CIVIL servants, mostly teachers and provincial officials in Matabeleland South, have reportedly been ordered to attend President Robert Mugabe’s campaign rally in Gwanda on Saturday to boost attendance figures.
This comes after police in the provincial capital cancelled rallies for the two MDC formations, giving preference to Mugabe’s Zanu PF.
Teachers’ unions and political parties have condemned the move saying Zanu PF was harassing underpaid government workers.
Sources in Gwanda said the instruction filtered through on Tuesday and the bulk of the civil servants were now aware of the directive.
Mugabe (89) has embarked on a countrywide campaign to drum up support for his re-election bid in the face of stiff competition from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube, who is also MDC president.
“We heard that department heads have been told to inform everyone to attend the rally without fail.
“The rally is said to be a national event and by not attending we will be disrespecting the President,” a government worker said.
Another civil servant said by being forced to attend the rally, “the assumption is that we are all Zanu PF supporters”.
“However, that is not correct. It’s an attempt to force us to vote for him (Mugabe).
“But Mugabe should know that he is coming to Gwanda to give us opportunity to bid him farewell as his will lose the election.”
Zanu PF provincial chairman Andrew Langa and national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo were not available for comment yesterday as they could not be reached on their mobile phones.
Sources said constituencies expected to have high attendance during the rally were the party’s traditional strongholds of Beitbridge, Insiza North and Gwanda South.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe told Southern Eye that for the sake of their safety teachers should attend the rallies.
“It’s a sad reality of our time that a certain political party would frog-match and shepherd people to a rally,” he said.
“However, as PTZU we cannot say the teachers should not attend the rally. But for their safety, they should attend those rallies, dance and sing with everyone else.
“But the bottom line is no one knows which party they will vote for,” Majongwe said.
MDC deputy national spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi condemned the harassment of civil servants by Zanu PF.
“Mugabe is facing imminent defeat in a week’s time, but people in his inner circle are misleading him into believing that he still commands support.
“Bussing and forcing people, even non-Zanu PF supporters, to attend rallies is their old trick,” he said.
“Forcing professional civil servants to attend a rally is pure harassment.
“It will be a mystery for an entire government workforce that is underpaid to continue to vote for Mugabe.”