THE just-ended Zanu PF primaries have exposed the ruling party’s tendency of breaking its own ground rules, with provinces coming up with their ow
n selection criteria to stop senior politicians from being challenged.
The unsanctioned decisions have resulted in a number of disputed primary elections, forcing the party leadership to order reruns to correct the anomalies.
In some cases Zanu PF primaries have been characterised by violence after supporters failed to agree on the procedures of choosing candidates.
This, in some cases, resulted in the abandonment of the polls.
The disputes left Zanu PF with no option but to extend primary elections by another week to allow for the finalisation of candidates’ selection in several constituencies.
The objections and complaints, which were registered with the party’s national election directorate, forced President Robert Mugabe to delay the nomination court by another week from February 8.
In all the objections, Zanu PF heavyweights were implicated in either vote rigging or imposition of candidates without going through the primaries, forcing party supporters to besiege the party headquarters in Harare demanding a reversal.
A number of provinces complained that senior politicians abused the technicality of five years in provincial leadership requirement to avoid potential challenges from parliamentary and council hopefuls.
They also objected to the last minute declaration of constituencies as reserved for women candidates, a development viewed as an attempt by the top leadership to block young turks who wanted to represent the ruling party.
These developments prompted a number of local structures to write to the party’s national election directorate denouncing the imposition of candidates.
Zanu PF insiders said the chaos that characterised the primaries throughout the country exposed policy contradictions and the double standards by some party heavyweights to protect themselves.
“The primaries’ confusion reflected policy and implementation contradictions,” a source said.
“It exposed that the leadership surrounding Mugabe deliberately misled him to protect themselves, so that by the time correct information gets to him, the decision making process would have lapsed. That is why the party often makes wrong decisions.”
The source said political heavyweights were manipulating the system to impose their own candidates even if they are not the electorate’s choice.
“The sad part is that there is no system to hold these people to account, except ordering a rerun of the elections,” she said.
A classic example was in Mashonaland Central where the provincial leadership declared that no politburo members would be challenged in their constituencies.
The declaration gave ministers Eliot Manyika, Chen Chimutengwende, Nicholas Goche and Saviour Kasukuwere automatic tickets as Zanu PF candidates.
Although the decision prompted protests with party supporters complaining that there wasn’t such a provision in the guidelines, it failed to sway the provincial leadership.
Supporters in Mashonaland West and Masvingo provinces have accused provincial leadership of “ambush politics” in which some constituencies were declared as reserved for women just before the primary elections.
Supporters from Mashonaland Central last week demonstrated at the ruling party headquarters and denounced the imposition of candidates and alleged declaration of candidates as uncontested when the directorate was preparing for primaries.
The supporters cited outgoing Makonde MP Leo Mugabe’s case when he sought to be senator for Mhangura but was shocked when he was told that the constituency had been reserved for a woman on the day of the primary election.
His immediate response was to file an appeal. The directorate reversed the decision, allowing Mugabe to stand as the senatorial candidate in Makonde.
In Masvingo, the provincial executive tried to impose themselves and their lieutenants as candidates in constituencies of their choice with the chairman Alex Mudavanhu going further to declare that he should not be challenged.
Chaos in the province was only averted after the intervention of retired army general Vitalis Zvinavashe who nullified the declaration.
Zvinavashe is understood to have told the provincial leadership that if the highest office is being contested then no one should become a candidate without going through primaries. Mudavanhu and a number of his provincial executive were defeated in the primaries.
In Gutu South Dr Paul Chimedza, the former president of the Hospital Doctors Association who had reportedly bankrolled a multi-billion dollar bid for political office, suffered a major setback when he was informed that he could not contest in primary elections because the constituency was reserved for a woman.
The provincial election directorate’s decision, which had declared long-serving and controversial politician, Shuvai Mahofa, candidate without challenge, was however reversed by the election directorate.
Mahofa had to go into primaries against Henrieta Rushwaya and Jane Muzangwa. Again how Rushwaya got the ticket to contest in Gutu South after she lost another primary in Gutu East leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
In Mutare a serious clash erupted between Gender minister Oppah Muchinguri and Irene Zindi following the declaration of Sherlington Dumbura as the Zanu PF candidate for Mutare South.
The decision was nullified following Zindi’s complaint accusing Muchinugri of misrepresenting facts and presenting Dumbura as a woman candidate to the party leadership.
Zindi confirmed that the decision had been reversed, but was surprised by the call for any other candidates interested in the constituency to submit their CVs for consideration to contest in primaries.
“I asked the national commissar whether there was a provision for new candidates to submit their CVs since the process was closed last month,” Zindi said.
“I also asked him whether those CVs would be submitted for vetting considering the fact that the closing day for primaries was Wednesday,” she said.
Manyika said the issue would be finalised by the provincial leadership.
Observers, however, said even before Zindi’s complaint, the idea that after the delimitation process the provincial leadership should meet on January 3 to parcel out constituencies and declare themselves as unopposed candidates was unprocedural.
The meeting had agreed that ministers Mike Nyambuya and Oppah Muchinguri, and Mandi Chimene and Zindi would go in unopposed.
In Bulawayo province, clashes forced the postponement of primary elections after rival factions clashed in protest over unfair selection criteria.
Members aligned to war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda protested against a move by a rival faction led by the Zanu PF old guard to bar them from contesting in the primaries. The provincial party leadership was accused of imposing candidates and delaying announcing the list of contestants until shortly before the nomination court sits.
In Matabeleland North, Industry and Trade minister Obert Mpofu allegedly barred an aspiring candidate, Retired Major Mark Mzulu Mbayiwa, from contesting primaries, claiming that his papers were submitted unprocedurally.
Mbayiwa has lodged a complaint with the party’s national directorate.
In Matabeleland South, another aspiring candidate for Insiza, Charlton Siziba, has filed a High Court application seeking an interim order to nullify the result of the primary
In the court papers Siziba wants the High Court to interdict the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission from holding the nomination court for Insiza until the finalisation of his court case.