clamoured that James must not be given audience at the press event despite it having other national assembly aspiring candidates that had been invited who included Honourable Misheck Mugadza (Zanu-PF Mutasa South), Regai Tsunga (CCC Mutasa South) and Gilbert Gapara an aspiring senator who was representing his party the Democratic Union of Zimbabwe (DUZ).

The thugs uttered racial slur that white people have no place in Zimbabwean politics. James, a former Mutare Moyor in 2008 had to be assisted to leave the conference room by fellow CCC members that quickly came to the rescue the instant they heard about the incident.

The thugs besieged the conference room around 17:20pm just after the function had started. The DUZ senator, Gapara was in the middle of his presentation, talking about how the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) was a perennial loss making entity running below expected standards. One of the ruffians just barged into the venue and interjected the point to be untrue then others walked in supporting him and making an uproar.

Wakamboendako here kuGMB ukashaya record of the tonnage? (Did you ever go to GMB and not see the record of tonnage there?,” interjected one of the touts identified as Mahobho as he charged towards the podium.

Hon Misheck Mugadza (on the podium) and Golden Maunganidze of TellZimbabwe during the function.

The convenor, the director of TellZimbabwe, Golden Maunganidze tried to calm down the thugs as more of them including women started entering into the conference. Hon Mugadza took the microphone and tried to plead with them, begging them to stop interfering and just take their seats quietly, but it fell on deaf ears. The ruffians started shouting, “This is Zimbabwe. Pasi nemurungu, Murungu ngaabude muZimbabwe (Begone white people, white people get out of Zimbabwe,” then started singing a popular revolutionary song called ‘Tengesa uone mashura’. They declared they would not leave until James exists the room.

The commotion went on for about 10 minutes until CCC members managed to whisk away James safely, despite berserk efforts to beat up James by some of the thugs.  Tsunga in solidarity with his CCC colleague, decided to recuse himself after the incident.

“Personally, I respect this event and you guys (media), but this is bad. You can continue, but I cannot continue after this and have to leave and stand in solidarity with our CCC colleague James. This is their (Zanu-PF) position and that is what they want but such violence should not be condoned,” said Tsunga.

The meeting continued by 17:30pm but the Zanu-PF members present were rowdy and did not allow the DUZ representative to finish his presentation and the convenor had to quickly cut him and give the podium to Hon Mugadza to cut short the event.

“Like I said earlier ladies and gentlemen, we have held these election engagement events elsewhere and we intend to hold them countrywide. Our thinking is that these meetings will even help your political parties, but if such incidents happen right in front of the media how can we write positively about peaceful elections in Zimbabwe. This will affect us as a people and as a country. Thank you Honourable Mugadza for trying to intervene. These events are not rallies. In Midlands we held a successful function. We encourage peaceful elections and these kind of election engagements platforms for our national assembly aspiring candidates so that they tell us about their manifesto’s,” said Maunganidze who is also the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe national chairperson as well as the MISA SADC regional chairperson.

Hon Mugadza denounced violence and said he wants to fairly contest against his opponent in his constituency. He presented on various projects he has undertaken since he won the by-elections in March last year and took over from his predecessor Tsunga.

Esau Mupfumi

Mutare Central constituency has been a stronghold of the opposition since 2008. This time around it is the former Dangamvura/Chikanga legislator Esau Mupfumi who is now eyeing the constituency against the former Mutare Mayor who is contesting for the first time for a national assembly seat, a proverbial David versus Goliath story. James was nominated by the party to replace veteran CCC legislator Innocent Gonese who stepped down from contesting in this year’s polls despite being nominated. Hon Gonese was the legislator for Mutare Central for three consecutive terms since 2008.

Dirty tricks as intimidation gimmicks are not new to James. In 2008 under the MDC-T, when James ran for councilor in ward 12, he was again at the receiving end of a victimisation campaign by the then regime under the late President Robert Mugabe. Nonetheless he went on to win and was also elected Mayor of Mutare. He was however suspended and then fired that same year by the then Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, who accused James of mismanagement, misconduct, and insubordination. However, the firing was, in reality, thought to be politically motivated.

