SMARTING from a defeat in the Bikita East ward 31 by-election held on Saturday, the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC party has blamed Zanu PF and the State for intimidating voters through the arrest of party deputy chair Job Sikhala and deployment of riot police at the Bikita Magistrates’ Court during his initial remand appearance.

Zanu PF candidate Thomas Matanga garnered 1 112 votes against the MDC Alliance’s Moses Maphosa who polled 410 votes, while Peter Mavenga of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) came third with a meagre 23 votes.

The ward fell vacant following the death of Zanu PF councillor Patrick Marozhe in April.

MDC Masvingo provincial chair James Gumbi said the arrest of Sikhala had a knock-on effect on the rural voters, who over the years have been subjected to violence and
intimidation in previous elections.

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“Sikhala’s arrest was a way by Zanu PF to instil fear in people (ahead of the) by-election in Bikita. Sikhala, who we feel is innocent, was set as an example to pacify the rural
voters and cow them down,” Gumbi said.

“His arrest had an impact and caused a lot of upset to the voters. Some people may take it lightly, but imagine the people of Bikita seeing riot police armed to the teeth at the

But Zanu PF provincial spokesperson Ronald Ndaba said Sikhala’s arrest was not a factor in the ruling party’s victory.

“That is not true. Is Sikhala a voter in Bikita? His arrest was a non-factor. He is a voter in Harare, not in Bikita. We only know him as a person who was arrested and tried in
Bikita,” Ndaba told NewsDay.