Bikita West tense as rivals eye seat

PLANS to launch a by-election campaign in Bikita West for Zanu PF’s official candidate Elias Musakwa by a team led by Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Kudakwashe Bhasikiti were abandoned last Thursday, sources in the party’s Masvingo provincial executive have said.

Elias Mambo

Zanu PF’s de facto supreme decision-making body outside congress, the politburo, fired Kereke for insubordination for allegedly contesting elections in defiance of a party directive to withdraw and allow his former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe workmate, Musakwa, to run on the party ticket.

Kereke is challenging his expulsion at the Constitutional Court arguing that he was no longer a member of Zanu PF when he contested the July 31 elections.

The case will be heard next Wednesday, after Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled this week the matter was urgent.

“The by-election, if ordered by the courts, is likely to be explosive because Bhasikiti’s team to Bikita was stopped after being warned that violence could break out,” a source said.

Kereke is said to be backed by a faction led by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is said to be battling it out with Vice-President Joice Mujuru to succeed President Robert Mugabe when he steps down.

“They (Mnangagwa faction) have advised Kereke to stay put. Kereke also has the backing of senior army people in Masvingo province,” a politburo member said. “Bikita West is to be turned into a war zone as militant factions are ready to battle it out in order to win the seat.”

Efforts to contact Kereke over his plans for a possible by-election were unsuccessful as he was said to be “out of town”.

Sources close to Kereke said prior to the July 31 elections, Zanu PF asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) on July 4 to remove Kereke’s name from its list of candidates, but the request was turned down by Zec chairperson Rita Makarau, who said it was impossible to do so without Kereke’s consent. Besides Zanu PF, the Lovemore Madhuku-led National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) has hinted it will contest in the by-lection.

NCA director of information and publicity Blessing Vava said they visited Bikita West for consultations.

“The trip was part of our feedback meetings that we are conducting with our structures countrywide. We took this opportunity to get a feel of the political temperature in the constituency and we are satisfied with the overwhelming response that we got from the people of Bikita,” said Vava.