By Fungi Kwaramba
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last night readily admitted to the problems which marred Zanu PF’s weekend primary elections which were extended for a second time to today, following more chaotic scenes yesterday which forced yet more candidates to withdraw from the party’s internal polls.
In a statement, Mnangagwa also said the problems which dogged the elections had emanated from what he called his party’s desire to “professionalise” its candidate selection processes, as well as to deepen the former liberation movement’s democratic culture.
“Zanu PF is gradually but inexorably putting all its ducks in a row for this plebiscite (the looming national elections) which it is set to win resoundingly.
“What set these primary elections apart from those that we had in the past is the fact that these have been conducted under the auspices of a newly-created arm of the party, the party’s elections commission, which we commissioned recently in order to professionalise our candidates selection process, so that we deepen our party’s internal democratic traditions.
“Whatever teething problems we have experienced so far — and we have noted them closely — we remain convinced that the democratic course we have started in the management of our party affairs is the correct one,” Mnangagwa said.
Notwithstanding the statement, most of the party’s constituencies had by the end of the day yesterday not finished voting — with further late deliveries of ballot papers forcing the under pressure Zanu PF leadership to extend voting again, to today.
The shambolic ruling party’s internal polls come as this year’s looming national elections have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary people and ambitious politicians — so much so that a number of opposition leaders are set to contest Mnangagwa in the presidential plebiscite.
The Daily News established last night that large numbers of angry Zanu PF supporters had besieged the party’s provincial offices yesterday, protesting the manner in which its weekend elections were managed.
This occurred after the polls were marred by serious allegations of violence, bribery and vote rigging — as well as the embarrassing delays in the delivery of ballot papers which resulted in many constituencies across the country’s 10 provinces failing to vote.
Most of the affected constituencies yesterday were in Matabeleland South, Manicaland, Harare and the Midlands, where some Zanu PF officials in places such as Gokwe instructed police to guard ballot boxes — a move which triggered fears of vote rigging and fraud.
Voting started very late in places such as Chipinge, where by the end of the day yesterday only four constituencies had voted.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo also confirmed to the Daily News that voting had started very late in his Bulilima constituency, where people were still voting around 7pm.
In Harare South, the chaos that characterised the first day of polling also spilled over to yesterday, as there were no ballot papers — with potential voters stranded, amid accusations from one of the aspiring candidates, Tongai Mnangagwa, that his rival Douglas Mahiya was allegedly trying to rig the polls.
“People have been at polling stations since morning and they have not been able to vote because of Mahiya. He is bussing people who are not in the structures and we are going to make sure that this constituency will be ungovernable if he wins the elections … tell him that,” Tongai fumed.
Harare Province chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa told the Daily News that while most of the results were in, they could not announce them yesterday since there were still areas which needed verification.
In Mt Darwin South constituency, where 20 people are contesting to represent the party in the forthcoming elections, voting also only started after 4pm yesterday, after further delays in the delivery of ballot papers.
Businessman James Makamba did not find his name on the ballot paper, amid claims that he was disqualified last week following the leak of an audio tape in which he was alleged to have denigrated party leaders.
In Kwekwe Central, one candidate John Mapurazi withdrew from the race, citing intimidation and threats to his family.
“I have decided to step down, my reasons for stepping down … my car and gate were destroyed … my agent was beaten up at B.D Maonde polling station, a polling station was put at a candidate’s premise, so I am afraid of my family security,” he said in a letter addressed to the Zanu PF leadership in Kwekwe.
In Mashonaland West, Hurungwe West MP and deputy provincial chairperson Keith Guzah accused his predecessor — Temba Mliswa of allegedly unleashing militia to cow voters.
Mliswa’s sister, Mary, is contesting Guzah.
“Temba unleashed more than 200 hooligans into the constituency since Monday from Norton and his farm. They are terrorising people in Kahonde, Karereshi, karambazungu, Deve Central and Deve Point Four areas,” Guzah claimed in an interview with the Daily News.
However, Mliswa dismissed Guzah’s claims — describing him as a “sore loser”.
“I am her (Mary’s) campaign manager and I have done a great job which has shaken him. He should report to the police if he thinks I have sent militia to beat up people.
“Guzah is a sore loser. In fact, he was a lodger in my constituency and now I am back to reclaim it. I am an operator. I dictate the politics of Hurungwe West and you can’t win it without my blessings,” he said.
There was also drama in Mazowe West’s Siza District where aspiring MP Tafadzwa Musarara allegedly manhandled a polling agent.
According to the Siza district chairperson James Kondonani, a police report had since been made against Musarara.
“Two people were beaten by Tafadzwa, an aspiring candidate. When he came here he called the presiding officer and said there were some people who were missing on the voters’ roll … he was in the company of a woman.
“Zanu PF’s standing rules say a contesting person is not supposed to be in the polling station and he was pictured while inside and this angered him. He then beat up the agent, who was taken to hospital,” he said.
However, Musarara said he was actually the victim in the entire saga.
“I am actually the victim. They butchered my driver and stole my stuff. This is just a smear campaign. In some areas there is no voting at all … my team has suffered enough.
“There has been a sustained attack on me and that (the allegations against him) is a lie to cover up what they have done…,” he alleged. Daily News