Villagers in Buhera South constituency have claimed that their MP is forcing them to pay $8 to attend Dr Grace Mugabe’s rally at Cashel Valley in Chimanimani scheduled for Thursday, October 8.
The MP for the area is Joseph Chinotimba of Zanu PF and locals accused him of cajoling villagers to pay in order to please President Robert Mugabe’s wife with a bumper crowd.
Grace is expected to help heal divisions in the province and unite warring Zanu PF factions led by Provincial Minister Mandi Chimene and the rival group which backs Environment Minister Opah Muchinguri.
Villagers who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com on condition they are not named said Chinotimba’s runners came knocking on their doors demanding $8, with $4 being for the venue and $4 for transport to get back home.
They accused Chinotimba of trying to please the First Lady at their expense.
Most said they were however afraid to boycott the rally as they fear being labelled opposition or Gamatox supporters.
“We are being forced to pay money to attend a rally at Cashel Valley,” said one villager.
“They say transport to the venue is for free, but each person has to pay $4 for transport back from Chimanimani and the other $4 is allegedly for the venue.”
Another villager was suspicious of the claim that the organisers needed money pay for rural venue.
“This is likely the first time in Grace Mugabe’s country wide rallies where poor villagers like us are being forced to pay for a rural venue,” she said.
“I wonder if this is happening in all other districts.”
Others said if the organisers of the event wanted to please the First Lady with a large crowd they should pay for expenses such as transport and food out of their own pockets.
But Joseph Chinotimba denied the allegations.
He said villagers were actually “jostling” to book a place in one of the five buses he has “hired” to ferry people to the rally.
“No no, no, that’s not true,” he said.
“They are coming on their own, rushing to pay. Everyone wants to meet Amai there, we are not even threatening them.
“I have secured five buses that will ferry people from my constituency to Cashel Valley and we want to show Zimbabweans that people from Manicaland province are one.”
The Buhera South MP then added that villagers, war veterans and war collaborators without money for transport should walk an estimated 100 kilometres to Cashel Valley and attend the rally.