LAST week’s Zanu PF Women’s League conference ended with the party dodging secret ballot elections for office bearers amid claims a budget of US$200 000 had been set aside for vote buying, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Zanu PF sources said senior party officials, which include provincial chairpersons, politburo members and cabinet ministers mainly aligned to Vice-President Joice Mujuru, were actively involved in controversy-riddled Youth League elections.
The deeply divisive elections were marred by massive vote-buying and interference by party heavyweights, who sources say had also planned to invade the Women’s League conference to seal Mujuru’s victory, despite warnings from President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe slammed party bigwigs who openly campaigned for youths loyal to their camp as the battle to control critical party organs intensified ahead of the party’s elective congress in December.
“Following the chaos that marred the Youth League conference and revelations of US$200 000 which was allegedly supposed to be dished out for vote-buying by Mujuru camp loyalists, the intelligence warned Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri to issue a decree that elections were not going to take place,” a senior politburo member said.
The decree, however, did not go down well with some women’s officials who caucused for more than four hours.
“The decree was opposed by some who are allegedly aligned to Mujuru because they believed it was a way of stopping them from getting the two top posts and this resulted in marathon meetings the whole of Friday morning,” the official said.
Whilst the women were caucusing, drama was unfolding at the entrance to the Rainbow Towers Hotel, the venue of the conference, where Mashonaland West provincial chairperson Temba Mliswa was embroiled in an altercation with Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) officials who accused him of trying to interfere with Women’s League activities.
Muchinguri’s decree came after Mugabe had said he was embarrassed by the vote-buying and interference that he witnessed at Youth League conference held at the same venue.
Mugabe launched a scathing attack on Zanu PF Politburo and Central Committee members sucked into a vote-buying scandal that rocked the conference, describing those guilty of giving and receiving money in return for votes as “political prostitutes” and “rubbish”.
In an interview with this paper on Wednesday, Zanu PF national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the consensus reached by the women was in itself an election.
“There are many ways of holding elections. The Women’s League chose their own process and we could not interfere with their choice,” he said adding: “I do not know about the planned vote-buying spree you are talking about.”
Party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo also refuted reports that the Women’s League dodged elections to avoid the chaos of vote-buying and interference that rocked the Youth League conference.
Instead of the election, it was agreed that provinces would retain the positions they had in the previous national executive body and would be filled by the four who won in each province.
Among its resolutions the Women’s League endorsed Mugabe as the party’s sole candidate for the 2018 general elections as well as that his wife Grace should take over as the league’s boss.