FORMAL STRUCTURES OF POWER IN RURAL ZIMBABWE
In February, 2000 ZANU PF’s first ever loss at the polls in a nationwide referendum on a new constitution precipitated a political crisis, which has continued to the present. The most alarming aspect of this loss for ZANU PF was that it was apparent that many rural voters, on whom ZANU PF could usually rely, had withdrawn support. A significant proportion of these voters were perceived by ZANU PF to be farm labourers in thrall to their white commercial farmer employers. With a general election pending in June of that year, ZANU PF moved swiftly to re-establish complete control over the country side. Under the guise of land reform, white commercial farms were invaded, farm workers killed, beaten, raped and displaced, and militia bases established on the occupied land. These bases were used as the spring board for a reign of terror in the countryside.
Part of the strategy to regain control over the rural areas included a centrally organised campaign, commencing in 2001, to disrupt local government and to dislodge government personnel seen as an impediment to the reassertion of ZANU PF hegemony. War veterans closed Rural District Council offices, schools and clinics and brought community income generating projects (such as CAMPFIRE) to a halt. Teachers, nurses, local councillors and district administrators were removed from their posts. Some were re-admitted after vetting by a local war veterans committee, but most were replaced, often by poorly educated persons appointed by the veterans committee on the basis of nepotism and cronyism. Needless to say, the statutory requirements for appointment and dismissal were ignored other than in a few notable instances.