Rich in maize and bicycles

BULAWAYO - As the country edges towards an election likely to be held next year, political parties have descended on Matabeleland North province, turning the region into a battlefield  characterised by hyper-political activities.

The province, which is the other half of Matabeleland and located in the southern region of the country, has courted the attention of at least four political parties who are vying to get the bigger chunk of the cake come elections.

Leading the pack is minister of Mines Obert Mpofu, who holds rallies every weekend where he doles out maize to villagers who have been ravished by drought.

Mpofu, who holds a seat in Umguza district in Matabeleland North, has sacrificed his personal resources to campaign on behalf of his party Zanu PF, which has struggled in the Matabeleland region. The minister — who declares himself king of Matabeleland and a super minister at his weekly rallies —has routinely proclaimed that the entire region will become one of Zanu PF’s strongholds.

“People are underestimating us and come election time, they will be surprised.

This time we are taking the province from those who have failed to serve the people. I have given you maize and if someone comes and gives you more maize than me, inform me and I will triple the maize that the person would have brought,” Mpofu said at one of the rallies.

On average, Mpofu donates 60 tonnes of maize whenever he holds a rally. Zanu PF has several parliamentary seats in the area, although the MDC dominates the entire Matabeleland region.

Apart from Mpofu in Umguza constituency, Bubi is under Clifford Sibanda, Nkayi North with Sithembiso Nyoni, Lupane West with Martin Khumalo and the senator for Bubi-Umguza is Lot Mbambo, all Zanu PF members.

The smaller MDC led by Welshman Ncube won Nkayi South with Abednigo Bhebhe, who was later to defect to the mainstream MDC.

It also won Lupane East with Njabuliso Mguni, who like Bhebhe, defected to the mainstream MDC and the senatorial seats for Nkayi and Lupane are under Rabson Makhula and Dalumuzi Khumalo of Ncube’s party.

The party also won Tsholotsho South with Maxwell Dube and the senatorial seat  with Believe Gaule.  

Tsholotsho North was won by serial political flip flopper Jonathan Moyo, then an indepedent candidate before rejoining Zanu PF.

The mainstream MDC won all the seats in Binga and Hwange constituencies. “I want to say if MDC wants the Umguza seat they should send Tsvangirai (Morgan) and if the other MDC wants to contest they should send Ncube (Welshman) because there is absolutely no-one who can be able to take that seat away from me,” Mpofu boisterously says.

Ncube, who leads the smaller faction of the MDC and is one of the politicians scrambling for seats in the province, hit back at Mpofu at a rally in the mines minister’s home town of Jambesi in Hwange a fortnight ago.

Ncube, who is also Industry minister in the fragile coalition government said Mpofu “is a small boy” and he would rather challenge his party superior President Robert Mugabe. The MDC led by Ncube has also criss-crossed the province staging rallies from Hwange to Lupane, where they have dished out bicycles in party green colours. So intense has been Ncube and Mpofu’s canvassing that one villager remarked that “this year we are going to be rich in maize and bicycles”.

The mainstream MDC has not been left out in the scramble for Matabeleland and Bhebhe, now the party national deputy organising secretary, has been holding rallies in some of the province’s rural districts.

Recently they paraded one Moyo who claimed that he was top campaigner of Mpofu and had defected to the MDC because of unfulfilled promises by Zanu PF.

However, this did not go down well with Mpofu, who distanced himself from Moyo and said this was cheap politics by MDC to undermine him. Whatever the case maybe, it can only be an intriguing and unpredictable election battle. - Lloyd Mbiba

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