Zanu PF Ropes Church Into Poll Campaign

The ruling Zanu PF has resolved to use church leaders, mostly pastors from pentecostal denominations, to spearhead its campaign in next year's general election.

A confidential report presented to the politburo by the Zanu PF commissariat said the ruling party - which is desperate to win the critical election - will use church leaders to mobilise voters.

"As part of our campaign effort towards the 2005 parliamentary election, the commissariat is identifying and meeting with various interest groups which are helpful in mobilising their following to support the party," the report said.

"The church in Zimbabwe is one of the sectors that have been identified to be quite helpful in this respect. To date the commissariat has identified and is already networking with over 600 pastors from pentecostal churches and over 200 church leaders from African apostolic sects."

In the past Zanu PF has used traditional leaders to mobilise voters in communal areas. Already chiefs and headmen have been given massive incentives in the form of allowances and a scheme to purchase vehicles as part of luring them to the ruling party's side.

Many chiefs have also had their homes electrified under President Robert Mugabe's rural electrification programme.

The report said Zanu PF's mobilisation through the churches was going on well.

"The response of the church to our programmes is massive," it said. "The commissariat is set to strengthen its contacts with the church and use it as an important campaign vehicle."

The report said the ruling party commissariat had designed an "outreach programme" for a "massive campaign" trail at provincial and district levels to recapture seats lost to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in 2000.

"In order to drum up general awareness and readiness for a massive campaign programme, the commissariat has designed an outreach programme," the report said, "to visit all the provinces in order to meet with the provincial, district coordinating committees and district leadership in their respective administrative areas.

"The programme shall start with the national secretary visiting all constituencies where we lost to the opposition during the 2000 parliamentary election."

Zanu PF national political commissar Elliot Manyika was scheduled to tour Manicaland province from June 3-6 to meet the local political leadership in Chipinge, Chimanimani, Nyanga, Mutare, and Zimunya-Marange.

"After Manicaland, the programme will continue with other provinces in the following order: Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Masvingo, and Mashonaland Central," the report said. "It will then end with the urban provinces of Harare and Bulawayo."

Zanu PF will also use "political orientation workshops as a campaign tool".

"After the national workshop held for provincial commissars in Rowa National Training Centre in Mutare in March, the department has requested all provinces to organise similar commissariat workshops," the report said.

"To date, Manicaland and Mashonaland East provinces have already done their workshops. The commissariat is liaising with the rest of other provinces to ensure all provinces get the same political orientation and training."

The report said Zanu PF, currently entangled in confusion over primary elections, would accelerate the restructuring of its provinces to strengthen its structures to win next year's crucial poll.