By Mugove Tafirenyika
Political careers of a number of bigwigs in Zanu PF are hanging by the thread as more and more cadres in the lower ranks of the party are itching to take them head on during primary polls set for the first quarter of this year.
In previous party polls, Zanu PF chefs used to have it easy because of the aura of invincibility around them, and the fact that former first secretary and president of the party Robert Mugabe used to shield them from competition.
But following Mugabe’s inglorious exit last November, heavyweights in Zanu PF have been left exposed to party ambitious faithfuls that are dying to shake things up in the hope of reforming the party.
New party leader Emmerson Mnangagwa has already set the tone by pledging to break away from Mugabe’s ruinous policies — written or unwritten.
He is, therefore, seen departing from his predecessor’s path by discarding the imposition of candidates and tightening the screws on vote buying to prove to the outside world that he, indeed, represents a new order.
Several other internal developments point to difficult times ahead for sitting Zanu PF members of Parliament and senators.
For instance, the Zanu PF Youth League is demanding that a certain number of parliamentary seats be reserved for its members, which could force the party to find ways of incorporating new blood into its ranks.
The Zanu PF Women’s League is also clamouring for a 50-50 representation in both Parliament and local government to narrow disparities between men and women.
As if that is not enough, former liberation war fighters are increasingly laying their claim on the party, which they believe had been hijacked by Johnny-come-latelies in the Generation 40 faction, which was annihilated by the military intervention of late last year.
All these developments are putting pressure on Zanu PF bigwigs who now face uncertain future come primary polls.
While the party is still to set dates for the primary polls, campaigning has started in earnest in certain constituencies, although this is being done clandestinely.
In Mutasa Central, the ruling party’s national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri is said to be considering running for the seat.
In 2013, Muchinguri-Kashiri was elected to Parliament via proportional representation.
The godmother for Manicaland province is likely to face businessman Innocent Benza who has been working tirelessly for the people of Mutasa Central since 2013, when he lost the seat to Trevor Saruwaka of the MDC.
In Chivi Central constituency, Zanu PF secretary for legal affair Paul Mangwana will square off against Ephraim Gwanongodza, the incumbent who defeated him in 2013.
Mangwana told the Daily News that 2018 was his year saying “the beauty of democracy is that power is contested so I will be contesting him”.
“They defeated us last time but we did not go away. We remained on the ground working with the people and quietly doing our projects. Now we are ready to win,” he added.
Former War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube, who was nominated unopposed for the Makokoba seat in 2013 after his challenger Peter Baka Nyoni withdrew from the race, is also sweating over his future amid indications that there are party hawks who are considering giving him a good run for his money.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Dube could only say: “I am not sure what will happen under this new dispensation but he (Nyoni) may want to contest this time but I am ready for the primaries”.
In Marondera West, Provincial Affairs minister Ambrose Mutinhiri is also likely to tussle it out with a provincial executive member of the Zanu PF Women’s League, Spiwe Mukunyaidze.
Mukunyaidze is said to have hit the ground running after she hosted party supporters in ward 18 last weekend and declared her ambitions.
While she was not taking calls yesterday, a party official, who attended the meeting at Marondera Secondary School, said “it’s all over for brigadier (Mutinhiri)”.
“We are already campaigning for Spiwe whom they have been blocking for a long time now. This time around, we are ready to support her right through to the end because she cares about our welfare,” said the official.
In Marondera East, incumbent Jeremiah Chiwetu and Marondera Rural District Council chairperson Patrick Chidhakwa are seen battling it out.
Chidhakwa told the Daily News yesterday that he was working flat out “to help a constituency that has been orphaned”.
“He (Chiwetu) has not been doing anything in this constituency and I took it upon myself to ensure that I help. I have been building satellite schools in and around the constituency including St James Secondary School in Marondera West, Kesera, Mandonga in ward 2, Igava School and we are now working on establishing “A” Level classes at schools such as Marondera Secondary, Bumburwi Secondary and Chakadini,” he said.
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (Znlwva) yesterday said with elections coming in less than six months from now “no one will be protected”.
Znlwva secretary-general Victor Matemadanda told the Daily News that their only worry was “the culture of vote buying”.
He said there was need for the ex-combatants to strategise on who should contests where in order to enhance their chances of winning the elections.
“What has been happening in the past is not necessarily shielding bigwigs but rather that they used money to buy out potential opponents and then people will wake up one morning to hear that their preferred candidate had withdrawn and the candidate will not say that he/she was given money,” Matemadanda said.
“All aspiring candidates will be given an opportunity to contest in primary elections for constituencies they wish to represent,” he said.
Matemadanda said people should be elected not on the basis of whom they are but what they can offer to the electorate.
“We don’t get elected because we belong to a certain social group. It is against the dictates of democracy because people are not voted because they are war veterans, youths or women but because they can deliver for the electorate and to us that should be the yardstick,” he said.
This comes amid indications that factionalism could be rearing its ugly head again in Zanu PF with the war veterans reportedly expressing their uneasiness with the rising influence of the military in the party.
Only recently, Engelbert Rugeje, a former senior military official, was appointed the party’s national political commissar, replacing Matemadanda, who was initially given the position on an interim capacity.
There are concerns that military has virtually hijacked Zanu PF while pushing civilian officials to the periphery.
Rugeje will himself battle in out in Bikita West with Beauty Chabaya, who came in last year after the incarceration of Munyaradzi Kereke on charges of raping a minor.
Rugeje was not taking calls when he was contacted for a comment yesterday. Daily News