Knives out for Mutasa

Daggers are drawn against Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa as the party’s faction led by Justice minister and party secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa are fuming at him for allegedly trying to manipulate the provincial elections to favourably position Vice-President Joice Mujuru ahead of Mnangagwa, as the behind-the-scenes battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe takes new twists and turns.

Herbert Moyo

This comes as predictable chaos rocked the Zanu PF provincial elections in the Midlands province, where businessman Larry Mavima, who is vying for the provincial party chairmanship, alleged vote rigging and intimidation of voters.

Mavima, who is the province’s current deputy provincial chairman and a close Mnangagwa ally, is tussling it out with the incumbent Jason Machaya, who is said to be aligned to Mujuru.

Mavima singled Shurugwi North out of the 28 constituencies in Midlands where he alleged there were numerous irregularities, including the use of outdated voting registers and intimidation of voters as dirty tactics marred the fight for the province’s control.

“They are using registers dating back to 2005 and many of the people are no longer in the district,” Mavima told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday.

“This is a do-or-die election and we are definitely going to appeal and request that Shurugwi North be re-constituted so that people can vote from properly constituted centres.”

He added that voting was not supposed to go beyond 6pm on Wednesday, but it was extended to 5am yesterday.

“Chief Nhema is also involved in conducting the elections and this shows that there is an intention to rig on behalf of the incumbent,” Mavima said.

His claims are in stark contrast to what the coordinator of the elections, Olivia Muchena, told the state media on Tuesday. She was quoted as saying the elections “were peaceful, (with) no antagonism”.

Muchena said the results of the elections, which started on Sunday instead of Saturday due to delays in delivering ballot papers and other logistical problems, were expected to be announced last night.

Midlands and Manicaland are the only provinces to have held elections after the party leadership postponed the other provincial polls amid accusations and counter-accusations by the rival factions of imposition of candidates, vote-buying and rigging and clandestine meetings in all provinces.

Mutasa is said to be fighting in Mujuru’s corner and allegedly wants to see her win at least six provinces to secure her position at the 2014 elective congress, which will also ensure her close lieutenants, party national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo and he (Mutasa), are catapulted to the vice-presidency and party national chairmanship, respectively. A candidate for any of the presidium posts — president, two vice-presidents and chairperson — needs the endorsement of six out of the 10 provinces to win.

On Sunday Monica Mutsvangwa, who was challenging the incumbent in Manicaland, John Mvundura, said she had withdrawn her candidature because of a number of irregularities, including a shambolic voters’ roll and intimidation of her supporters.

Mutsvangwa said: “A re-run is important because we want our electoral processes to have integrity”.

But Mutasa dismissed Mutsvangwa’s assertions yesterday saying she was not supposed to have challenged Mvundura in the first place.
“She disregarded all the things that were planned by the leadership and she was humiliated by people in Manicaland,” said Mutasa.

One top party official aligned to Mnangagwa said: “What is the point of having elections if people are not allowed to challenge in certain provinces. This patriarchal attitude is not acceptable when Zanu PF is supposed to be a democratic party.”

He went further to say: “This culture that has manifested itself is anti-democracy and anti-women. It is actually alien to Zanu PF, which is supposed to be driven by the need for freeness and fairness.”
Yet another Mnangagwa ally said Zanu PF had failed to set an example by showing that it is capable of holding free and fair elections which would have laid to rest the ghost of rigging.

“Mutasa is trying to fix the election. They didn’t want elections to be held,” he alleged. “This chaos is potentially disastrous for Zanu PF, especially if President Mugabe ever decides to step down. We are so angry with Mutasa for trying to manipulate the elections. It is an embarrassment to the party and he is destroying the party.”

Contacted for comment last night, Mutasa said he had not conferred with the party’s political commissar Webster Shamu on when the elections for the other eight provinces would be held. He also refuted claims that there was any bias and irregularities, saying the elections had been conducted in a credible manner in Manicaland.

“That is not true,” Mutasa said in response to Mutsvangwa’s claims of irregularities. “Who would be cheating in Manicaland? Everything was above board and those who voted in these elections are the same people who voted in our primary elections so there is no bias there.”

Zanu PF has often been accused of habitually rigging national elections, including the recent July 31 polls whose outcome the opposition continues to contest.