head of the eagerly anticipated October 22 Norton by-election, Zanu PF is now appealing to the notorious national youth service graduates, famously known as Border Gezis or green bombers, to lead its campaign through the homestretch.
Stoking fears of chaos, after a girl was allegedly abducted and then stripped by alleged Zanu PF functionaries over the weekend, the ruling party has also dispatched heavyweights to Norton to drum up support for Ronald Chindedza, who will slug it out with independent candidate Temba Mliswa.
A bruised and battered Zanu PF is seeking to redeem itself by retaining the Norton constituency — that fell vacant following the expulsion of Chris Mutsvangwa.
Mliswa, a former Zanu PF chairperson — has proved to be a thorn in the flesh for the authorities — as his rallies have usually drawn huge crowds something his rival Chindedza is struggling to equal.
Yesterday, minister of Youth Patrick Zhuwao yesterday met with Border Gezi youths to rally troops.
“Good day comrades. This message serves to confirm that I have requested the provincial youth chairman to advise all NYS (national youth service) graduates who are based in Norton to come and meet me at the Norton VTC (vocational training centre) on Tuesday 11th October 2016,” Zhuwao said in a text message gleaned by the Daily News.
He added: “Please distribute this message as widely as possible given the fact that I have not seen any such message on all the groups that I am on.”
Efforts to get a comment from Zhuwao yesterday were fruitless but Mliswa said the meeting was nothing but a “congregation of desperate thugs”.
“National Youth Service is a national programme that is not the sole preserve of Zanu PF. The fact that the party under the guise of the government has called for this meeting shows the levels of desperation permeating from within the party,” Mliswa said.
“We have always preached peace and tolerance and denounce any moves that may be made to incite or encourage the youth to violence.”
“The level of violence and intimidation in Norton has reached alarming proportions and we urge all youths and political parties alike to remain peaceful and tolerant of each other and their views.”
The former Hurungwe West legislator has in the past openly bragged that he has the support of war veterans — who have since ditched Zanu PF.
“This is a by-election to say to Mugabe enough is enough, step down. Norton is going to be the first to send him that message,” he said at a recent rally.
“Turn all your frustrations and anger in to protest votes against Zanu PF come 2018.”
Zanu PF party insiders believe the factional divisions rocking the party could work in Mliswa’s favour with the faction that failed to field its candidate likely to throw its weight behind him.