THE chaotic conduct and outcome of Zanu PF’s primary elections this week have left President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling party heavily exposed to the point of risking defeat in the upcoming critical general elections in July, party senior officials and analysts have warned.
Wongai Zhangazha/Hazel Ndebele/nkululeko sibanda
Zanu PF held its primaries on April 29, which spilt into days after as the fallout threatens to linger on for months, to select candidates for the general elections.
However, the primaries — largely conducted by the military — were marred by a series of problems: logistical difficulties, delays in delivering ballot papers and other material, missing names of candidates, mix-ups, manipulation, violence, vote-buying and fraud. The chaos was also manifested through poor organisation, lack of preparedness, widespread indiscipline, absence of cohesive central control and coordination, lack of capacity to print and deliver on time accurate ballot papers, flawed verification and failure to secure and adequately equip voting centres with ballot boxes and voters’ registers.
A number of Zanu PF political heavyweights and Mnangagwa’s allies, including his advisor war veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa who fought hard to ensure former president Robert Mugabe was removed, were defeated. Leading lights of the military coup which brought in Mnangagwa to power such as Mutsvangwa, instrumental in the process, Paul Mangwana, the chief legal advisor by his own admission and Samuel Mumbengwegwi, who used his foreign affairs portfolio to mobilise regional and international support for the army takeover, were routed, signalling that Zanu PF and its leaders can be booted out through elections.
Most of the senior military figures behind the coup avoided the Zanu PF primaries.
The internal polls also showed battle lines over power, control and influence are drawn between the new civilian party leadership led by Mnangagwa and the military commanded by his deputy retired General Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga. The Zimbabwe Independent previously reported this earlier in the year.
Alarmed by the situation, top Zanu PF officials did not hesitate to call a spade a spade — they warned Mnangagwa and the ruling party might lose general elections. Mutsvangwa, who lost in Norton, was the first to fire warning shots: “It is inconceivable that the President (Mnangagwa) will win given that the party’s members have been largely disenfranchised.”
Angered by the turmoil, Mutsvangwa blamed the corrupt, incompetent and fraudulent handling of the primaries on Zanu PF political commissar retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje, describing him as a “political novice”.
Yesterday Zanu PF primaries candidate for Makokoba in Bulawayo Peter Nyoni, Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso’s husband, who lost to party heavyweight Tshinga Dube, also warned: “There is a high risk that those of our party members who are unhappy with what has been happening this week will stay away and that could result in us losing the elections.”
“The party, through the commissariat, needs to listen to its base. The leaders have betrayed the people by manipulating the voters’ register and coming up with their own to suit their political agenda. The verification process was one-sided. We cannot legitimise such errant behaviour from party leaders.”
Nyoni said manipulation and fraud in Makokoba were as rampant as everywhere.
“The whole of Bulawayo is up in arms,” he said. “We need re-runs, otherwise we might see an emergence of independent candidates in the general elections and that will come back to haunt us.”
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said the Zanu PF primaries reflect the reality that the party is increasingly disintegrating. “This just confirms that the party is dead,” Mandaza said. “The primaries showed that no one is firmly controlling internal processes. The centre can’t hold. The party system is no longer intact. The coup accelerated the disintegration of Zanu PF. It’s confirmation of the extent to which Zanu PF and also the state are broken and fractured; Mnangagwa is just but a civilian face of a coup by a faction in the army or state; he has no control and gravitas at all.”
Another senior party official said: “The primaries leave our leader (Mnangagwa) and the party facing a mountain to climb in the general elections. Our party is now even more deeply divided; it does not even have a pre-manifesto message. The primaries had no party message; it was a free-for-all contest pitting individuals and factions against each other.”
A political analyst added: “The chaotic Zanu PF primaries elections have exposed Mnangagwa and the party’s limitations, as well as the incompetence of the military to run internal political affairs. This will galvanise and embolden the opposition forces ahead of the general elections.
“A costly trend emerging from this is that neither the ruling party nor the military cabal has a convincing and sustainable coup and post-coup narrative to justify their actions. They have not provided an appealing ideological and policy agenda alternative to that of Mugabe and his regime beyond the anecdotes of a ‘transition’, a ‘new dispensation’, ‘new economic order’ and ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ to mobilise the people. In reality nothing has changed.”
British-based University of Kent law lecturer Alex Magaisa said: “The primaries have left Zanu PF divided and in disarray.”
University of Johannesburg analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya observed. “The defeat of Mnangagwa allies is not new; they are part of the old order, just like Mnangagwa is part of the old order. What we ought to understand is that Zanu PF uses a lot of manipulative tactics to win elections and as (Joseph) Stalin said ‘it is not those who vote that count, but those who count the votes’.”
University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said the chaotic Zanu PF primaries have shocked the party leadership, but should not be linked to the national elections.
“I know there is the party-state phenomenon and old habits die hard, that it will be difficult to break the synergy seeing that the police force was used for party elections, however I would like to decouple party elections and state elections,” he said.
Another analyst Gladys Hlatywayo said Zanu PF could pay a heavy political price in the general elections because of the acrimonious fallout over primaries. She said generational renewal and civil-military tensions in the party could also be costly. “The impact of all these dynamics is that Zanu PF might get to the 2018 elections deeply divided and bhora musango (internal sabotage — party supporters have threatened this) might be prevalent, resulting in its humiliating defeat,” she said.
Disgruntled Zanu PF supporters yesterday demonstrated at the party headquarters in Harare, threatening to vote for Mnangagwa’s rival, MDC Alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa in the presidential election.