A storm is brewing in Zanu PF ahead of primary elections slated for Wednesday, amid concerns that the party will pay heavily for the imposition of candidates in various constituencies.
Report by Patrice Makova
The primary elections were initially slated for tomorrow, but had to be deferred to Wednesday after protesters from various provinces besieged Zanu PF headquarters demonstrating against the imposition of candidates.
As Zanu PF battles to stem discontent, lack of funds and logistical nightmares also contributed to the postponement of the primaries.
Officials said fights by the different factions in Zanu PF to position themselves to succeed President Robert Mugabe, saw many candidates being disqualified from standing in the primaries.
Some candidates who had been approved by provinces were struck off the lists by the Politburo allegedly at the instigation of the Presidium.
The lists have candidates loyal to Vice-President Joice Mujuru pitted against those linked to Defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
There is now tension in constituencies where some popular candidates were disqualified from standing. Impromptu demos are being staged, while others have dispatched delegations to President Robert Mugabe and Mujuru to argue their cases.
A politburo source said while it was unlikely that “bhora musango” (protest vote) would be repeated by disgruntled party supporters in the forthcoming elections, there were fears that this time around, apathy would mar constituencies where candidates have been imposed.
“Popular candidates who feel that they were unfairly disqualified will simply fold their arms and not campaign for the party. I see a number of constituencies where Zanu PF won narrowly going to the opposition because of this imposition,” said the party official.
Zanu PF bigwigs who were allegedly imposed include national secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, who is now uncontested after Ministry of Women’s Affairs director, Christopher Chingosho, was disqualified from standing.
Chingosho, who has served as senior party official under various Zanu PF Manicaland provincial executives, is said to have made inroads in Headlands following years of campaigning.
He was also riding on Mutasa’s current problems which saw some party officials in Manicaland province petitioning Mugabe to rein in the veteran politician, accusing him of dictatorship and imposition of candidates.
A Zanu PF official said at last week’s politburo meeting where the list of candidates was being considered, Mujuru allegedly literally hit a table and declared that Mutasa should not be challenged as he was too senior in the party.
But Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri is said to have queried why the same principle was not being applied to her, as she was also very senior in the party.
Muchinguri is being contested by Joyce Hamandishe in Mutasa-Nyanga under the women’s quota system.
“There is a feeling that the Presidium is applying double standards by protecting some candidates at the expense of others,” said the party official. “Why was national commissar, Webster Shamu not protected as he is going to face stiff competition from John Mafa [Mashonaland West provincial chairman] for the Chegutu seat? Shamu by virtue of his position is all over the country and does not have time to fully concentrate on his constituency.”
In Mutare North, where suspended Manicaland provincial chairman, Mike Madiro was disqualified despite being cleared by the courts, of charges of stealing cattle donated to Mugabe, there are fears of a protest vote.
Prominent Mutare businessman Esau Mupfumi and several other candidates are eyeing the seat.
Tension is also brewing in Masvingo province where some perceived popular candidates were disqualified. In Gutu there was near chaos at Chihambakwe Centre yesterday, where hundreds of Zanu PF supporters demanded to be addressed by former Zimbabwe Football Association boss Henrietta Rushwaya.
They said they wanted to know why she was disqualified from contesting the Gutu senatorial seat.
Sources said traditional leaders from Masvingo have also sent a delegation to Harare demanding to know why former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe staffer, Munyaradzi Kereke was disqualified from standing in the Bikita West seat against his former workmate and musician Elias Musakwa.
Musician Energy Mutodi who was barred from contesting incumbent, Beater Nyamupinga for the Goromonzi West seat warned that Zanu PF chances in the next elections have all but evaporated because of imposition of candidates.
He wrote on his Facebook page that the thousands of people who demonstrated outside the party’s headquarters were angry over the rejection of their preferred candidates many of whom were barred by Provincial Election Directorates (PEDs) comprised of interested parties.
“The factionalism disease was cited as another deterrent to intra-party democracy. Consequently, voter apathy is unavoidable or simply people could vote for the opposition in order to punish the PEDs,” said Mutodi. “If these issues are not sorted out then we can as well forget a Zanu PF rebound.”
In Mudzi, Zanu PF members are also mulling protests after the disqualification of prominent lawyer, Jonathan Samukange.
Mutasa yesterday said he was not aware of any complaints and protests against the imposition of candidates.
“I do not want to talk about the protests because I don’t know about them. You want me to comment about that, so that you will say I am the one who told you that. I am not telling you anything,” he said.
Zanu PF national chairman, Simon Khaya-Moyo said PEDs would meet today to review concerns raised by the disqualified candidates.
The issue of logistics is also expected to be discussed at today’s meetings amid revelation that the party was broke, and was finding it hard to deploy agents and officials at each polling station.
“The problem in Zanu PF is that we have individuals richer than the party. They do not want to donate to the party directly, because they want to use their money to control certain events including the succession issue,” said a party official.