In a telephone interview James said his campaign has been well received in Mutare Central. He said it was unfortunate that the official campaign launch was disrupted last Saturday but he will adapt and look for other means to campaign. James said they will continue to engage the constituency in any way they can through walk about campaigns, door to door campaigns, flyers and posters. “We had a police clearance at Moffat Hall in Sakubva but some thugs suspected to be aligned to Zanu-PF besieged the place early morning until the time we were supposed to start at 11am. They prevented any of my supporters from getting into the place. Police were notified but apparently they could do nothing about it,” he said.

Brian James

James however said he has developed a thick skin over the years when it comes to racial slurs, but it is never a good experience being intimidated by anyone. “The racial slur its water off a duck’s back and I feel anyone making these racial slurs in this day and age, if it makes them feel better then I am happy for them,” said James who is in now in his 70s with a political career spanning 17 years since 2006 when he took up an active position in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

He said he is a Zimbabwean by birth and his parents were also born in the country. The former commercial farmer and victim of the land reform programme however said he has no bad blood and loves his country and countrymen regardless of differences in race, ethnicity and creed. “The intimidation is not only in my constituency but some other constituencies countrywide from what I have heard. I do not think anything will come of it. There is a number of ways that the ruling party is hanging onto power using these elections, however we must move forward and participate as best as we can in the elections and I think the general population in the country have come to realise what its all about and hopefully will vote accordingly,” he said.

Nyanga South 2023 national assembly elections competitors CCC candidate McCormick Ruxandra Grigoreta (left) and Hon Supa Mandiwanzira of Zanu-PF peacefully sharing a light moment together last week.

On the other hand, ironically whilst racial slurs are being amplified in Mutare Central, the opposite is testament in Nyanga South where the incumbent Zanu-PF legislator Supa Mandiwanzira last week had an amicable meet and greet engagement with his CCC competitor McCormick Ruxandra Grigoreta who is white. McCormick like James is also contesting for the first time for a national assembly seat.

This is notwithstanding the fact that Zanu-PF has two white political candidates running for national assembly seats, seasoned politician Joshua Sacco, the Chimanimani East legislator and Peter Vangelis Haritatos from Muzvezve constituency in Mashonaland West. In total there are five white candidates competing in the national assembly elections this year. Two are from Zanu-PF and three from CCC, James, McCormick and Norman Allan Markham, the Harare East aspiring candidate that replaced Tendai Biti.

Zimbabwe is still under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) of 2001 imposed by the United States of America. Economist Vince Musewe said how Zimbabwe will conduct free and fair elections this year will determine the uplifting of some of the embargo’s under ZDERA.

Under ZDERA in 2001, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress drafted the policy in support of the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful, democratic change, achieve broad-based and equitable economic growth, and restore the rule of law. This was just after the land reform in 2000.

Up-to-date the US monitors economic mismanagement and undemocratic practices by the Government of Zimbabwe which has made the country ineligible to participate in International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Monetary Fund programs, which would otherwise be providing substantial resources to assist in the recovery and modernization of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Vince Musewe

“ZDERA is monitoring the restoration of rule of law in Zimbabwe, including freedom of speech and association, and an end to violence and intimidation sponsored. As well as the election or pre-election conditions that should be widely accepted as free and fair by independent international monitors. The pre-election environment must also be to a degree consistent with accepted international standards for security and freedom of movement and association,” said Musewe.

He said this is the only way to thaw relations with the international community, citing that the racial slurs and intimidation tactics being perpetrated will not do justice to improve things economically post-elections.

Musewe said through ZDERA the US consulted with the governments of the European Union member states, Canada, and other foreign countries to target individuals in Zimbabwe responsible for violence and breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

“ZDERA identified and shared information regarding individuals responsible for the deliberate breakdown of the rule of law, politically motivated violence, and intimidation in Zimbabwe. It identified assets of those individuals held outside Zimbabwe to be frozen and implemented travel and economic sanctions against those individuals and their associates and families. It also provided for the eventual removal or amendment of those sanctions which is what has been happening over the years,” said Musewe.

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