By Tichaona Sibanda
08 August 2012
A Kombi full of passengers was on Wednesday forced to drive into the 3 Brigade army base in Mutare because passengers were speaking critically about the way soldiers, police and the CIO have hijacked the population census exercise.
The Kombi was travelling from Rusape to Mutare when one of the passengers, a soldier, became incensed when other passengers started discussing the census that has been turned into such a fiasco by the security forces.
The discussion sparked debate about the behaviour of ZANU PF and the partisan armed forces, and passengers were unaware there was an off-duty soldier onboard.
When the Kombi got to Mutare, the soldier identified himself and told the driver to go to the 3 Brigade Headquarters in the city.
Unknown to the army, a number of passengers were senior MDC-T officials from Makoni district who immediately sent out text messages to the party of their predicament.
One of those who received a text was Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma, who alerted the party spokesman in Manicaland, Pishai Muchauraya.
Mangoma, who is the MDC-T MP for Makoni North, told SW Radio Africa that after spending some time at the camp all the passengers were freed after interrogation.
‘The soldiers took down their names and addresses and told them there would be a follow up. But I can confirm all guys from my constituency are free and safe as well as the other passengers,’ Mangoma said.
The census exercise continues to create political headaches for the inclusive government. With an eye toward the national elections slated for 2013, there are allegations that politicians from ZANU PF are doing everything in their power to circumvent the count.
Analysts told SW Radio Africa that the largest political parties, the MDC-T and ZANU PF, are particularly threatened by the prospect of reduced urban or rural constituencies as a revised count would lead to a revised political balance. Fear that this might happen has seen soldiers, allegedly at the behest of ZANU PF, forcibly joining the program to ensure they monitor the exercise.
Soldiers have emerged from their barracks countrywide to hijack the process and turn the count into a party event.
Our correspondent in Bulawayo, Lionel Saungweme, told us that soldiers there disrupted the training of enumerators at Bulawayo Polytechnic for the second day running.
He said the soldiers vowed that ‘there will be no peace until we are included in the Census training and exercise.’