The chaotic manner in which Zanu PF selected its parliamentary candidates could cost the ruling party in Mashonaland East (Mash East) province where disgruntled supporters have threatened to vote for opposition candidates in the July 30 election.
The problem is not only in Mash East, several disgruntled party supporters in various other provinces have openly declared that they will vote for other candidates in protest over alleged candidate impositions by the Engelbert Rugeje-led Zanu PF national commissariat.
To that effect, the party held a healing and reconciliation workshop in Harare last month to placate disgruntled officials, where Vice President Constantino Chiwenga urged peace and unity among candidates who contested in the disputed primary elections.
He also pleaded with party structures not to throw away the baby with the bath water; saying doing so would open the door for an opposition victory amid fears within the party of the reincarnation of the “bhora musango” phenomenon fomented by losing candidates.
But notwithstanding the passionate pleas, in Mash East, for example, party supporters have petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa informing him that they will not vote for provincial chairperson Joel Biggie Matiza in Murewa South amid allegations that he fraudulently won in the primary elections held in May.
Matiza confirmed to the Daily News that there were disgruntled supporters who were resisting his candidature in favour of Noah Mangondo, who is standing as an independent after he lost in the primaries.
“Bona fide Zanu PF supporters know that we already have a candidate … who is myself, so those who are writing their petitions are fake, they are not genuine, they will not succeed, they are just desperate,” he said.
In the petition — copied to Chiwenga and Vice President Kembo Mohadi, national chairperson, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Rugeje, the disgruntled Zanu PF supporters alleged that “voting in the primary elections took place under very unfavourable conditions imposed by corrupted presiding police officers”.
“This led to disturbances at most polling stations, resulting in people failing to vote or ballot papers being torn or burnt,” the party members alleged.
Responding to reports that his executive was last week snubbed by supporters in Chikomba East and Central where they intended to apologise for the chaotic primary elections, Matiza insisted that all was well in the party structures.
“My team never went there, that is not true. It is calm here in the province and everyone is on the ground campaigning. The healing process is going on well and we are getting united,” he insisted.
Regional sources, however, said Zanu PF provincial political commissar Herbert Shumbamhini and his team had been humiliated in Chikomba East.
“Losing candidates refused to give speeches at the meeting that was not well attended by our standards. They demanded that Shumbamhini should explain why they rigged elections first but he said he was not there to take questions as all he was instructed by Rugeje to do was to apologise and call for unity,” said a provincial executive member who refused to be named.
Contacted by the Daily News, Rugeje said “I have no comment” soon after this reporter introduced himself and before even asking a question.
Rugeje stands accused of presiding over the chaos that characterised the primary elections amid allegations that he was taking instructions from former party commissar Webster Shamu without approval from Zanu PF.
Special adviser to Mnangagwa — Christopher Mutsvangwa — even warned that Mnangagwa may lose this year’s elections as a result.
“It is inconceivable that the president will win given that the party’s members have been largely disenfranchised,” he said.
“We realised that instead of being in the primary elections to provide peace and a stable environment in which Zanu PF members freely express themselves and choose their leaders, the national commissar, being a political novice, and sought advice from a rehabilitated ex-Gamatox commissar in the form of Webster Shamu to turn police into returning officers.”
“The new national commissar, while he is a comrade, lacks the party’s institutional memory and failed to handle this issue well, leading to the disenfranchisement of thousands of party members countrywide,” he said.
“The political commissar relinquished his position as chief returning officer of the primary election to the police, who are supposed to be there to maintain law and order.”
“Zanu PF’s problem has always been the abuse of the office of the political commissar and we are seeing this again,” he added.