By Nhau Mangirazi
KAROI-For a long time, Hurungwe West has been associated with under-development. It is one of the regions in far flung Zimbabwe grappling with high levels of poverty.
Villagers in Hurungwe West often complained that the government had forgotten about them.
In their prayers, they have been asking the Almighty to bless them with anything that could make their lives easier.
Events of the past few weeks seem to suggest their prayers could have been misunderstood.
Of late, the constituency has been in the limelight for the wrong reasons altogether.
Widespread violence, intimidation and coercing of voters have flared up in the area ahead of by-elections scheduled for next week.
This is a constituency in which independent candidate Temba Mliswa is battling it out against Keith Guzah of Zanu(PF).
Mliswa was expelled from Zanu(PF) for backing former vice president Joice Mujuru, who stands accused of plotting to unseat her boss, President Robert Mugabe.
After his expulsion, the former Mashonaland West provincial chairman was recalled from Parliament, resulting in the seat falling vacant.
Along with his uncle, Didymus Mutasa, they unsuccessfully challenged their recall from Parliament in the Constitutional Court.
And when that route failed, his uncle attempted to seek re-election in Headlands as a Zanu(PF) candidate, resulting in the rejection of his nomination papers.
Mliswa’s papers were accepted as he filed them as an independent candidate.
By daring to challenge Zanu(PF), Mliswa has faced the wrath of the revolutionary party.
Zanu(PF) politicians have for the past two months descended on the constituency to garner support for Guzah.
The only other high-ranking member of the party who has not been in Hurungwe West to campaign for Guzah is probably President Mugabe.
Otherwise the entire top hierarchy of Zanu(PF) has literally been camped there, including the two Vice Presidents (Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko); secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo and national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere.
That these bigwigs have had to abandon the comforts of their offices to spend time in this remote and usually idyllic area shows that Hurungwe West means quite a lot to Zanu(PF) in this election.
As far as Zanu(PF) is concerned, losing the Hurungwe seat would be akin to handing the constituency to Mujuru.
The same vigour with which they hounded Mujuru out of office can be seen in the manner Zanu(PF) wants to reduce Mliswa to an ordinary member of society.
The party is being accused of having deployed State apparatus to aid its campaign.
According to party insiders, Zanu(PF) is also fearful of setting a precedent whereby those who rebel against it could successfully take the party head-on at polls in order to be vindicated.
In Mudzi South, the party had similar issues with Jonathan Samukange, who defied the party to stand in the 2013 elections as an independent candidate.
The same happened in Bikita West where Munyaradzi Kereke successfully defied a party directive not to stand in the 2013 polls.
While Kereke and Samukange have since been readmitted into Zanu(PF), the party now wishes to send a clear message to those who care to listen that one can only rebel against it at his/her own peril.
In Hurungwe West, it’s now the whole of Zanu(PF) versus Mliswa.
Fear, tension and isolated incidents of violence have gripped villagers in the constituency ahead of the poll.
Villagers are no longer at liberty to speak out their mind, especially to visitors, for fear of reprisals.
And all they now wish for is that the voting process ends so that they can peacefully return to their normal lives.
“We are not free to say much about Temba Mliswa as the party has deployed many unknown people monitoring our movements here.”We do not know many of these people who are at every school and business centre within the constituency,” said a party member at Zvipani Business Centre.
Villagers claim that some youths who are terrorising villagers in the area not residents of Hurungwe West.
“We understand that they are being paid US$50 daily allowance to bring hatred, violence and division amongst us,” said one Zanu(PF) youth, who also refused to be identified by name.
Hurungwe West constituency, under Chief Nyamhunga, is now a political hotbed where villagers, civil servants and traditional leaders are no longer free to speak about their situation.
“Everyone has literally been shut out to say anything good about Mliswa. They want us to treat him as an outcast. Some unknown people are using classes as guest rooms affecting lessons for pupils,” lamented one headman, speaking from Chiroti Business Centre,where suspected soldiers are camped at a school.
Despite the ruling party’s concerted efforts to win the hearts of the voters, albeit through State functionaries, some still have fond memories of the good old days when their former MP, Mliswa was a darling in Mashonaland West.