By Fungi Kwaramba
Respected University of Zimbabwe politics expert, Eldred Masunungure, says the chaos that was witnessed during Zanu PF’s primary elections at the weekend may have been deliberately engineered in the interest of power brokers in the ruling party.
At the same time, opposition parties and other observers have also warned that the shambolic scenes witnessed during the ruling party’s internal polls portend worse things to come in the make-or-break national elections due to be held in a few months’ time.
The warning comes as large numbers of angry Zanu PF supporters besieged the party’s provincial offices yesterday, protesting the manner in which its weekend elections were managed.
The polls were marred by serious allegations of violence, bribery and vote rigging — as well as delays in the delivery of ballot papers which resulted in many constituencies across the country’s 10 provinces failing to vote.
This prompted the party’s leadership to extend voting to yesterday.
Masunungure told the Daily News yesterday that the chaos witnessed during Zanu PF’s primary elections suggested that this had been deliberately engineered.
“There are two scenarios. The first one is that the chaos is a result of a lack of capacity on the part of the commissariat department under (Rtd) lieutenant general (Engelbert) Rugeje to run the elections.
“The second one is that the chaos was engineered to produce a desired outcome, and I would like to take the second scenario.
“Indeed, the chaos may have been deliberately fomented for the purposes of electoral rigging, and was thus purposefully engineered. This appears more conceivable,” Masunungure said.
However, he added, the chaos was not necessarily linked to the looming national elections because these would be run by an independent organ, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
“While it is true that Zanu PF is known for political shenanigans, I don’t think we need to link the national elections run by Zec to its internal party elections, even as it is true that what happens in Zanu PF has implications on national issues.
“In the end, things will depend on the political will of Zanu PF to mount efficient polls. Remember also that there is a process now to amend the Electoral Act and if that succeeds, Zec might after all be allowed to do its own work without interference,” he said.
On their part, opposition parties warned that the shambolic management of the ruling party’s internal polls signalled the fact that Zanu PF would fail to pass the litmus test of holding credible national elections.
“Zanu PF has simply shown the whole wide world that it is in complete shambles, and is totally and utterly incapable of effectively and transparently conducting its own primary elections.
“At this rate, the 2018 harmonised elections will be a total farce. If Zanu PF can massively rig its own internal elections, what do you expect them to do with the national elections?” vice president of the MDC faction led by Thokozani Khupe, Obert Gutu, said.
The main MDC outfit led by Nelson Chamisa also said Zanu PF had failed to “inspire confidence that it was ready to depart from ballot cheating”.
“We now have Zanu PF levelling accusations against Zanu PF, which is the same allegations that we have been making in the past. Thus, what is being said by many Zanu PF leaders vindicates what we in the MDC have been saying all along.
“We are very familiar with Zanu PF violence and intimidation. We feel vindicated. It is good that all this is happening at a time when the whole world is watching to see if the forthcoming elections will be free and fair. They will see it for themselves that Zanu PF is the master of rigging,” Chamisa’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said.
The National Patriotic Front (NPF) said it was ready to foil Zanu PF’s “shenanigans” in the forthcoming national elections.
“That’s what happens when you entrust the running of elections to soldiers. We are, however, not interested in what’s happening in Junta PF as it is their elections, if you think they are elections.
“As for what happens with the harmonised national elections, we are working on the ground to foil any electoral mischief,” NPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said.
Meanwhile, other analysts also told the Daily News that the disastrous Zanu PF primaries were a warning to the opposition that the national elections could be affected by shambolic planning.
“Zanu PF’s blatant electoral fraud in its own elections vindicates opposition parties. It is also a slap in the face for the international community which has publicly pressed for re-engagement with the Zanu PF regime in the futile hope that it will reform.
“As I have said before, Zanu PF is dead … and the fact that people stand on a Zanu PF ticket does not mean that they belong to that party but are only choosing this platform to steal,” academic Ibbo Mandaza said.
Another analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the chaos reflected badly on Zanu PF’s “culture of rigging”.
“Zanu PF are masters of rigging. It’s a shame that they are manipulating their own polls. It shows that they can’t run free and fair elections and that the national elections are going to be manipulated,” he said.
The looming national elections have generated such interest among both ordinary Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike that a number of opposition leaders are set to contest President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential plebiscite.
The polls themselves will be the first in the past two decades not to feature ousted former president Robert Mugabe and the popular late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Apart from acting as a dry-run for the country’s forthcoming crunch national elections, analysts had also said the Zanu PF internal polls at the weekend were likely to act as a gauge of Mnangagwa’s commitment to creating an environment conducive for the holding of free, fair and credible elections. Daily News