HARARE - As hard as it is to fathom, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF rigged its own primary elections, vanquished candidates said, making a mockery of the democratic process.
The Zanu PF primary elections were messy, what with cardboard boxes and empty buckets for ballot boxes. But the proportion of rigging which saw candidates like Auxilia Mnangagwa amassing an unbelievable 17 000 votes in Kwekwe-Chirumanzu shocked even the staunchest admirers of the ex-majority party.
The figures were unusually high in most parts of the country, with Newton Kachepa amassing an incredible 10 165 in Mudzi North against his challenger’s 3 171.
On Tuesday, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa told a weekly that he was not ruling out electoral malpractice in the poll.
“I don’t want to be cheated, I am wary of that,” he said.
Chinamasa locked horns with his bitter rival Basil Nyabadza and scrapped a win albeit by less than 20 votes, as the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction made strides in the province hitherto in the hands of Vice President Joice Mujuru’s faction.
Factionalism aside, heavyweights in the ex-majority party used every trick in the rigging book to worm back to Parliament, their vanquished opponents said.
In Zvimba North, Marian Chombo alleged her ex-husband Ignatius Chombo had engaged in embarrassing electoral fraud. She said on Tuesday her name was deleted on the ballot paper.
“Chombo stole the elections because he knew he was going to lose,” she said. “I am going to stand as an independent candidate and wrest that seat from him,” she vowed.
Chombo, was forced three years ago to cede a significant portion of his fortune to his first wife Marian in a split-up touted as historically one of the most expensive divorce settlements in Zimbabwe.
While the actual voting process was fraught with irregularities, the pre-election period was characterised by violence and intimidation which saw aspiring candidates like Mashonaland Central governor Martin Dinha opting out of the race after escaping an assassination attempt.
“Since my entry into the poll race, a handful of provincial members have joined hands with one of the aspirants RT Matangira to unleash a violent campaign of hate speech, violence, threats to violence, demonisation and other heinous acts including busing hooligans to Musana, Masembura and denying my agents to campaign freely and fairly,” said Dinha in a letter to provincial chairman Dickson Mafios announcing his decision to pull out from a race that he described as “flawed, scandalous, hostile and manipulated”.
In a classical display of a vintage Zanu PF, newcomers or pretenders learnt the hard way how difficult it is to dislodge political giants.
Vote buying is by no means a new phenomenon in the country’s turbulent political history, but Zanu PF rivals went a step further as they bused supporters in constituencies such as Mbare where Tendai Savanhu romped to victory.
In Bikita West, gospel musician Elias Musakwa who had been cleared by the politburo to stand as the party candidate, said he was shocked on Tuesday when he received news that Munyaradzi Kereke, ex-advisor to Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono was participating in primary elections.
“When I was at a funeral, I was told that Kereke was conducting an election but I did not trouble myself since the politburo ruled that I would run uncontested. The politburo chaired by the president endorsed my candidature unopposed so I am the rightful candidate for Bikita West,” said Musakwa.
Former Copac co-chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana lost his Chivi Central seat to trade unionist and sugarcane farmer Ephraim Gwanongodza amid allegations that the poll had been rigged.
On Friday Mangwana, reeling from the devastating defeat, declined to comment.
Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF administration secretary said allegations of electoral malpractice in the internal poll were a “media concoction.”
Zanu PF national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo could not be reached for comment.