By Sij Ncube
Norton, October 23, 2016 – INDEPENDENT candidate, Temba Mliswa shocked Zanu PF when he clinched the fiercely fought Norton by-election seat with a massive 1000 votes plus against his main challenger Ronald Chindedza of Zanu PF in a poll which had all its controversies.
Preliminary resulted posted showed the former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chair turned firebrand pro-good governance agitator winning by over 7000 votes against Chindedza’s 6000 plus.
The poll outcome is a big blow for President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF which deployed all its machinery in attempts to win back a seat which was left vacant when then MP, Chris Mutsvangwa was expelled from the party for alleged insubordination towards the 92-year-old leader.
Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa, Phelekezela Mphoko and cabinet ministers had descended in the constituency day before to try to garner support for Chindedza.
Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, who is among party heavy weights who visited the constituency during campaigning, admitted defeat in a terse “Norton has eluded us” twitter post.
The by-election was marred by allegations of vote-buying after Zanu PF dished out food aid, groceries and stands to youths, which critics said is gross violation of the constitution and the country’s electoral laws.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) was accused of turning a blind eye on the cases.
Saturday’s by-election opened with allegations Zanu PF youths were force-marching residents to polling stations to cast their votes for the ruling party candidate.
Mliswa had the support of other opposition parties which have elected to boycott by-elections citing gross irregularities with the country’s election management system.
There were 56 polling stations which were set up for the election by Zec in the constituency.
Residents who spoke to RadioVOP during polling on Saturday claimed Zanu PF youths moved from door-to-door at some parts of the constituency ordering people to throng polling stations to vote for Chindedza or risk the wrath of the party.
Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT), one of several human rights organisations which monitored the poll, confirmed receiving reports of residents marshalled to polling stations to vote for the Zanu PF candidate.
“People who spoke to Heal Zimbabwe Trust team at Sandringham High School said that Zanu PF youths forced people to polling stations,” said Rashid Mahiya, HZT director.
“People were told to vote Zanu PF candidate, Chindedza.”
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which is also monitored the by-election, said mid-day Saturday had received reports some Zanu PF officials were taking down voters names at some polling stations within the constituency particularly at Clifford Primary School in Ward 14 and in Ward 15 at Kingsdale.
Fliers asking opposition MDC-T supporters to abstain from participating at polls were strewn all-over the constituency.
The fliers urged supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T not to participate in the Norton by-election, reminding them the party resolved to boycott future polls until President Mugabe’s administration implemented electoral reforms.
“Party members in Norton constituency are reminded that the MDC party is not taking part in any election until the government institutes electoral reform measures demanded by the people,” read part of the fliers with an old MDC symbol when it was a united opposition.
“Anyone who takes part in the Norton by-election is doing so against the party resolution and may face disciplinary measures.”
MDC-T secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora disowned the filers and its contents saying it was the work of Zanu PF which was desperate to prevent its former legislator from winning the seat.