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TOPSHOT - Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's President and presidential candidate for the ZANU PF party, speaks during his last campaign rally at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Zanu PF mobilises for elections while blocking MDC Alliance through Covid

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WHILE the government banned electoral activity due to Covid-19, Zanu PF is on the ground preparing for by-elections and the 2023 general elections, a development which may take the opposition by surprise.

The party is preparing for primary elections and has begun receiving curriculum vitaes of candidates interested in participating in by-elections, although electoral activity remains officially banned.

Under the guise of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has stopped opposition parties from campaigning, although Zanu PF has been freely holding rallies and restructuring countrywide.
As a result, the party now has solid structures at grassroots level countrywide.

The party concluded setting up its district coordinating committees (DCCs) in December last year, to buttress activity at grassroots level. The party is now setting up cells countrywide.

While the ruling party is restructuring, it has also used Covid-19 restrictions to decimate the main opposition party MDC-Alliance by collaborating with the MDC-T  led by Douglas Mwonzora to recall the party’s legislators from parliament in the knowledge that by-elections are banned.

The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) and Election Resource Centre (ERC) through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have dragged President  Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to court seeking an order for them to set dates for by-elections to comply with the constitution and electoral act.

High Court judge Justice Siyabona Msithu this week reserved judgement on the matter.

The court case follows the suspension of by-elections by the Ministry of Health and Child Care citing the Covid-19 pandemic yet ZEC had developed a Covid-19 policy on electoral activities with clear guidelines on how by-elections and other electoral processes would be conducted without exposing those involved to health risks.

Covid-19 has however not stopped Zanu PF. In Mashonaland East, Zanu PF has called on candidates interested in representing the party to forward their CVs as it prepares to hold primary elections for the Murehwa South parliamentary seat. The seat fell vacant following the death of former Transport Minister Joel Biggie Matiza early this year. 

Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo confirmed that the party was holding primary elections despite the Covid-19 regulations.

“These are primary elections just to get ready. By-elections will come, but that depends on the minister of Health and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec),” Moyo said. 

Moyo also admitted that the party was already in election mode, with internal restructuring underway ahead of the 2023 polls. 

“There has been restructuring of the party cells, but due to Covid-19 it has been measured,” Moyo said. 
Under the guise of implementing Covid-19 restrictions, opposition parties have been stopped from holding rallies.

The same rules have however not stopped Zanu PF from campaigning, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa holding several large gatherings, including this week’s unveiling of Mbuya Nehanda’s statue in central Harare. 

In Murehwa South, five aspiring candidates have submitted their CVs, while more candidates are expected to join the race to represent Zanu PF.  The deadline for the submission of CVs is today. 

In the run up to primary elections in Mashonaland East, which is Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s stronghold, Zanu PF accepted 14 returnees including former central committee member Noah Mangondo who contested as an independent candidate in the 2018 elections.

Mangondo in 2018 contested as an independent candidate after his name was omitted from the ballot paper of the primary election. He narrowly lost to Matiza.

In the 2018 election, both Matiza and Mangondo polled more than 10 000 votes, with the former winning by a small margin. Mangondo challenged the result, but lost the case.

Mangondo confirmed that he had rejoined Zanu PF and he was going to contest in the forthcoming primary elections.

“I have rejoined Zanu PF and I am contesting in the Zanu PF primary elections. I will definitely submit my CV this week, they are open till Friday,” said Mangondo.

Zanu PF has also begun campaigning to snatch the Gweru Urban seat from the opposition in 2023. The seat, which has been won by the opposition since 2000, has been prioritised by the Zanu PF Midlands leadership which sees it as a trophy seat.  

In 2018, former MDC national youth spokesperson and top Gweru lawyer Brian Dube won the seat by a wide margin after beating Zanu PF youth activist Esau Natare.

After winning the seat three years ago, the 2015 Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyer of the Year spearheaded numerous developmental projects in the constituency, winning the hearts of supporters. But the perennial divisions rocking the opposition over the years saw Dube defecting to the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora. Zanu PF is looking at taking advantage of divisions in the opposition.

“This is a done deal, Gweru Urban is now Zanu PF,” Natare, who is already on the ground preparing to contest for the seat, told The NewsHawks this week.

“If you look at the opposition divisions in the constituency and a growing defection to Zanu PF by a number of opposition figures, it’s just telling that come 2023 this is a walkover.”

Zanu PF Gweru district chairman Brown Ndlovu said victory in Gweru Urban and other constituencies is certain. 

He said the Zanu PF cell restructuring exercise has seen more people joining the party, an indication of a growing base.

“I have never seen such interest in the cell restructuring exercise and moreover we have more people coming from the opposition registering,” he said.

MDC Alliance Midlands South spokesperson Takavafira Zhou said his party was unfazed by the purported divisions.

“Contrary to misconceptions, the MDC Alliance has never been short of good candidates,” Zhou said.

“The MDC Alliance members are loud and clear in terms of their support for Nelson Chamisa. Dube’s defection will not necessarily affect MDC Alliance votes, but may actually increase the votes as people are angry that a considerable number of people they trusted indeed lacked service and self-sacrifice.”

Zhou said his party has since adopted a multi-pronged mobilisation approach in both urban and rural areas and that it was a matter of time before the party proves it commands popular support.

“Divisions in the opposition are now history, what matters to us is mobilising the grassroots to support us and we are indeed making a great leap forward,” he said. — STAFF WRITER 

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