AMONG the many people that crowded the road to Kanyemba Primary School in Chiweshe last Friday morning were women with little babies strapped on their backs as they hurried to a ZANU-PF rally.
With some parents dragging along the road those children who could walk, the four, five and six-year-olds would stumbled as they struggled to keep pace with the elders.
The parents would occasionally extend harsh rebukes and, in some cases, hard slaps on the hapless minors, whose sobs would be ignored as tears ran down their cheeks.
The parents, fearing unspecified consequences, had to be at the rally before formal proceedings began.
In some parts of rural Zimbabwe, it is treacherous to abscond a ZANU-PF meeting or rally.
A chairman, or his/her representative and even village spies snoop to check who is present and who is absent, who arrived early and who was late; taking names down to possibly act later on the matter.
Last year, not very far from the venue of last Friday’s rally, a villager and his son lost their lush vegetables after they were uprooted by party activists as punishment for not attending a ZANU-PF meeting, a local pressure group, Zimbabwe Peace Project reported.
The mother and son had given the excuse that their vegetables, their sole source of income, were wilting and badly needed watering, so they had to miss the meeting.
It was then resolved, during the kangaroo village court that the impediment (vegetables) to them attending meetings should be removed.
So attending ruling party meeting is a sure must and in an area where also one child went missing and was discovered dead a few days later in a case of suspected murder, it would be unwise for anyone to leave their little ones unattended.
But, crude as the ruling party rallies have become, it might just not be the best of places for under 18s.
From the explicit bum-shaking dances exhibited by the party’s affiliate choral groups to extreme hate language, often laced with spates of violence, it is one environment where children should be kept as far away from as possible.
Difficult weather conditions also usually conspire to further place the children in very difficult predicaments.
Last Friday was unbearably hot in Chiweshe.
There were very few positives to pick from the rally though.
For example, a donation of household goods and farming equipment, despite their handover was dominated by name calling, hate speech, threats and badmouthing.
The traditional party slogans: “Down with so and so,” were highly dominant, with children, some of whom in school uniforms, also being asked to zealously chant, making efforts by the country to set up a peace and reconciliation commission a crazy joke.
“Nemi vana vechikoro tirikuda kukudzidzisaiwo zvechiZANU-PF (Even you schoolchildren, we want to teach you ZANU-PF ideologies),” shouted Senate President, Edna Madzongwe, before further chanting: “Forward with President Mugabe, down with (Morgan) Tsvangirai.”
The children responded.
There were also some very discomforting words and expressions such as prostitute, kill and talk about someone having someone fathering his own wife’s children – all shouted into the booming microphones that made sure nothing of what was spoken eluded then ear.
Because these rallies are being held during school days, the “standing rule” is that all neighbouring schools should stop lessons and send both teacher and pupil to the rally where the possibility of some, especially the little ones, getting lost is high.
And in Chiweshe, that Friday, an announcer hoisted a visibly confused and shaken toddler, of about four or five years, asking for its parents to come forward and collect it.
And as the situation in the ruling party gets even more confusing, more woes are in the offing for the poor rural children.
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