Back Zanu Pf Or Move Out, Governor Tells Pastors

Mashonaland Central provincial governor, Ephraim Masawi, has told church leaders who are not members of the ruling party Zanu PF that they should move out of his province before serious campaigning for next year's general elections start.

According to pastors who recently had an audience with him after one of their members was severely assaulted by Zanu PF militants during an all night prayer meeting, the governor is alleged to have told the church leaders that his role in the province was to carry out the ruling party's mandate of recruiting more people to the party.

The pastor, whose identity cannot be revealed for fear of reprisals, told Daily News Online that the governor was defiant throughout the meeting, insisting that church members who were not Zanu PF cadres should not come to him for protection.

He also allegedly told the pastors that president Mugabe would not accept anything short of winning all the constituencies for Zanu PF in the forthcoming general elections and that he was Mugabe's man on the ground to see that nothing stopped the ruling party from clinching all the seats in the province in the general elections set for March next year.

"Mugabe's wish is to see that Zanu PF remains in power with a resounding majority. This province is the only one where the opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), failed to get any seat or representation, either at parliament or council elections.

"I would be happy if things remain this way. If your church members are not prepared for this, they should move out of the province and go elsewhere where opposition politics is tolerated," Masawi is alleged to have said.

The governor is also alleged to have told the church leaders that Mashonaland Central province had been declared a Zanu PF stronghold and 'no go' area for opposition parties.

The pastor said most of the church leaders who had gone to see the governor were disappointed by the governor's response.

Another pastor, whose church is affiliated to the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), said the governor was not happy with the church leaders in the province, whom he accused of promoting opposition politics.

Masawi, who is a defeated Zanu PF candidate in the 2000 parliamentary elections in Mbare West constituency, was appointed governor for the province by Mugabe last year.

Since his appointment, Masawi has spearheaded a reign of terror in the province, condoning farm invasions and making violent threats to members of the opposition MDC.

Just last week, an MDC member, Claudious Marimo, a local businessman at Svisva Business Centre and also an MDC national executive member, was granted an interim order by High Court judge, Justice Lawrence Karwi, barring the governor from threatening to evict or disturb his stay or lawful business activities in the province.

Marimo, through his lawyer, Jessie Majome, had cited the governor and the ruling party Zanu PF in his court application, stating that the governor had tried to lure him to join Zanu PF in May this year in return for finance to bankroll his business, but he had refused.

He was given an ultimatum to join Zanu PF or vacate his business premises if he wanted to remain an MDC member.

Marimo then made an urgent appeal for a peace order in the High Court. In the appeal, he cited Masawi, Zanu PF and nine of its supporters as respondents.

On behalf of Zanu PF, party secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa, in an affidavit to the court, urged it to dismiss with costs Marimo's application, saying it was not urgent, as the applicant had taken time to raise the matter.

"The events complained of, and thus founding the cause of action, allegedly occurred first in May 2004. It is alleged that the last date of occurrence is August 7 2004. Yet the applicant waited from May, up till September 2004, to approach this Honourable Court," said Mnangagwa.

Masawi had also argued that the hearing of the matter was not urgent, saying it took almost five months for the case to be brought before the court.

"Further the interim relief being sought is not pending the happening of anything, rather the applicant wants to get a final order disguised as an interim relief," said Masawi.

In his affidavit the governor said he jokingly invited Marimo to join his party, teasing him that he would benefit from the rural electrification programme, which he was spearheading.

He also implored that since the relief, which was being sought had a bearing on the police operations and possible involvement, the police should have been cited as respondents. He denied ever inciting the community to evict Marimo from the area, adding that it was the applicant's responsibility to prove his assertions. Efforts to get a comment from Masawi proved fruitless as his direct telephone line in his office went unanswered.