By Tichaona Sibanda
08 August 2012
The exercise to train enumerators for the country’s population census has been abandoned, after uniformed forces hijacked the program and demanded they be included .
Many believe the attempt to take over the census has the full backing of ZANU PF.
On Thursday government announced that the training of enumerators had been stopped, but the count itself would go ahead as planned on the 17th and 18th August.
Acting Finance Minister Gorden Moyo told journalists at the news conference in Harare that the bulk of teachers to be used for the exercise were already qualified and trained, as the majority of them took part in the last census conducted in 2002.
‘Where we don’t have access like military and police camps, we will use our armed forces so they still have a role to play in the exercise,’ Moyo said.
On Wednesday Moyo had issued a statement saying cabinet were only going to allow a certain number of uniformed forces to be involved in the census. The armed forces, controlled by Mugabe’s powerful Junta, had wanted 10,000 of their men and women to be part of the 31,000 enumerators. But cabinet only approved just over 1,500 officers from the uniformed forces.
The Ministry of Finance, which is in charge of the process through the national statistical body Zimstats, said it had allocated 292 slots to prison services, 541 to the police, 467 to the defence forces and 267 to the CIO.
But political commentator Pedzisai Ruhanya told SW Radio Africa that the cabinet decision on the census was bogus and meant to mislead people. He alleged that the decision to disrupt the program was made by a political and military cabal that supports Mugabe.
‘Any other speculation and postulation is misguided and what the army is doing is a clear directive from the regime led by Mugabe. What the army is doing is promoting the interests of ZANU PF,’ Ruhanya added.
The commentator said the former ruling ZANU PF is deliberately pushing for the inclusion of its partisan forces to monitor the census. Census results could be used to determine political boundaries and could shift control of the House of Assembly.
‘For instance, it will tell us how many people are in the rural areas because there’s a myth that has always been there, that ZANU PF is supported by people in rural constituencies and that they are the majority.
‘So this census will tell us how many people are in Tsholotsho, Muzarabani, Harare and Bulawayo. It will demystify certain perceptions about the demographic nature of our country and will tell us how many people will be eligible to vote,’ said Ruhanya.
The chaos began earlier this week when thousands of soldiers, police, prison officers and CIO went on a destructive rampage, stopping the training of enumerators in each of the country’s 10 provinces. At some venues the soldiers took all the food meant for enumerators and confiscated training materials. They also vowed that ‘there will be no peace until we are included in the Census training and exercise.’ On Wednesday Newsday journalist, Blessed Mhlanga, was reportedly assaulted by suspected soldiers while covering the chaos surrounding the census training exercise in Kwekwe.
With less than a year to go before the country heads to a crucial poll, this is more evidence of powerful and divisive forces out to divide, instead of unite, Zimbabweans.
On Thursday the country’s leading newspapers and websites carried front page headlines that provided the latest evidence of the urgent need for security sector reform before elections.
‘Security Forces Block Census Workshops;’ ‘Soldiers invade census centres;’ ‘Census: Riot police descend on girls high school and stop process;’ ‘Soldiers Disrupt Census Trainings in Bulawayo;’ were just some of the shocking headlines summarising the fiasco surrounding the whole process.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said: ‘If we cannot hold a census, how are we expected to hold a fresh and fair election.’