ZANU PF has shifted its focus to the Hurungwe West by-elections which will be a litmus test for the ruling party’s popularity following the expulsion of several senior party officials aligned to ousted former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s faction.
The party has rolled out its parliamentary by-election campaign in the constituency which fell vacant following the expulsion of former legislator Temba Mliswa who is alleged to have been backing Mujuru in the bitter succession battle which pitted Mujuru and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Sources in Hurungwe West last week told the Zimbabwe Independent that Zanu PF has deployed the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to intimidate and drum up support for the party’s candidate, Keith Guzah, with the popular Mliswa contesting as an independent candidate.
Last Sunday Mliswa was arrested for allegedly disturbing a Zanu PF meeting, only to be released without charge on Tuesday morning.
There were reports on Wednesday Zanu PF secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo had warned traditional chiefs to stop supporting Mliswa in the by-elections, while political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere said the defiant former fitness trainer would be taught a lifetime lesson in the polls.
Following his release, Mliswa said the ruling party had redirected its formidable state machinery to Hurungwe West, saying his arrest had led him to decide against campaigning in the area to save the constituency from possible violence and bloodshed.
The ruling party’s senior members and the provincial executive met the top three Zanu PF district executive members from Hurungwe West’s 19 political districts at Chivakanenyama School last Sunday, where Kasukuwere replaced provincial commissar Simon Solomon with Godfrey Gandawa (Magunje MP) and Sarah Mahoka to lead the campaign team.
In an interview Mliswa said: “I am confident of regaining the seat because the people have confidence in me. Since being elected as legislator, I have initiated several development projects including constructing blocks at 46 schools in my constituency and people want that to be completed.”