President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF factions have sent a strong message to Zimbabweans and the rest of the world over their penchant for stifling any political challenge, after staging deeply flawed internal elections that confirmed the party as masters of electoral rigging, opposition parties said yesterday.

Amid widespread allegations of electoral fraud, intimidation and even kidnapping in the wake of the Youth League elective congress, opposition parties said such clear evidence of rigging must be a cause for consternation among Zimbabweans and the international community who want Mugabe to embrace democracy.

Zanu PF's blatant electoral fraud in its own elections vindicates opposition parties. It is also a slap in the face for the international community which has publicly pressed for re-engagement with the Zanu PF regime in the futile hope it will reform.

There was widespread expectation that these internal elections would finally have some semblance of credibility.

Opposition parties said yesterday they were not surprised by reports of inter party interference and intimidation on election day, and said it vindicates repeated accusations that Mugabe's party stole the July 31, 2013 vote that returned the Zanu PF veteran and his party to power.

The Youth League and Women's League vote are widely seen as a dry run for the December congress, where chaos and violence are expected to reign supreme.

Opposition parties said they knew the elections were going to be bad, but not to the magnitude witnessed so far.

Mugabe had to lash out at party bigwigs who splashed cash to lure electoral colleges to shore up their preferred candidates, describing them as "rubbish" and "political prostitutes".

On Monday evening, Oppah Muchinguri, the Women's League boss, addressed an unprecedented press conference detailing three kidnapping incidents that had taken place in Mashonaland Central, Masvingo and Manicaland, where delegates were held against their will.

MDC spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday said Zanu PF had failed to resist the urge to rig its own elections.

"To expect Zanu PF to run free, fair and credible elections is like expecting a mosquito to cure malaria," Tamborinyoka said.

"We have Zanu PF levelling accusations against Zanu PF. It is the same allegations that we have been making in the past. For Zanu PF to rig its own elections is like a wayward and a rogue father who rapes his daughter and when questioned, he says it's the imagination of the neighbour."

Tamborinyoka continued: "What is now being said by some Zanu PF leaders vindicates what we in the MDC have been saying. In fact, Muchinguri is singing from the MDC hymn book.

"We have always cried about kidnappings. We are very familiar with violence and intimidation. We feel vindicated. It is good that it is happening at a time when Sadc leaders are coming into the country. They will see it for themselves that Zanu PF is the master of rigging."

Sadc will hold its 34th Sadc heads of State and government summit at the Elephant Hills Hotel in Victoria Falls this week where Mugabe takes over as Sadc chairman.

The Youth League elections indicate that the Zanu PF regime is frightened about the impending transition, and they are not in the mood to take any chances over their own survival as Zimbabwe enters what will be one of the most challenging periods in the southern African country's modern history.

Previously, Zanu PF's level of electoral fraud was never at this level; it was always careful to retain some superficial democratic trappings. But now the ruling party is sending a strong message that either factions will not tolerate any defeat.

The Youth League's weekend vote took place amid a backdrop of widespread electoral violations that included outright vote-buying, and the exclusion of some representatives, and monitors.

Jacob Mafume, MDC renewal team spokesperson, said what is obtaining in the ruling party showed that the poll was rigged and invalid.

"What is happening in Zimbabwe where Zanu PF is both the player and the referee in elections is unfortunate," Mafume said.

"It leads to rigging and chaos. Mind you, the internal elections in a party should give you a semblance of how the national elections are conducted.
"What is happening in Zanu PF is clownish, brutish and shameful. It is high time all political parties realise that since we use public funds, it is better to allow the independent national electoral body to conduct internal party elections as is the case in Malawi and Kenya.

"There is an anomaly in our electoral law. Since political parties get public funds, their internal election should be supervised by the national electoral body as is the case in Kenya and Malawi."

Under the Political Parties (Finance) Act, the threshold that any political party has to garner to qualify for State funding is five percent of the total number of votes cast.

Observers said that the ruling clique has no interest in appeasing the international community, and has calculated that the West will not provide the sort of vigorous response that you might expect a blatantly stolen election to provoke.

With no designated successor to Mugabe, there is intense nervousness among Zanu PF's political elite about transferring power while public anger is growing over declining living standards amid pervasive economic hardships.

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