President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s plan to stampede Zanu PF into early primary elections in an attempt to outflank rivals backfired spectacularly after the ruling party’s internal poll preparations descended into chaos.
Zanu PF was forced to suspend the elections that were due to be held yesterday at the 11th hour, claiming that it was overwhelmed by the number of candidates.
Mnangagwa had given the aspiring candidates less than a week to campaign after his surprise announcement of the election date.
Traditionally, Zanu PF holds primary elections after the dates for the harmonised elections have been proclaimed.
The president is yet to announce the poll dates, which are expected to be sometime in August.
Sources said Mnangagwa’s plan was to shut out new Zanu PF candidates in favour of incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) that he believes will not revolt and impeach him with support from the opposition.
In the past, aspiring candidates were given at least a month to canvass for votes.
According to information from Zanu PF camps, Mnangagwa’s strategy for a snap primary election was to catch new aspiring candidates napping and give an advantage to the old guard in the process.
The insiders said this was meant to insulate the Zanu PF leader from any revolt that may culminate in his impeachment if he wins the presidential election.
They said Mnangagwa also does not trust some of the new candidates and fears they may influence another bhora musango vote when the country goes for harmonised polls in July or August.
Bhora musango was a clandestine campaign by some rebel Zanu PF leaders in the 2008 harmonised elections where they conspired to mobilise their supporters to vote against the late former president Robert Mugabe while electing ruling party MPs.
The campaign was allegedly masterminded and led by the then vice president of the party and country, Joice Mujuru.
Mugabe went on to lose the presidential election to the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe was, however, able to recover from the loss by “winning” a second round of elections that Tsvangirai boycotted because of violence against his supporters.
The bhora musango campaign was cited by the party as one of the reasons Mujuru was expelled from Zanu PF in 2015.
In the latest episode, Zanu PF had banned campaigning before the date of the primary elections was announced.
Sitting MPs were, however, receiving unrestrained access to the voters through parliamentary feedback meetings and other gatherings, which they turned into campaign rallies.
“The president prefers his old guard,” an insider said.
“There has actually been an attempt to protect other candidates.
“Some candidates were vetted out to protect some old candidates.”
Some candidates like Mnangagwa’s ally, former State Security minister Owen Ncube have sailed through uncontested.
Ministers July Moyo and Joram Gumbo, all from Mnangagwa’s Midlands province, were also uncontested after aspiring candidates were elbowed out.
In Matabeleland North, three aspiring candidates were disqualified to allow Mnangagwa’s ally, Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sthembiso Nyoni to stand uncontested in Nkayi North.
The Zanu PF primaries have attracted a lot of young candidates in what observers say was an act of internal renewal.
“The president does not trust a lot of those new candidates and the ambush polls were aimed at shutting them out,” an insider said.
“Imagine, how many people will be able to cover the whole constituency in a week or two?
“This is guided democracy, there is obviously a certain direction the leadership wants.”
Mnangagwa’s rule has always been characterised by anxious moments where observers thought he would not finish his first term.
There have been reports of power struggles between Mnangagwa and his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, but the two have continuously denied the rift.
This publication is also reliably informed that Zanu PF failed to complete the printing of ballot papers to be used in the polls.
An insider disclosed that by Friday, the party had only printed a third of the ballots needed for the primary polls while other cell registers which form the voters’ roll for the polls were yet to be concluded in some constituencies.
“There was likelihood of chaos, some names of candidates were going to be missing on the ballot papers,” a ruling party insider disclosed.
Mnangagwa, who took power in a coup in 2017, once hinted that some MPs were plotting to impeach him and vowed to thwart the move.
“This time he is very deliberate about the candidate selection,” a source said.
“He fears some Chiwenga loyalists might get in and work with the opposition MPs to impeach him if he wins or to frustrate his chances of winning.”
In an interview yesterday, Zanu PF commisor Mike Bimha denied reports that there was a plot to protect party bigwigs.
“No CV was not allowed, but there was an overwhelming response,” Bimha said.
“The security checks took more than two-and-half days instead of one day.
“No bigwig was protected. All aspiring candidates including women and the youth quota had their CVs accepted.”
Bimha said new dates will be announced after the politburo meets in the capital tomorrow.
— The Standard