PEDZAI “Scott” Sakupwanya, the controversial moneyed gold dealer — who is close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his sons — ran the most expensive localised campaign since 1980 awash with cash, gifts and glamour but voters in Mabvuku had a different idea.
Sakupwanya, lost the Mabvuku parliamentary seat to main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) candidate Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, despite splashing money in the constituency, showing the nexus between money the electorate’s needs and wants.
This is despite him making a flashy campaign in the constituency in the run-up to the general election, which include providing free transport to town, food and hampers and rehabilitation of some of the roads.
The highlight of Sakupwanya’s campaign was the visit to Mabvuku by the multi-million-dollar former world boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
ostensibly to promote the sport in Zimbabwe. But Mayweather appeared to be canvassing for Scot and Zanu PF during his brief visit.
Sakupwanya was fingered in the Al Jazeera documentary by international news agency Al Jazeera, which revealed how well-connected elites are smuggling gold out of the country with government collusion.
He has also been a key fundraiser to president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-election bid, and has been placed at the heart of Zanu PF’s illicit financing of its 2023 poll war chest. His plush campaign had put him as a favorite to wrestle Mabvuku constituency, which has been an opposition since 2000.
“Scott has been contesting in Mabvuku since 2013, for the councilor seat without success. However, what tipped the scale this time around is the massive and brazen vote buying manifesting through truckloads of food hampers for the electorate.
Even on the day of elections, voters were given chicken and chips from a popular fast-food restaurant after the vote.
“He managed to wrestle the Ward 21 Councilor seat in Mabvuku Harare in March 2022. The seat had been a sanctuary for the opposition since 2000.
“While money played a key factor, the influence of other factors like massive voter apathy and the internal conflict within the opposition cannot be ignored,” according to a latest report by ZimRights, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP).
Sakupwanya’s loss has shown the nexus between splurging money in an electoral campaign and the electorate’s choice, which has seen political bigwigs falling by the wayside despite running well-oiled campaigns.
Apart from Sakupwanya, Godwills Masimirembwa, the former chairperson of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), a state-owned entity that had a 50% stake in all but one diamond mining companies operating in Marange, was an aspiring MP for Mabvuku constituency on a Zanu PF ticket in 2013. The ZimRights, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and ZPP reports says, Masimirembwa’s campaign, while it flopped, is said to have been supported by mining proceeds from ZMDC.
“There are instances where Zanu Pf politicians out of the largesse from gold mining have been able to buy votes and wrestle constituencies and wards long held by the opposition. It is not surprising that the entanglement of mining and elections continued the trend in 2018 and is most likely to continue for the 2023 elections because of the increased country’s dependence on mining. In any case, Zanu PF will be represented by Scott Sakupwanya,” read the report.
Once rated as a favorite to win the Cowdray Park constituency in the just-ended general election, outgoing Finance minister Mthuli Ncube surprisingly lost to CCC’s Pashor Sibanda, despite having a well-oiled campaign machinery.
Ncube splurged money in road rehabilita tion, mobile computer labs with free Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) and rolled free nurse aid courses. In June, legislators on several occasions slammed Ncube for consistently refusing to avail himself to Parliament at a time they were demanding a ministerial statement explaining the plummeting Zimbabwe dollar amid skyrocketing inflation.
Increased currency volatility and rising inflation which saw many Zimbabweans failing to access basic commodities, worsening the livelihoods of several workers that are already living in abject poverty.
Rather than present a statement on the state of the economy, Ncube paid surprise visits to Bulawayo shops, ordering them to slash US dollar prices.
After his raids, legislators challenged him to present a ministerial statement on the erosion of salaries and the incapacitation of many workers amid skyrocketing inflation, which he failed to do.
Zanu PF candidate for Dangamvura-Chikanga Constituency Esau Mupfumi has also lost to former Mutare Mayor Brian James, despite doling out money and food handouts to voters ahead of the elections.
Mupfumi’s history has been under scrutiny, with allegations of vote buying through use of food handouts to solicit for votes ahead of Zanu PF’s primary elections held in March this year. During the elections, there were reports of widespread vote buying and intimidation and tampering with the voters’ roll.
In Chinhoyi, another Zanu PF MP candidate, Thomas Chidzomba is being accused of barring people from fetching water from a borehole he sunk while campaigning. Chidzomba lost to CCC’s Leslie Mhangwa.