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Rural Constituencies Inaccessible For Opposition: Report

A research by local policy think tank, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) has revealed that opposition political parties and civic groups are still struggling to access rural constituencies due to the politicization of traditional leaders.

The report, launched in Harare last week is titled Electoral impregnability of the rural constituencies in Zimbabwe.

According to ZDI, 82 percent of the respondents said traditional leaders were at the forefront of blocking opposition and CSOs from accessing rural constituencies.

“76% of the research participants viewed the rural constituencies as not freely accessible to the opposition and civil society who want to carry out their election related activities. The general implication is that impregnability of the rural constituency exists.

“The majority of research participants (72%) noted that the military/security sector plays a hindrance role in the accessibility of rural constituencies by the opposition, non-state media and civic society who want to conduct their election-related work. Published data supports these findings by showing that the military/security sector, working in cahoots with ZANUPF, has been involved in intimidation and violence against the opposition in a number of rural areas. 

“82% of research participants noted that traditional leaders hinder access to the rural constituency by the opposition, media and the civil society ahead of the 2023 election. This entails that traditional leaders generally facilitate the impregnability of the rural constituency. Instances of commandeered-voting, targeted intimidation of opposition supporters, economic sanctions against perceived opponents of ZANU PF through exclusion from food-handouts have ensued courtesy of this capture of traditional leaders,” said ZDI.

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The report said programs run through traditional leaders have been used against rural voters suspected of supporting the opposition.

“Access to land, residence and government social support is also run via the traditional leaders. This has been effectively used to punish rural voters for supporting the opposition and deter future opposition support. Humanitarian relief Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have also fallen prey to this patronage network of ZANU PF and traditional leaders in rural areas. NGOs usually rely on village datasets, registers and assemblies organised by village heads for recruitment of local representatives, beneficiaries and conducting vulnerability assessments before giving humanitarian aid,” the report said.

Rural constituencies have been perceived as Zanu PF strongholds where the ruling party has won elections with high margins.

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