The shadowy Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), which is at the centre of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s controversial re-election, says it is now being used as a scapegoat by its critics, including Zanu PF factions following reports that it continues to cause havoc in areas where people rejected ruling party candidates.
Foreign observer missions said Faz members intimidated voters during the August 23 to 24 harmonised elections, which eroded the credibility of the polls.
On election day, Faz agents put up tables outside polling stations where they were doing so-called exit polls by taking down names of voters as a way of intimidating them to vote for Mnangagwa and the ruling party.
It was also accused of sponsoring double candidates in an effort to scuttle the opposition Citizen Coalition for Change’s chances of winning the polls.
Mnangagwa was declared winner of the disputed elections with 52.6% of the vote against Nelson Chamisa’s 44%, but the Zanu PF leader is facing a serious legitimate crisis as foreign observer missions said the election was seriously flawed.
Faz president Kudakwashe Munsaka told The Standard in an interview that there was a spirited effort to discredit the Zanu PF affiliate group by its critics, including those from the ruling party.
Munsaka said Faz members were volunteers from Zanu PF whom they paid stipends to coordinate party programmes after receiving some “orientation” from the organisation.
According to Munsaka, Faz had 20 representatives in each of the 210 constituencies.
“It’s very difficult to judge whether the people who were allegedly forcing people to attend (rallies) were Faz or not,” he said.
“We have realised that in this country everyone who might also have failed (in the election) finds Faz as a scapegoat.
“We have also seen creations of certain characters in the name of Faz.
“Some people might not be Faz, they might be overzealous Zanu PF supporters or another strategy within the party, which we might not be aware of and at the end you point all out to Faz.
“We never gave any Faz member a uniform to identify with the public so it is difficult to say they are Faz members.
“But we know that if anything happens the blame is on Faz.
“Faz is like an orphan, where everyone blames them for wrongdoing because they have no defence.
“Faz members would not have intimidated people.”
Zanu PF acting director for information Farai Marapira said the party had not received reports of members interfering with Faz operations.
“Zanu PF is a peace-loving party and we do not condone violence in all our operations,” Marapira said.
“Faz picks its members from the society. I can’t tell whether they are Zanu PF members or not.
“Faz is an independent organisation, so I can’t comment on the selection of its volunteers.”
Munsaka said there was nothing illegal in setting up exit polls survey desks and claimed that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) gave them the greenlight to do so.
“People have to understand the law they are referring to when they say we violated the law by setting exit up polls,” Munsaka said.
“We were not within the 300 metres of the polling station according to law, nothing is illegal.
“We consulted Zec and our legal practitioners, who all confirmed that it was within the law and permissible.
“In an election, we have different groups of people who would be gathered at the polling station 300 metres away, talking to people and canvassing for votes.
“The difference with ours was that we had set up desks.”
Mnangagwa turned to Faz to lead his re-election campaign because of mistrust of Zanu PF internal structures .
In 2018, Mnangagwa scrapped through in the disputed election after reports emerged that some internal party organs had de-campaigned him for the presidency.
Faz, which is said to be led by Central Intelligence Organisation co-deputy director-general retired brigadier-general Walter Tapfumaneyi took over control of Zanu PF electoral processes, including its primary elections and voter mobilisation process. However, Zanu PF internal structures are reportedly not happy with Faz for seizing control of the party.
The disgruntlement stems from perceptions that Faz members were getting preferential treatment as they were being pampered with money, vehicles and other freebies compared to internal party structures.
— The Standard