THE just-ended primary elections to select candidates that will represent ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) at the forthcoming polls have not only been controversial, but also exposed the internecine infighting within both parties.
A number of losing candidates from both parties have since filed their nomination papers to stand as independents, claiming the primary polls were fraught with irregularities.
In ZANU-PF, many aspiring young Turks were under the impression that it was their turn to shine but their hopes were dashed after members of the old guard stamped their authority once again by shutting them out.The unhappiness among the young Turks, seen through demonstrations staged in the past two weeks and a flurry of petitions filed with the party’s election directorate, said it all.
The disqualification of candidates, reports of widespread vote rigging and vote buying played a decisive role factor in the manner the primary elections were conducted.
A number of ZANU-PF members among them former Manicaland provincial chairperson Mike Madiro (Mutare North), Dorothy Mabika (Chipinge Central), Marian Chombo (Zvimba North), Daniel Garwe (Murehwa North), Richard Mavhunga (Marondera Central) Rumbidzai Mujuru (Chikomba Central), Machiri (Mutare Central), Shylet Uyoyo (Bikita South), Nyarai Chasi (Mhondoro-Mubaira) and Jonathan Samukange (Mudzi South) filed their nomination papers last Friday as independent candidates.
Madiro and Chasi have since made a U-turn on their position.
In the MDC-T, while the party primaries began well before ZANU-PF’s, it took Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s formation more than a month to finalise the list of their candidates as several losers challenged the outcome of the poll.
On Friday, MDC-T leaders were surprised to see some of the losing candidates queuing to file their nomination papers at the Nomination Court.
Among them Geoff Nyarota (Makoni South), Gerald Chitsa (Gutu North), Moses Mare (Chiredzi West), Felix Magalela Sibanda (Magwegwe), Regai Tsunga (Mutasa South), Kidwell Mujuru (Luveve-Cowdray Park), Samuel Sandla Khumalo (Pelandaba-Mpopoma), Carlos Mudzongo (Marondera Central), Cleopas Machacha (Kariba), Tonderai Kusemamuriwo (Magunje), Nicholas Chigwende (Hurungwe Central), Enerst Mudimu (Chegutu West), Christopher Maonera (Mhondoro-Mubaira) and Severino Chambati (Hurungwe West).
Both ZANU-PF and the MDC-T have since threatened the dissenting voices with dismissal.
Webster Shamu, the ZANU-PF national political commissar, had no kind words for those he considered to be rebels.
He said anyone standing as an independent had automatically expelled himself or herself from the party.
“If they want to follow what Jonathan Moyo did in the previous election, which made him accepted into the party, this time it is different. Anyone contesting as independent candidate will not be accepted back in the party…some of them are going around masquerading as if they have the blessings of the party to participate in the elections as independent candidates. It is not true,” said Shamu.
Moyo, who stood in the 2008 harmonised election as an independent candidate has refused to have his name dragged into the imbroglio. He has since made a passionate appeal to those who have severed ties with the party to reconsider their decision before it is too late.
“They are essentially putting themselves above the party and giving the false impression that they are either more important or more popular than the party,” said Moyo. “The whole essence of politics and national service is collective. Politics is not a solitary enterprise pursued by ambitious political hermits in the wilderness.”
MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, was equally scathing in his attack of those who have defied the party.
“There are two types of candidates who stood as independents. Candidates who did not succeed in primary elections and then chose to run as independent. In respect of those candidates, they expelled themselves from the party. The party does not owe them any duty anymore. They are actually opponents of the party. Such persons are good riddance because they could actually sponsor divisions while in the party. They are clear cut opponents of the party and how would you strategise with them. Strategising with them is like strategising with our opponent, ZANU-PF,” said Mwonzora, a lawyer.
A common thread running through the primaries held by ZANU-PF and the MDC-T is that sitting legislators made it difficult for their rivals to stand a chance.
In the case of ZANU-PF, most of the veterans in the revolutionary party either sailed through unopposed or simply shru-gged off challenges from the young Turks without raising much sweat.
While some of the young Turks were lucky to proceed to the next stage, the journey ended abruptly for the majority of them.
But because there was no time for ZANU-PF to consider their petitions and conduct re-runs if need be, the courageous ones op-ted to stand as independents in order to send a clear message to their leaders that they were not happy with the internal electoral processes.
It was the same story for the MDC-T.
Political observers have warned that if not checked, the animosity from the primary elections could become the undoing of both ZANU-PF and the MDC-T.
Khanyile Mlotshwa, a political commentator, said the looming election gave little time for the MDC-T to deal with the independent candidates and all it could do in the meantime was to put up the impression that it would not tolerate indiscipline.
“There will be little impact from independent candidates. Structures and supporters are the political capital of political parties and not individuals. Once these individuals are suspended or expelled, supporters will be quietly disciplined into voting for party candidates,” said Mlotshwa.
