ZANU-PF was forced to abandon primary elections in Kwekwe yesterday after violence broke out at the party district offices, leading to several arrests.
Machete-wielding youths stormed polling stations, with rival factions clashing while singing revolutionary songs, forcing the party to abandon the polls.
Kandros Mugabe and Energy Ncube were supposed to battle it out for the ticket to represent the party in by-elections to replace the late Kwekwe Central legislator Masango Matambanadzo.
Matambanadzo, who won the seat in the July 2018 general elections as a National Patriotic Front candidate, beating Mugabe, died in July.
Zanu-PF Midlands provincial chairperson Daniel Mackenzie-Ncube confirmed the skirmishes and blamed them on makorokoza.
He said the makorokoza were allegedly brought by one of the candidates who now faces disqualification.
“They (primary elections) did not go well,” Mackenzie-Ncube said.
“Some gold panners came in and overran the polling stations demanding to vote and in the end, we had to call the primary elections off. Most of the panners do not come from the constituency and are unregistered in that constituency while others came from outside the constituency but just wanted to vote.”
He said the panners demanded to vote, questioning why they were not being given the chance to exercise their “right”.
Mackenzie-Ncube said a report would be prepared for responsible authorities to act, adding that there was the possibility of disqualification of the candidate who would be found guilty of sponsoring the panners.
“Those responsible will face the full wrath of the law. Quite a number have been arrested now and those responsible will be brought to book and the candidates who are encouraging this will also be brought to book or even disqualified,” he added.
Well-placed sources said there were gunshots at the party offices as police and soldiers dispersed the machetewelding and sloganeering supporters who were singing revolutionary songs.
A Zanu-PF branded double-cab vehicle was vandalised in the melee.
Police in the city also mounted roadblocks and blocked residents from getting into town in the afternoon.
Midlands provincial police spokesperson Inspector Joel Goko said he was not aware of the skirmishes.
“I’m not aware, I spent the whole day at home,” he said curtly.
The Kwekwe Central primary elections were held despite Health minister Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga on Friday, through Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No 4), suspending the holding of by-elections citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several by-elections were supposed to be held by December 5, according to a notice by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, to replace, mainly, MDC Alliance MPs and councillors recalled by MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe.
The recalls were made after the March 30 Supreme Court ruling that declared her a temporary leader of the opposition party.
Thirty-two MDC Alliance MPs have been recalled as well as 165 councillors.
Kwekwe is host to thousands of gold panners from different cities and towns who are all in the mining town in search of the yellow metal.
Most of them are, however, not registered in the constituency, but have strong links with key political figures.
These allegedly include State Security minister Owen Ncube, among others. Yesterday, the party district offices were swamped by protesters chanting revolutionary slogans, with some claiming they were shocked that their names were missing from the voters roll.
They alleged an underhand plot by perceived G40 elements to have one of their own as a candidate in the polls.
They claimed that Mugabe, who lost to Matambanadzo in the 2018 elections, was a G40 plant, an allegation denied by his backers, who accused Ncube’s supporters of making desperate excuses.
It also emerged that a group of party supporters, armed with machetes, stormed a polling station in Fitchlea threatening violence on a rival camp, forcing the closure of the polling centre.
There were also reports of violence in Chicago suburb, where party supporters also clashed , forcing the voting process to be abandoned.
Both camps made accusations and counter-accusations in separate interviews with NewsDay, with the Mugabe camp also claiming a plot to manipulate the process in favour of Ncube.