Both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa face major problems as the country’s national elections beckon — with dozens of disgruntled former Cabinet ministers and MPs from their respective parties staging a rebellion by registering to contest the make-or-break polls as independents.
This comes after the country’s two biggest political parties recently held shambolic internal elections, which has led to the revolts by losing candidates — many of them sitting MPs — and resulting in chaotic scenes which were witnessed across the country on Thursday when the Nomination Court sat.
So bad is the situation, that Mnangagwa was moved to warn ruling party followers yesterday that those Zanu PF officials who had gone rogue by filing their papers as independents in the July 30 elections needed to understand that their careers in the former liberation movement were now effectively over.
Addressing his supporters at Mucheke Stadium in Masvingo, Mnangagwa also said that while some candidates who had won their primaries had done so using irregular and unorthodox means, those party officials who had decided to stand as independents were betraying him and the party.
“We know some people won by cheating, while others who cheated did not win, but we have come to a point where we must move together … because I do not like those that will say we are standing as independent candidates … those who do so will have cut ties with me and the party.
“I hear there are a few who have done so here. Let them be warned against it because the party is bigger than individuals.
“I have always said that no one has a pocket big enough to keep Zanu PF … the party is big enough to accommodate all of us,” he thundered.
Among the hordes of senior party cadres who are taking on Zanu PF around the country are Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha — who was considered a Mnangagwa ally during his war of attrition with the Generation 40 (G40) faction — who filed his papers as “a party candidate” for Mazowe North constituency.
This was despite him losing the party’s primaries, which means that Zanu PF will have two candidates contesting the constituency.
Dinha confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that he had indeed submitted his papers as the ruling party’s “representative” for the seat.
“Yes, I submitted my papers and will be standing for the ruling party. That is now a closed chapter and I am just about to roll out my campaign.
“I am Zanu PF at heart. And I don’t want to hear about sabotaging the polls. My DNA is Zanu PF and I stand firm with my boss and principal Mnangagwa whom I represent in Mashonaland Central … I won’t allow our seat to go to enemy hands,” he said.
In Murewa South, veteran politician Noah Mangondo also filed his papers under the Zanu PF ticket, despite incumbent MP and Mashonaland East provincial chairperson Joel Biggie Matiza having won the party’s primaries.
Contacted for comment by the Daily News, Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said the ruling party would convene a meeting on Monday to try and resolve all the issues.
“The party does not allow two people to contest in the same constituency and we will not allow that. We will sit down on Monday and map the best way forward.
“We will have one candidate per constituency … the party has its internal mechanisms to deal with such issues … one candidate will step down,” he said.
Among other bigwigs who are going to contest this year’s elections as independents are former Cabinet ministers — notably former Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidakwa (Zvimba South), and former Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa (Magunje).
While Gandawa and Chidakwa can legitimately hide behind the fact that they were expelled from the ruling party last year, former MP for Mutare North, Batsirai Pemhenayi — who lost the primaries to Zanu PF Manicaland provincial chairperson Mike Madiro — has decided to throw his hat in the ring even he maintains that he still backs Mnangagwa.
“I am standing as an independent but my vote stays with my president. People in the constituency have pushed me to stand and I have listened to them.
“There were no elections here and the top brass turned a blind eye on us … the people will vote in the elections, including councillors of their choice, as they were not allowed a chance to speak their minds during the primaries,” Pemhenayi said.
Meanwhile, the main faction of the MDC said yesterday that it had seven days to try and heal rifts within the party, as it also faced the prospects of “bhora musango” in the elections.
“As far as we know, the party doesn’t have duplicates. Of course, there are reports that some people forged the party’s official signatures and we will rectify that.
“Having many people clamouring to stand as our candidates is a good thing which shows that everybody wants to be on our party list,” the party’s newly-appointed presidential spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda, said.
The MDC’s primaries — just like Zanu PF’s — attracted widespread criticism from disgruntled party members and losing candidates, who accused their leaders of abandoning democratic processes.
With many of the party’s sitting MPs and aspiring candidates not subjected to primary elections, and being selected through what the MDC has said was via a “consensus” process, this left many followers unhappy.
Among its senior officials who have decided to stand as independents is long-serving MP for Harare West, Jessie Majome — who has accused the MDC leadership of manipulating party guidelines.
“Thank you Harare Westerners for your confidence in me as an independent candidate. It’s now time to vote on issues, principles, capacity & truth.
“Let’s show the naysayers that we, Harare Westerners, want authentic representation. Humbly, I ask, Vote truly one of your own: tried, tested,” Majome — who served as deputy minister for Women’s Affairs in the short-lived government of national unity — has said.
Meanwhile, political analysts have warned that both Zanu PF and the MDC are likely to suffer losses in areas where those who have decided to contest as independents have strong support.
“This is interesting and unsurprising to some of us who have always said the lack of internal democracy in both Zanu PF and MDC will breed independent candidates.
“However, this disadvantages the MDC Alliance more than Zanu PF. Zanu PF will rig and win. The MDC Alliance’s threats of no reforms no elections also becomes hot air when they are facing rebellion from within their party for rigged primary elections,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said both Zanu PF and MDC were risking the erosion of their support base.
“This reflects the amount of dissatisfaction in both parties, and it also reflects poorly on inside democracy in the two parties, and it is going to have negative consequences on them.
“There will be some erosion of support for the two parties, and in some cases it could be critical because the party concerned might lose a seat because the independent splits the vote,” he said.
The saving grace for the two parties could be that candidates who have registered to participate in the polls, including independents, are allowed to rescind their decision within seven days of the Nomination Court sitting. . . . as many bigwigs rebel against Zanu PF, MDC