Mugabe wades into students war

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has come under attack from university students who claim it wants to rig the University of Zimbabwe students’ representative council (SRC) presidential elections.

Amalgamated Students Association of Zimbabwe (Asaz) and the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) have made claims that Zanu PF was splashing cash on one candidate and had forced a postponement of the elections to “activate Zanu PF’s rigging machinery”.

The UZ presidential elections were due yesterday but were postponed in mysterious circumstances raising the ire of students.

A seething Asaz president Francis Mufambi said: “We are shocked that Mugabe, as the country’s leader and chancellor of UZ, has the guts to endorse a particular candidate because his teetering party is desperate for votes.”

“As students, we will fight this with nothing but pen and paper. We will fight Mugabe’s machinery, his Central Intelligence Organisation and proxy in the form of Charles Munganasa.”

Munganasa is one of four candidates vying for the presidency of the SRC.

Mufambi alleged Zanu PF was abusing State resources.

“Zanu PF and Mugabe have splashed out $20 000 to fund Munganasa’s campaign at a time the country is raising fuel prices to fund democratic processes.

“There is no water at the university, the department of Social Work does not have even a single computer yet he finds it necessary to stoop so low to fight students’ politics,” Mufambi said.

Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) president Pride Mukono said Mugabe’s actions have effectively made him a contestant in the students’ poll.

“That is very true, Mugabe is meddling in student politics. As I speak to you, 15 of our candidates including the presidential candidate Kokerai Murombo have been stopped from contesting on flimsy grounds.
 
“Elections were supposed to be held today but have been moved to allow Zanu PF to field its candidates. Zanu PF has put in 4 000 T-shirts and $20 000. “Mugabe is now a presidential candidate in the SRC elections but we will defeat him. It is a fact and he should be ashamed of himself,” Mukono said.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba was unreachable yesterday and messages sent to his mobile were not replied.

However, Munganasa yesterday denied he had received any funding from Mugabe.

“We did not get that amount. I am not in a position to comment,” Munganasa told the Daily News before hanging up his mobile phone.

On Monday, Munganasa and his Zimbabwe Congress of Students Unions (Zicosu) met Mugabe, as the fight for student leadership as the citadel of higher education in Zimbabwe reaches fever pitch.

Munganasa told Mugabe at the Zanu PF headquarters on Monday that he was going to liberate the UZ and win over students to Zanu PF.

“We want to guarantee you that as Zicosu we are ready to liberate the University of Zimbabwe. We believe it is still colonised,” Munganasa told Mugabe in comments published in the State media.

“There are elements within the opposition who are trying to undermine the benefits of our struggle. As students, we are ready to partner Zanu PF to work in the name of patriotism and nationalism.”

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo was unreachable for comment as his mobile went unanswered.

Mufambi, Justice Mukoyi and Raymond Sango, who are also fighting for posts in the SRC executive, urged students to reject what he said was Mugabe’s attempt to impose a candidate.

“As students, we will fight these underhand manoeuvres with all our might,” a tough-talking Mufambi vowed. “There is no student who would vote for a party that has failed the nation for 33 years. Nobody in their right mind will walk into a polling booth and vote for an 89-year-old.

“Mugabe has the temerity to call on students not to fail him when he has failed us. By involving himself with our kind, Mugabe deserves a snub by the students and we will mobilise students to vote against him in the presidential elections.”

Zinasu spokesperson Zacharia Mushawatu said Mugabe should not have taken sides.

“We believe that no political party should be involved. As chancellor of the institution, Mugabe should not take sides. There are rumours of money being thrown around and all I can confirm for now is that Zicosu has lots of money and we are not sure where it is coming from. We do not have the resources to match the country’s leader. It makes everything unfair,” Mushawatu said.

Murombo said he had been mysteriously disqualified over alleged disciplinary and academic issues.

“I have been disqualified by the nomination court. They are saying I did not get an average 2.2 grade last semester along with 11 other candidates for various posts. It is unconstitutional because it is a criterion that has never been used.

“The other reason given for me in particular was that I was once convicted over disciplinary grounds. It has also never been used before. It is also not constitutional for the university to use a college official as presiding officer in this case, the Dean of Students Munyaradzi Madambi. The students Representative Assembly is supposed to constitute the nomination court,” Murombo claimed.

Mugabe on Monday told Munganasa and his team that “you are the brave lot.”

“You are the courageous lot,” Mugabe said. “You are the front runners and do not fail us. If you fail us, you fail the nation because you are the young people we look forward to.

“I have said our sun is setting, yours is just rising; do not allow it to set at 12.30 in the afternoon. Follow the footsteps that we will have left behind. If you divert midzimu inokurovai (the ancestors will beat you).”

The students alleged Zanu PF had provided Munganasa and his group with thousands of T-shirts, food and beer for campaign purposes ahead of the SRC presidential election which has been postponed by a week.

“This is not what we want,” Sango said. “This is probably our diamond money that all citizens have been demanding that it be used to fund not only education but pensions and other social issues.

“We will stop recognising him as the university’s Chancellor. Leaders do not take sides when it comes to student issues. The student cadetship has failed to get off the ground. Millions of would-be students are roaming the streets and Zanu PF throws $20 000 to a group of individuals. That is the height of political lunacy and we will fight it,” Sango added.

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