IF there is one undisputed trait President Robert Mugabe can be credited with despite the commonplace failure around him, it is deft political manoeuvring to manipulate his lieutenants by bring
ing back some shine to their waning political fortunes.
No one doubted Mugabe’s resolve to reward losing candidates in pre-poll campaigns when he said there would be no losers among the party faithful.
Ordinary Zimbabweans merely second-guessed whose image among those of his party’s old guard Mugabe would want to spit and polish. The major interest the senate election has aroused is in the quality of candidates that the ruling Zanu PF has come up with – more for their history of failure than success.
With a sleight of hand, Mugabe is trying to revive the political fortunes of stay-the-course politicians such as Dumiso Dabengwa, Sithembiso Nyoni, Vivian Mwashita, Callistus Ndlovu, and Forbes Magadu and attempt to freshen the maverick Dzikamayi Mavhaire.
Mavhaire is famed for the rebellious remark: “The president must go.” The remark earned him a two-year suspension until Zanu PF’s structural reorganisation and support in Masvingo started sliding.
Included in the coterie of political have-beens needing freshening, Magadu, Nyoni, Ndlovu and Mwashita stand out.
In 1995, Mwashita broke a record as the first ever politician in post-independent Zimbabwe to lose a parliamentary seat to a former comrade-in-arms in Harare’s Sunningdale constituency.
She lost the seat to Margaret Dongo, who had unearthed irrefutable evidence of voters’ roll manipulation and official gerrymandering. The court ruling exposed Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede’s 15 -year claim that Zimbabwe’s electoral system was foolproof.
Not only that. Dongo achieved the feat of putting up a vigorous election campaign to overcome a candidate with a 98% permanent disability claim from the liberation war.
Mwashita joined the long queue of high profile government officials who looted the War Victims Compensation Fund but got off with a slight rap on the knuckles.
Magadu, who presided over the running of Chitungwiza Town Council, left a legacy of burst pipes and infrastructural decline in Zimbabwe’s third largest urban settlement.
His tenure at the Zimbabwe Omnibus Company left most commuters with lingering memories of how an efficient public transport service plumbed to such depths of unreliability in such a short time span.
His enthusiasm to curry favours for himself from ruling party heavyweights and build a political profile led Magadu to dish out buses for political rallies without guarantees that the Zanu PF party would pay the bills.
Mugabe is also keen to put the lustre back on Callistus Ndlovu’s political fortunes that took a nosedive following the 1988 Willowgate vehicle scandal, just as much as he is trying to help serial loser Sithembiso Nyoni find a foothold on Zimbabwe’s political rollercoaster.
If Nyoni loses, she will have beaten the losing record set by veteran politician Enos Nkala who was never able to win an election despite his long history in nationalist politics.
Voters in some senatorial constituencies on November 26 will for the first time participate in a poll that has failed to excite regional and international interest except for the wrangling currently wreaking havoc in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The electorate will be participating in an election shorn of properly delimited constituencies and carrying an enormous price tag.
It remains to be seen whether international organisations such as the UN, AU, NAM, Sadc and Comesa alongside countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, and Gambia share government’s zeal to even bother themselves with observing the election under a shambolic voters’ roll following Operation Murambatsvina.
Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said the involvement of foreign observers would “further enhance the existing transparency of the electoral process thereby enriching Zimbabwe’s democratic experience”.
But how a poll of no national significance and with arbitrary constituencies that sidestepped the Delimitation Commission can “enhance transparency” and “enrich” the nation’s democratic experience, as Mumbengegwi says, is yet to be seen.
Mugabe recently exhorted his party supporters to vote decisively in the forthcoming senatorial election to relegate the fractured MDC to the political dustbin.
He is keen to convince party supporters to help him revive waning fortunes among such politicians as Stanley Sakupwanya (Makoni-Nyanga), Oria Kabayanjiri (Mudzi-Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe), Phone Madiro (Hurungwe-Kariba), Samuel Mumbengegwi (Chiredzi-Mwenezi), Tsitsi Muzenda (Gweru-Shurungwi) and Richard Hove (Mberengwa-Zvishavane) through elections that have failed to excite national interest except in so far as the event has exposed a crisis of leadership in the MDC.