THERE were fireworks at a charged Zanu PF politburo meeting on Wednesday as bigwigs debated internal poll rigging which rocked the party’s chaotic primary elections last week amid revelations of ballot stuffing and thievery, it has emerged.
In a forthright engagement, senior party officials expressed outrage in the politburo over what they described as “massive rigging” and “blatant corruption” the manner in which primaries for the National Assembly, senate 60 female slots to be filled in through proportional representation and local government structures were conducted ahead of general elections on July 31.
Apart from primaries and rigging, the politburo discussed funding issues, amid clashes between Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Mines minister Obert Mpofu.
Politburo officials said senior party leaders warned of a repeat of the 2008 bhora musango strategy (internal sabotage) –– which President Robert Mugabe apparently fears so much –– by losers and disgruntled members if they do not deal with the matter.
The politburo rigging debate spilled into the central committee meeting yesterday as party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, who also heads the Zanu PF national election directorate, admitted the primaries were chaotic.
Sources, who attended the meeting at which candidates for the National Assembly, senate and women slots were introduced to the central committee, said Moyo apologised for irregularities during primaries.
“We made a mistake; next time we should hold these primaries a month in advance,” Moyo told the central committee. “We only realised that there was no money to fund the primaries, hence we had to ask the provinces to raise resources.”
After Moyo’s presentation, Mujuru reportedly said: “You have it for yourselves. The truth hurts.”
Sources said there was palpable in both the politburo on Wednesday and central committee yesterday as Zanu PF officials digested the outcome of chaotic polls.
Fearing a repeat of the bhora musango, which saw party supporters voting for legislators and not him in the March 2008 elections, Mugabe told central committee members to unite ahead of the watershed elections.
“The duty that we all have now is to ensure that those who opposed us (in primaries) will support us,” said Mugabe, officially opening the central committee meeting.
“You will have to sit with them individually and talk to them and work out a common strategy so that there is no bhora musango. Let us win them over. We must go into these elections united. Our organs must now assist the process of uniting people by appealing to those that lost to become supporters of those who won so that we all support the national struggle in unity with everybody else. United we are stronger.”
Mugabe pleaded for unity amid signs of deepening divisions and infighting in the aftermath of acrimonious primaries. Some of the problems that characterised the primaries held last week on Tuesday and Wednesday included controversial disqualifications, re-admissions through the backdoor, imposition of candidates, poor logistics, shortage of ballot papers, attempts to run-away with ballot boxes, delayed announcement of results and allegations of rigging.
The primaries left a trail of divisions and bitterness, creating room for internal sabotage which could wreck Mugabe and his party’s desperate survival plans.
There are already initiatives to ensure disgruntled candidates who filed nomination papers as independents withdraw from the race.
Eight out of the 12 losing candidates, who had filed to contest as independents last Friday, have withdrawn. However, prominent lawyer Jonathan Samkange (Mudzi South), Daniel Garwe (Murehwa North) and Marian Chombo (Zvimba North) are among the independents five remaining independents. Munyaradzi Kereke will run in Bikita West as a “parallel candidate” against Elias Musakwa.
Politburo insiders said Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, who has petitioned the party leadership over what he described as “massive rigging” in the Mberengwa senatorial seat primaries which he lost to July Moyo, bitterly complained at the politburo and demanded thorough investigations into the fiasco as failure to do so would destroy the party.
Moyo is a key strategist in Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction, while Gumbo is major ally for Mujuru.
“One of the most vocal people was Gumbo who demanded the party must not sweep under the carpet the irregularities and rigging uncovered during the primary elections,” said an insider.
“He pointed out that inflated figures, which were seen in some constituencies like in his case, could spell disaster for the party during elections. Gumbo said if anything, the party should learn from this and improve its approach to these issue in future elections. He said the party must assess the situation carefully and deal with it squarely.”
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday, Gumbo, who had initially wanted to call for a re-run in Mberengwa West, said he had decided to allow the results to stand in the interest of the party’s survival.
“The tragedy of this sad incident is that it divides the party, the people and impacts negatively on the forthcoming harmonised elections,” said Gumbo.
“We have agreed as a party though to say it’s now water under the bridge and to look forward. We have said let us not fight because we have a common enemy and a major election ahead of us. We will now be campaigning for the MPs and provincial councils. I will have to go back to the people and encourage them to look ahead and vote for Zanu PF.”