Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party won 20 of the 26 seats in the province during the March 2008 elections. It also holds four of the six senate seats.
Following dismal performances by the party’s old guard, Zanu PF has seemingly resolved to field mostly young candidates in a move aimed at winning the hearts and minds of youth voters.
To attract young candidates, Zanu PF is also awarding them state-funded business ventures. Among the young turks being considered is journalist and former Affirmative Action Group president Supa Mandiwanzira.
Mandiwanzira was seen campaigning in Nyanga South constituency this week. The Nyanga South seat is currently held by the MDC-T’s Willard Chimbetete.
However, Mandiwanzira has denied holding a political rally but called it a business rally to empower the youths in his home area. “That is not true, your sources are completely wrong,” said Mandiwanzira. “I was with the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) to mobilise some youths in my home area to have funding in business projects,” he said.
“I was actually with Livingstone Dzikira (ZYC director) there and even Interfin Bank meeting the youths on empowerment issues since I am involved in that.The rally had members from both Zanu PF and MDC and different churches. When I go into politics, I will make a very formal announcement,” he said.
However, sources close to him say he is dangling the empowerment carrot as a way of attracting young voters who are desperate for employment.
The journalist-cum-businessman is believed to have got the nod to contest for the seat from Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, who reportedly endorsed him at Sedze Business Centre in Nyanga last year.
In its central committee report, Zanu PF highlighted the need to capture the youths “in view of the fact that youths constitute the majority of voters”.
Besides Mandiwanzira, other young candidates gunning for elections on a Zanu PF ticket include businessmen Enock Porusingazi and Trinity Munowenyu, commercial farmer Joshua Sacco and Dorothy Chitima, daughter of the Chipinge Central MP, among others.
In a related development, Joseph Chinotimba and senior police officer Oliver Mandipaka have thrown their hats into the ring for the Buhera West seat. Mandipaka is a police chief superintendent and national spokesman.
His entrance has brought a new dimension into Zanu PF with top civil servants, particularly those from the security cluster, now publicly contesting for public office.
The security sector and former war veterans are pushing Zanu PF to set aside 20% of all seats for them in recognition of their role in ensuring Zanu PF’s continued stay in power.
Notable state security officials who have gone into politics include retired top army officials Mike Nyambuya, Hubert Nyanhongo, Ambrose Mutinhiri, Claudius Makova, Kairo Mhandu and the late former army generals Vitalis Zvinavashe and Solomon Mujuru.
Villagers in Buhera confirmed Mandipaka’s bid saying he was donating day-old chicks to villagers to start income generating projects. “Mandipaka has become more visible in the constituency and his team is donating day-old chicks to potential voters,” said a villager.
Mandipaka was not available for comment but his principals confirmed that he was officially on leave. “Mandipaka is on leave and we expect him to be back at work at the beginning of April,” said police chief spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena.
Fellow aspiring candidate Wilbert Nzuma urged Mandipaka to resign from the police force and enter politics fulltime.
“I hear that Mandipaka has a team on the ground preparing for the party primary elections. I think it would be fair if he resigns from the police if he wants to contest the elections on an even playing field,” Nzuma said.