Provincial poll furore: Rigging claims return to haunt Zanu PF

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COMING three months after the contested outcome of the July 31 harmonised elections, allegations of rigging, a shambolic voters’ roll and intimidation of voters raised by senior Zanu PF officials during the party’s provincial elections raises serious questions about the credibility of the country’s electoral processes at national and party levels.

By Herbert Moyo

Larry Mavima and Monica Mutsvangwa, both allegedly aligned to the faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, are demanding a re-run of the provincial elections in the Midlands and Manicaland, citing various allegations including vote-rigging and intimidation.

Mavima, who garnered 13 208 votes, lost to incumbent Jason Machaya who polled 13 803 votes in the Midlands province, while Mutsvangwa secured 7 170 votes against 18 453 votes obtained by John Mvundura in Manicaland.

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

Mavima complained: “They used registers dating back to 2005 and many of the people are no longer in the district. 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.”

The two have since written to Zanu PF’s national commissar Webster Shamu demanding re-runs.

Interestingly, the allegations raised by the two are among those raised by the two MDC parties after they lost the July 31 elections to Zanu PF, and after every election since the emergence of the MDC in 2000.

Apart from shaping the power dynamics within Zanu PF, the chaos marring provincial elections has serious implications at a higher level where such irregularities suggest Zimbabwe is still far from being a real democracy despite the ritual of holding elections as and when they are due.

At party level, political analyst Alexander Rusero said the chaos surrounding the provincial elections will be used by Mugabe at next year’s party congress to justify why he should continue at the helm.

Long-time rivals Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Mnangagwa are using the provincial elections to position themselves to succeed Mugabe when he step down.

“It will play into Mugabe’s hands and strengthen his oft-repeated claims that he is the unifier and the party will collapse without him,” said Rusero, adding that elections in this country are a “mere charade which always favours the incumbent”.

He may well be right considering that in both Manicaland and the Midlands, the incumbents retained their positions while Mugabe has always retained the presidency, albeit often in controversial circumstances.

At national level politics, the provincial polls also raise fundamental questions about the credibility of the recent general elections.

Zimbabweans are now asking: if Zanu PF can rig in its own internal processes and intimidate its supporters, what can stop it from rigging at national level?
Another political analyst Godwin Phiri said the chaos surrounding elections shows just how much Africa and Zimbabwe in particular are still way off the mark in adopting a truly democratic dispensation.

“It is just one of the markers of democracy,” Phiri said, adding that “they still cannot have credible polls even at an internal level”.

The fight to succeed Mugabe has intensified between Mujuru and Mnangagwa with the two camps battling it out in the provincial elections because the structures will play a pivotal role in choosing members of the presidium at the 2014 congress.

A candidate for any of the presidium posts — president, two vice-presidents and chairperson — needs the endorsement of six out of 10 provinces to win.

However, the chaos in Zanu PF is not peculiar to the party, but has become part of the political culture in Zimbabwe. The MDC-T was deeply divided over the selection of candidates for the parliamentary and local government elections amid allegations of imposition of candidates and rigging in some constituencies.

Rusero said: “The MDCs cannot use the Zanu PF chaos as a yardstick with which to measure the July polls because they have had similar issues within their own elections.

“Their own hands are dirty and their reputation was soiled by controversies surrounding the imposition of preferred candidates to represent the party in the July elections.”

Zimbabwe Democracy Institute chairperson Rashweat Mukundu believes Zimbabwe’s conduct of elections at party or national level has consistently worked to undermine citizens’ confidence.

“The political class in Zimbabwe, be it in Zanu PF or the MDCs, has demonstrated a disdain for internal party democracy and this builds up to the national level and hugely influences how elections are conducted,” he said.

“The latest internal elections fiasco in Zanu PF is not an isolated event, but is at the heart of the electoral battle in Zimbabwe that starts at party level and
influences how national elections are conducted.”

“Losing Zanu PF candidates for provincial leadership positions are unhappy just as the MDCs have always been unhappy with the conduct of internal elections.”

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