President Emmerson Mnangagwa faces the spectre of a repeat of the sabotage that characterised the 2008 elections after scores of prospective legislators were elbowed from the race to represent the ruling party in the forthcoming elections.
The ruling party’s secretary for the commissariat Engelbert Rugeje told reporters on Saturday that thousands of prospective councillors and National Assembly representatives were disqualified from representing Zanu PF after they failed to meet the requirements.
Among those who were disqualified are former deputy minister of Higher and Tertiary Education Godfrey Gandawa, who had already invested so much in his Magunje constituency and is now under pressure from his supporters to stand as an independent candidate.
“People have approached me saying that I should stand as an independent candidate and I am still considering that. It will all depend on what the people say,” Gandawa told the Daily News yesterday.
The situation in Magunje is almost a familiar tale around the country where snubbed legislators have vowed to take on the ruling party so as to send a message that the “disqualification of candidates was wrong”
The ruling party has declared that those who stand as independent candidates would be automatically expelled from the party.
In Harare South, the Mnangagwa surname seemed to work against his nephew Tongai, who was popular with the masses but did not appear on the list after his rivals appealed to the party’s hierarchy to have him disqualified.
Disgruntled party members have threatened to vote for opposition candidates after Rugeje upheld their disqualification in a replay of bhora musango.
Bhora musango was popularised in the 2008 harmonised elections when Zanu PF supporters voted for their preferred candidate in the council and parliamentary election but voted for an opposition presidential candidate.
However, the results of the elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities, amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud, which were later revealed by former Zanu PF bigwigs.
In the ensuing sham 2008 presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in a murderous orgy of violence in which hundreds of MDC supporters were killed in cold blood, forcing the former prime minister in the inclusive government to withdraw from the discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he declared himself the winner.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme warned that the fissures in Zanu PF could deepen and history might repeat itself as the aggrieved will try to prove a point.
“Primaries are divisive. We are likely to see tussles between seating MPs and new candidates. But Zanu PF members know for them to continue eating under their party patronage system, they have to vote the party in.
“So, there might be a few incidents of bhora musango but not ubiquitous.
“Remember when Mugabe was overthrown; there was stampede to pile up praises on Ngwena as people still wanted to eat (sic).
“So it’s about eating and nothing much,” said Saungweme.
Another political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza said this is a death knell for Zanu PF.
“Zanu PF is dead and people are looking for a platform to represent the party and when they are denied that platform, they will go as independent candidates,” said Mandaza.
While outsiders like Marian Chombo and Wilbert Mubaiwa — who were executive members of the Joice Mujuru-led party have been accommodated, some who considered themselves party loyalists have been overlooked, something that insiders say is recipe for disaster.
In Mt Darwin South, Zanu PF youth political commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu initially cried foul and posted on his Facebook page that he had been betrayed after a prominent businessman allegedly used his financial muscle to squeeze into the primaries that will be held next week.
There has been a flurry of letters to Rugeje expressing the deep resentment arising from the primaries.
For instance, Gandawa pointed out in a letter to Rugeje that Zanu PF risks fielding weaker candidates he can easily defeat in the forthcoming polls.
“It is trite to note that this decision to disqualify me is meant to fulfil personal interests and settle personal vendettas at the expense of the party.
“The provincial leadership is disqualifying me to pave way for their cronies. I have done substantial work in the constituency and everyone is alive to this fact.
“Please note that the preferred candidates will not beat me in an election. Cde national PC, if ever I had done wrong as a disciplined cadre I was supposed to be arraigned before the disciplinary committee rather than being subjected to this kind of unfair treatment,” said Gandawa.
The former deputy minister, who was previously accused of siding with the dismantled generation 40 (G40) faction but somehow survived the purges that followed the toppling of Mugabe last November, claimed in his letter that Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is also the minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, threatened to have him arrested even if he were to triumph in the pending primary elections set for May 5.
“I was arrested just after CV submission was opened during Easter holiday in a bid to stop me from submitting my CV.
“Now that I submitted they removed my CV alleging that I was plotting against the President and I am G40.
“When I engaged the chair(person) personally, he even went further to threaten me with arrest again and indicated that even if I win primary elections, I will be arrested on nomination day since there are senior people baying for my blood.
“The chair(person) is abusing his ministerial post of Justice minister to intimidate me saying when I win I will go to jail. I seek your intervention and appeal accordingly,” said Gandawa.
According to Gandawa, “out of all sitting MPs in the province only my CV was removed and disqualified for unknown reasons.”
“On contesting this and seeking clarification why my CV was removed, the provincial chair posited that my name must be cleared by his Excellency the president and first secretary which I found very unusual considering that I met all the requirements as prescribed by the guidelines as read in the same meeting,” he said in his letter.