Another political commentator, Charles Mangongera was of the opinion that while the main political parties would take disciplinary action against the independent candidates, they would do so aware of the risks that are associated with that stance.
“Both ZANU-PF and the MDC-T are clear that any candidate who registers as an independent is automatically expelled. But the danger is that they will divide the vote and cost their parties in the respective constituencies where they are contesting,” said Mangongera.
Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the primaries had not only exposed the extent of factionalism, particularly in ZANU-PF, but have also reflected on their failure to address the divisions, which have emerged on the eve of the crunch elections.
“There are several possibilities that may emerge now and that is all ZANU-PF factions may realise the risk of a collective loss at the elections and this may compel them to voluntarily set their differences aside for the elections,” he said.
“The party may decide to use coercive means to deal with those considered as ‘rebels’ in the party. This option may actually increase the extent of divisions and also cost the party at elections and lastly the party may allow things to take their own course meaning divisions and infighting may actually increase towards elections with possibility of extreme consequences to the lives of its members, but this will be fatal for the party’s election campaign.”
Rashweat Mukundu, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said the primaries had for the first time clearly brought out the factionalism within ZANU-PF.
According to Mukundu, the danger is that the disgruntled party supporters might not campaign for rival candidates who won the primaries.
“This, however, won’t happen in the open for fear of victimisation. In the final analysis let us not expect a collapse of ZANU-PF anytime soon as the majority of the factional leaders and followers, one way or the other depend on ZANU-PF and the state for economic survival and will close ranks when it comes to the crunch election.”
A political analyst, Admire Muchina, said the move by losing candidates to stand as independent candidates should be an insight into the general consensus among all the barred candidates.
“Tension is already brewing and the signs of another bhora musango are evident,” he said.
Another analyst Trevor Mazani said, “The primaries have fuelled the simmering tension that existed within ZANU-PF here. Yes, the party was trying to put measures to avoid another humiliation emanating from disgruntled officials but they came late. The primaries have reignited tension within the party and ZANU-PF will once again shoot itself in the foot.”
But Rugare Gumbo, the ZANU-PF spokesperson, dismissed pessimists, saying ZANU-PF would recover from this setback.
Gumbo said winners and losers should now unite and fight “our common enemies who are sponsored and used by imperialists,” referring to the MDC-T which the party accuses of being stooges of the west and its allies.
“The interests of the party and not personal interests should be the guiding principle for the benefit of the party,” said Gumbo.
Economic commentators however, doubted if the bulk of the veteran politicians who sailed through to the main elections were motivated to continue standing by the desire to serve.
Takunda Mugaga, head of research at Econometer Global Capital, believes they could just be fortune seekers hunting for economic benefits associated with government positions.
“Politics is like a game of soccer,” says Mugaga, the head of research at Econometer Global Capital.
“Even after 90 minutes you still want to play. Bigwigs want to consolidate their personal interests through structures in parastatals. This helps them to control the supply of goods and services to the State firms. If you take them out of public office, you effectively steal their income pipelines,” he adds.
Economic commentators are also worried about the country’s economic prospects.
They believe that the old guard has very little to offer in terms of new ideas.
Most members of the old guard are averse to free enterprise, which precludes them from exerting influence.
It is therefore difficult, sometimes impossible, to force labour and socialist parties to see the reasoning behind pro-right wing reforms.
Because of resistance to market based policies, there has been capital flight and job losses as the economy declined.
Decades-old plans to privatise State enterprises have also fallen on deaf ears.
“Don’t expect them to come up with new policies,” says Mugaga.
“They will hold onto State enterprises because they know that without them, they are doomed,” he stresses.
Privatisation would be fundamental to improving economic performance.
It can be a catalyst in overturning the corrosive effects of the policies that government has pursued in 33 years.
A privatisation model that leads to the widest possible private equity ownership curtails government’s influence in business and enhances accountability.
There have been many examples locally and internationally.
Locally, banking group, CBZ Holdings and milk producer Dairibord Holdings Limited were successfully turned into profitable outfits after the State relinquished its grip.
In the United Kingdom, British Steel, British Gas, British Airways, British Aerospace, and British Telecoms started flourishing after the Margaret Thatcher reforms in the 1980s.
Global giants like Xstrata and Glencore have taken position in State firms in Zambia, and free capital has been flowing into Angola.
In contrast, current policies that have been pursued by most legislators in the previous governments have repelled investment.
It is all individualistic, says Canciwell Nziramasanga, a war veteran and executive member of the revived liberation movement, ZAPU.
“…You should remember how MDC councillors looted local authorities. This was the time to renew leaders, but they bought their way back into politics,” said Mugaga.
“We need the old guard yes, but they must just guide the young Turks,” he added.
Commentators are all agreed that Zimbabwe needs leaders with capacity to take drastic economic and political policy measures that will drive growth.
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