By Mugove Tafirenyika and Fungi Kwaramba
In a stunning development, many long-serving Zanu PF stalwarts have fallen by the wayside in the party’s selection of candidates who will participate in this year’s watershed elections.
This comes as dozens of other party heavyweights, who include serving and former Cabinet ministers, will also have to contend with newcomers who include the youths in primary elections across the country which have been set for May.
The looming elections will be the first in the past two decades not to feature ousted former president Robert Mugabe and the late popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Such has been the interest generated by the elections among Zimbabweans that a number of opposition leaders are also set to contest President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential plebiscite.
The emergence of Nelson Chamisa in particular, as the new MDC leader, appears to have energised opposition supporters, especially the youths, who see him as a viable alternative to Mnangagwa.
The Daily News established yesterday that long-serving Zanu PF politicians, Edna Madzongwe and Webster Shamu, are among the biggest causalities of the Zanu PF provincial pruning process that was held at the weekend to choose candidates for the party.
Madzongwe apparently threw in the towel during the Mashonaland West provincial co-ordinating committee (PCC) meeting, where Shamu’s bid to retain Chegutu East constituency was punctured by the province’s youth chairperson Vengai Musengi who will not be contested in the primary elections.
Shamu, a war veteran and former broadcaster — whose tumultuous political career drew comparisons with the proverbial nine lives of a cat because of his stunning comebacks from previous party challenges — had been expected to contest in the primary elections unopposed.
This was especially so after he was surprisingly retained by Mnangagwa when the new president announced his maiden Cabinet after assuming power at the end of last year.
Then, Shamu had been in his position as Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister for less than a month, after Mugabe had previously recalled him from the wilderness following the 2014 ruling party purges which led to the expulsion of former vice president Joice Mujuru and several other Zanu PF bigwigs.
On the other hand, Madzongwe had held many high posts both in Zanu PF and in government since 1984. She is currently the president of the Senate.
The veteran politician was touted as one of the senior Zanu PF politicians at some point who could have replaced Mujuru, but eventually lost out to Mnangagwa.
At the height of the party’s ugly factional wars which pitted Mnangagwa against the Generation 40 (G40) faction, Madzongwe’s name was also often mentioned as one of the women candidates likely to be the beneficiary of the quota system that was being agitated for by the women’s league then led by Grace Mugabe.
Officials who claimed to have been frustrated by the regional PCC yesterday accused Mashonaland West provincial chairperson and Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi of pursuing vindictive politics.
“All aspiring qualifying candidates who wanted to contest … were disqualified on trumped up allegations, disloyalty to the party among others being on top of the list.
“War veterans and all affiliates’ CVs were put in the bin together with all the rejected but worthy candidates, ready for dispatch to the national elections,” one of the disgruntled party bigwigs told the Daily News.
He also alleged that the provincial leadership bore grudges from the time of Zanu PF’s ugly factional ructions which ended with the G40 being vanquished.
Similarly, former Mines minister Walter Chidakwa was also left out in the cold at the weekend, as his CV was not even taken into consideration.
However, Ziyambi told the Daily News that his executive had only made recommendations to be submitted to the national elections directorate, which is headed by the ruling party’s political commissar Engelbert Rugeje.
“There was no favouritism at all. I don’t do those things. My job is to just compile a list according to the rules of the party. I just look at the CVs and then refer them to the national elections directorate.
“All the CVs are there. But Madzongwe is not contesting. She just withdrew from the race,” Ziyambi said.
Ziyambi himself will not be contested in Zvimba West, while Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira has no challenger as well for the senatorial post in Makonde.
Keith Guzah (Hurungwe West), Dexter Nduna (Chegutu West), Philip Chiyangwa (Zvimba South) and Christopher Mutsvangwa will also all not be contested after their potential challengers were allegedly kicked out.
Meanwhile, the province’s former chairperson, now an Independent MP for Norton, Temba Mliswa, warned that the alleged shenanigans of the Mash West party leadership could cost Mnangagwa in the elections — further predicting another “Bhora musango” scenario.
“MDC Alliance is gaining momentum whilst Zanu PF plots its implosion. When talking about this we’re labelled Chamisa fans but they’re scoring own goals, Bhora musango!
“We’re nearing a 2008 scenario where this time the junta’ll be powerless & under pressure for free, fair & credible elections,” Mliswa said on micro blogging site Twitter.
“People like Marian Chombo & (Bright) Matonga were left out after being asked to rejoin the party. Thank God I’d the foresight & God’s wisdom to avoid the embarrassment of rejoining the party only to be sidelined. They wanted to humiliate me but I remain standing. ED’s in trouble in Mash West.
“Whilst EDM has them at heart, Zanu PF is no longer for the WVs (war veterans). Even in the fiscus, Chinamasa excludes them and they are still paupers. It is only people such as myself, and some in the opposition like Chamisa and Masihairabwi,” Mliswa added.
Mliswa is set to slug it out with Mnangagwa’s special adviser and chairperson of the war veterans, Mutsvangwa, in the Norton constituency in the coming elections.
It is well known that there is no love lost between the two men, who last month traded barbs over who would win the constituency in the forthcoming elections.
In Mashonaland East, Sydney Sekeramayi, who at one time was touted as Mugabe’s successor, is also facing a testing time to his political career.
He will have to prove his mettle against war veterans provincial chairperson Daniel Sigauke and Philemon Mutongi for the Senate seat.
Defeat for Sekeramayi, who was a Cabinet ever-present since Zanu PF came to power in 1980, would almost certainly mark the end of his long political career.
Sekeramayi presided over some of the most key ministries in Mugabe’s successive governments — including being Defence minister and State Security minister three times each in the two portfolios.
But Mnangagwa overlooked him in Cabinet and the only recognisable post he now holds is that of being a Senator.
The provincial executive there, led by Biggie Joel Matiza, also allegedly wrote damning recommendations against perceived allies of former vice president Joice Mujuru or Mugabe — who is reportedly the brains behind the National Patriotic Front (NPF) that is led by retired brigadier-general Ambrose Mutinhiri.
Uzumba legislator Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, Maramba’s Washington Musvaire, Felix Mhona of Chikomba Central, Jeremiah Chiwetu (Marondera East), Lawrence Katsiru (Marondera Central), Beata Nyamupinga (Goromonzi) and Tendai Makunde in Murewa North all face uncertainty as their names have been linked to the annihilated G40 faction.
While Matiza confirmed that his executive had made its recommendations to the national elections directorate, he said these were confidential.
“We do not give the final say as a province. We only recommend to a higher office, but what recommendation we made remains confidential. So, you might say so and so has been disqualified only to be accepted by the national office,” he said.
In Chikomba East, incumbent MP Edgar Mbwembwe will be contested by State media columnist Sekai Nzenza, while Mhona — who is accused of being a Mujuru ally — will battle it out with youth league secretary for science and technology and central committee member Edmore Kandira and Alfred Pedzisa respectively.
In Marondera Central, Chiwetu faces a tough test against Patrick Chidhakwa, the chairperson of Marondera Rural District Council.
In Seke rural, incumbent Phineas Chihota’s political life hangs in the balance as he will face Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s mother in-law, Helga Mubaiwa, who is also wife to Dynamos chairperson Kenni Mubaiwa.
In Masvingo Province, at least all legislators in Chiredzi, including former provincial chairperson Kallisto Gwanetsa are battling for survival after they were given adverse recommendations by the provincial executive led by Ezra Chadzamira.
“The process is going on very well. There is no one who has been disqualified so far because the process is still ongoing. What we have just done is to make recommendations based on one’s track record,” Chadzamira said. Daily News