ZANU PF national political commissar (NPC) Engelbert Rugeje is being accused of demanding a bribe from one of the contestants in last week’s hotly disputed party primary elections.
Losing candidate for Hurungwe West constituency Keith Guzah yesterday wrote to the ruling party’s national chairperson, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri asking her to initiate a probe against the former army boss.
The saga has also sucked in several Zanu PF employees in the commissariat department based at the party’s national headquarters in Harare.
According to Guzah’s letter, dated May 5, 2018, Rugeje demanded the money to pay for his air ticket to Malaysia where he had been invited in his individual capacity.
Guns blazing, Guzah, who also doubles as the Zanu PF deputy chairperson for Mashonaland West Province where reports of electoral chicanery were widespread, claimed in the letter that Rugeje had threatened to “punish” him after he refused to fund his trip.
“I write to your esteemed offices seeking your immediate intervention and remedy with regard to the attempt to extort money from me by the national political commissar …Rugeje,” part of Guzah’s letter dated reads.
“On January 23, 2018, I met …Rugeje at the New Club at around 7pm and in the course of our discussion he asked me for a favour in the form of $10 000 to assist him in covering his immediate debt and also pay for an air ticket to Malaysia …
“To prove his point, he sent me a copy of the invitation by email while he further emphasised the importance of being in the good books of the NPC as he was the one in charge of elections,” Guzah claimed further.
Guzah refused to discuss the letter yesterday, referring questions to the provincial chairperson Ziyambi Ziyambi “because it passed through him”.
Rugeje was not picking calls and he did not respond to a text message sent to his mobile phone to get his side of the story.
Guzah, however, said he did not give Rugeje the money he wanted because “I informed him that I would look into the issue as I assumed it was a general bar talk”.
“True to his word he sent me the email and the following morning I was surprised to receive a call from a major Chipanga from the commissariat department asking me when I would send the money.
“I was extremely shocked by this call as I never expected…to pressure me through …Chipanga or anyone for that matter… and in a bid to dismiss him, I told Chipanga that I was going to get in touch with him before the NPC was about to travel.”
An audio recording of Chipanga’s call to Guzah following up on the money was availed to the Daily News.
Guzah claimed further that he was later told by Muzarabani South legislator Christopher Chitindi that Rugeje was fuming with rage.
“In the ensuing weeks I met with Chitindi who told me that …Rugeje was angry with me for failing to deliver on a promise I had made to him.
“I told Chitindi that I had not promised Rugeje anything and as such to tell him to get in touch with me if he had anything to say as opposed to using proxies to deliver messages pregnant with mild coercion aimed at furthering the extortion agenda”.
Guzah lost to Mary Mliswa whom he also accused of being a member of the opposition MDC after she was co-opted into the Zanu PF Karereshi district structure at the beginning of this year.
Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha has also written a letter to Muchinguri alleging that he was cheated in the just-ended Mazowe North primary elections.
Dinha lost the elections to Campion Mugweni and he now claims that the votes were manipulated by some workers at the party’s headquarters.
“Zanu PF cannot afford to display what is happening and the G40-aligned system at the party headquarters and elsewhere causing this mayhem be purged immediately,” said Dinha.
Meanwhile Zanu PF yesterday announced the full list of constituencies which have to go for primary elections rerun.
In a press statement, Zanu PF said there would be a rerun of elections in 14 constituencies and three in the women’s quota, namely Hwata Senatorial constituency, Mazowe West and Shurugwi.
In Harare, there will be a rerun in Harare South and Glen View South while in Mashonaland Central there will be a rerun in Shamva North and Shamva South.
Mashonaland West has the highest number of reruns which are Norton, Chegutu East, Chegutu West and Zvimba North, Zvimba South, Chinhoyi Central and Makonde while in Masvingo a rerun will be held in Gutu East.
In Manicaland Province, Chipinge Central and Buhera West also have to go for a rerun.
“The teams deployed to supervise these elections will also conduct elections in the local government wards where elections were not held.
“The dates for these primary elections will be announced soon. Results of these elections will affect the final results for senatorial, women quota and provincial council results in the affected constituencies.”
The ruling party held its primaries to choose candidates for parliamentary and local government elections on April 29 but the whole process was marred by irregularities, vote rigging and manipulation.
The widespread cases of vote rigging prompted the Zanu PF politburo that sat on Saturday to order a rerun of elections in 10 constituencies while teams have been set to investigate other hot spot constituencies.
The elections, which spilt into days amid allegations of intimidation, skulduggery, bribery and outright vote buying among other unorthodox electoral practices, left President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling party heavily exposed.
This comes amid threats by supporters of losing candidates to sabotage the ruling party campaigns by backing the opposition MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa.