ZANU PF’s chaotic primary elections held this week have left the party deeply divided and in turmoil ahead of crucial polls slated for July 31, raising fears of a repeat of the 2008 bhora musango strategy (internal sabotage) by losers and disgruntled members.
Report by Faith Zaba/Owen Gagare
Controversial disqualifications, re-admissions through the backdoor and impositions of candidates, poor logistics, lack of information, shortage of ballot papers, attempts to run-away with ballot boxes, delayed announcement of results and allegations of rigging were some of the problems which characterised Zanu PF’s primary elections on Tuesday and Wednesday.
One of the biggest problems which the party now faces before the general elections is that, infighting and divisions are likely to worsen as shown by previous experiences.
The primaries left a trail of divisions and bitterness, creating room for internal sabotage in the general elections.
A senior Zanu PF politburo official said yesterday after muddling through the primaries officials now have a challenging task of managing the acrimonious aftermath so that the resultant fallouts do not undermine the party’s prospects in the general elections.
“Primary elections suck up and waste vast resources, including large sums of money. But they just don’t drain resources, they also exhaust the candidates physically and emotionally, while leaving the losers licking their wounds and winners limping before facing bigger opponents in the general elections,” the official said.
“Beyond that, hotly contested primaries intensify internal divisions and infighting. Such intraparty conflicts contribute to the loss of votes in the general election, for supporters of losing candidates will either vote for MDC parties’ candidates or abstain altogether.”
Another official said: “That is the problem when primaries are not held properly and well managed. They can be destructive and in our case we didn’t have time to hold them properly and allow a healing period. Such was the case in 2008. It may well be that our biggest enemy may not be the MDC parties, which are losing support anyway, but ourselves.”
After Zanu PF lost the 2008 parliamentary elections for the first time since 1980, President Robert Mugabe blamed internal divisions and wrangling for the defeat.
Mugabe was also affected as he became a victim of bhora musango strategy. Some Zanu PF candidates in the parliamentary polls campaigned for themselves alone, urging their supporters to vote for whoever they wanted when it came to the presidential election.
The internal polls to choose party representatives for the watershed polls reignited deep-seated factionalism within the party, particularly in volatile Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands, Mashonaland West and Matabeleland provinces. The provinces have been dogged by bickering over the years, which led to the disbandment of district coordinating committees last year.
The primary elections became a theatre for internal political power struggles as the main factions battled to seize control of the party and position themselves to produce a successor to Mugabe (89), now reeling from old age and reported ill-health.
Battle lines were drawn on a factional basis between the two main rival camps led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The polls, which were characterised by violence, intimidation, voting irregularities and ballot rigging, also saw young turks and candidates with security backgrounds battling it out with the old guard.
However, most members of the old guard won, ensuring Zanu PF failed its internal test of renewal. This would guarantee that the party remains dominated by deadwood ahead of its elective congress next year.
During the primaries this week, daggers were drawn as the two factions battled to outdo each other. There was some bloodbath in some provinces as heavyweights fell by the wayside.
Some of Mnangagwa’s key allies who lost include Larry Mavhima, Paul Mangwana, Shylet Uyoyo (Masvingo women’s league chairperson) and Trainos Huruba (Masvingo political commissar). Key officials in Mujuru’s camp who were defeated include Rugare Gumbo, the faction’s stalwart in the Midlands, Basil Nyabadza and Lazarus Dokora.
Allegations of rigging were raised in Bindura North where ballot papers were distributed late Wednesday afternoon after one of the candidates protested and threatened to withdraw from the race. The ballot papers were printed at the winning candidate, Kenneth Musanhi’s company and distribution was haphazard amid allegations he first sent them to areas where he was stronger.
There was drama in Midlands amid allegations of rigging and flashes of violence. For long periods it appeared Gumbo would win by a huge margin but results from Masase, Mberengwa, were withheld as allegations of ballot stuffing were raised.
In the end, Mnangagwa’s ally, July Moyo won with more than 19 000 votes against Gumbo’s 14 000. “People in Mberengwa, especially those from Gumbo’s home area, Mbuya Nehanda and Mataruse, are fuming. They feel he was cheated,” a Gumbo supporter said.
Another politburo member said: “It is unfortunate that some candidates manipulated the figures. This will definitely affect us at the next elections. I don’t know how we are going to handle these cases when nomination court sits tomorrow (today).”
In Masvingo, Tafadzwa Shumba of Mwenezi West also alleged ballot stuffing and has since appealed against the results which saw Lemson Matavire winning. In Mashonaland West province, local government Ignatius Chombo’s re-election was controversial after his ex-wife Marian was first disqualified and then re-admitted following demonstrations by her supporters at the party headquarters in Harare but later found her name missing from the ballot papers.
In Bikiti West where Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s former advisor Munyaradzi Kereke was said to have won, results were however withheld for undisclosed reasons. Kereke had initially been disqualified by the politburo before he was reinstated after frantic lobbying. A lot of appeals are expected despite nomination of candidates today