ZANU-PF Mashonaland East provincial chairman Cde Ray Kaukonde has allegedly been demanding sexual favours from female party members aspiring for leadership positions, it has emerged.
Senior party officials — who include legislators and provincial executive members — told our Harare Bureau that their boss was well-known in the province for making advances at vulnerable women as well as married ones.
Female teachers and other civil servants have also allegedly been targeted, with threats that if they turned him down he would get them transferred to other provinces.
Informants, some of them victims of the alleged advances, demanded strict confidentiality fearing reprisal, but insisted it was time such criminal abuse of political power ended.
In all, our bureau is aware of at least six female politicians (names supplied) who fell victim to the alleged abuse by the embattled provincial chair.
Efforts to get a comment from Cde Kaukonde last night were futile. His mobile phone first went unanswered for some minutes. When he finally answered, he did not respond and then switched off the phone.
In one case, Cde Kaukonde allegedly approached an aspiring parliamentarian — a businesswoman — during Zanu-PF's primary elections last year.
"I rebuffed him and he declared point blank that I would never land any leadership position in the party as long as he was in office. I remain on the periphery of party activities since then and if things remain like this I will stay out," she said.
The aspiring parliamentarian added: "Kana Kaukonde akumaka, haupinde. (You will never land a leadership position if Cde Kaukonde blacklists you.)
"He swore that I would never get any position. He said, 'Over my dead body. As long as I am chairman, you will not get anything.' He does not want anyone (in the province) to be independent. As long as you show signs that you can stand on your own, he will do everything in his power to block you."
A married National Assembly member was told she had to sleep with the provincial chair if she wanted to retain her seat in the 2013 polls, it is alleged.
The legislator reportedly agreed and Cde Kaukonde allegedly activated massive campaign systems in her constituency. He funded her campaign and made food donations in the constituency.
The MP won.
Another source said Cde Kaukonde was linked to the elevation of two Women's League provincial executive members.
One of the women had previously been sexually abused by random criminals.
A provincial Women's League member who preferred anonymity said: "It is known throughout the province that Cde Kaukonde solicits sex from aspiring leaders; be it Members of Parliament or for any other leadership position.
"This is the truth because even women's lobby groups have received reports that some provincial leaders are asking for sex in exchange for positions.
"He is literally running some families in the province. He is a womaniser and several female comrades got their positions after romps (with him). He doesn't 'discriminate': He targets even married women."
In October, First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe said Cde Kaukonde was a man of "100 wives".
And in April, female legislators revealed that some senior politicians in their respective parties wanted sexual favours in exchange for primary election and campaign support.
The legislators said this at a workshop organised by the Women's Trust, and Research and Advocacy Unit in Harare.
"There was violence against aspiring (female) candidates. They were beaten up so that they would stay at home. But if you were not beaten up, you would be sexually harassed, which is abuse of women," said Mutare South MP Cde Nyasha Chikwinya (Zanu-PF).
MDC-T's Maureen Kademaunga, on behalf of young women in politics, said some candidates pulled out of primary elections because of sexual harassment.
"When we went out to fundraise, it's either you would not succeed or since men have money they would get an opportunity to sexually exploit us. So sexual exploitation is what we were running from.
"A lot of young women ended up not contesting primary elections because they were afraid of these challenges since they would be sexually harassed when they tried to fundraise."
Yesterday, Bulawayo-based women's rights activist Ms Busi Ndlovu said politicians who sexually harass women should not hold office.
"We do not want such retrogressive leaders in our communities. They must be condemned because their behaviour is totally unacceptable. They do not deserve to lead our young women because they are criminals," she said.