By Sij Ncube
Retired colonel Tshinga Dube, the Zanu (PF) aspiring candidate for Makokoba, is a very likeable man whose benevolence is well known beyond Bulawayo and its hinterlands and even politics.
Dube, who runs the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, the weapons manufacturing arm of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, has since 2005 unsuccessfully attempted to wrest Makokoba from the octopus-grip of the opposition MDC despite pumping several thousands of personal funds into the impoverished constituency.
He has paid youths to clean-up the constituency, bought bicycles for the police to policy the crime-invested area as well as bought food-stuffs for the elderly. Despite this generosity the politician has all the time came out second best to the opposition which kicked-out Zanu (PF) in Bulawayo in 2000.
But with his nemesis the MDC boycotting the by-elections citing lack of wide-sweeping reforms, Dube has this time around gone a notch-up ahead of Wednesday’s by-election.
In what sympathisers view as a political masterstroke, Dube has bought a 65-seater air-condition bus for his beloved Highlanders Football Club, the country’s oldest soccer team which has a huge following in the constituency.
As Zanu PF leaves no stone unturned to parachute him to parliament, Vice President Emmerson Mngangwa, the Zanu( PF) secretary for legal affairs who is taunted as President Robert Mugabe’s heir apparent, is pencilled to be the guest of honour at the handover ceremony on Saturday exactly four days before the poll.
“Your presence will make us win this election,” reads part of Dube’s invitation letter for the hand-over ceremony of the bus to Bosso, as Highlanders is affectionately known by its legion of supporters.
The invitation letter has Dube’s campaign picture and both Zanu PF and Highlanders logo emblazoned on it, an issue which has sparked a political storm.
But critics say the donation smacks of vote-buying and politicisation of football with a section of supporters of Bosso are adamant the executive should refuse the donation. Others, however, point out that Professor Jonathan Moyo, who is eyeing Tsholotsho North, has been sinking boreholes, donating rice to villagers and bankrolling Tsholotsho Football Club.
Writing on Facebook Casper Ngwenya said: “Zanu (PF) is the ruling party of Zimbabwe. Whatever they do to any soccer team, they do it as government. There is nothing wrong with their interaction with Bosso. We need change in the country. Let Highlanders unite the nation.”
Isaac Wekwa Mutasa, however, disagreed saying the donation was nothing but vote buying as Tshinga was targeting Makokoba, which includes Babourfields and surrounding townships, the perceived Highlanders’ strong support base.
“It’s sad that Highlanders is being dragged into this political nonsense. There are personalities in Bulawayo who are closely linked to Bosso and could have been guest of honour in place of Mnangagwa. After all why does the hand-over of a mere bus require the presence of a whole VP? The mayor of Bulawayo could have easily done that for example,” said Mutasa.
Editor of the state-controlled Chronicle, Mduduzi Mathuthu chipped in: What is lost on these anti-progress people is that Col Tshinga Dube has rescued Highlanders before, election or no election.”
Former Chronicle Sports journalist, Clemence Marijeni, also commenting on the issue likened Highlanders to an under-age girl being married off to a rich old man “because the girl’s parents are broke. What choice do they have?
But political and development analyst, Maxwell Saungweme said Bosso supporters are right to treat this donation with suspicion, pointing out that Zanu PF has chequered and notorious record of remembering constituents during elections and neglecting them all together soon after elections.
“It’s clear that Zanu PF has done very little in Matabeleland and the party’s policies have seen industries in the region collapsing leaving many people unemployed. Zanu PF has never cared for that region. This politics of dangling goodies and donations during elections reduces voters to be viewed as cheap people who can be bought and can be cajoled by donations- it’s derisive and debasing. What people want are development projects and resuscitation of industries and not these donations to buy their vote,” said Saungweme.
Dumisani Nkomo, a Bulawayo-based political analyst, concurred; it confirmed the politicisation of the country’s oldest football club, describing the development as deplorable.
“Why did Dube take so long (to bring the bus) and then choose a rally to hand-over the bus,” asked Nkomo.
“It is unbecoming for a club like Highlanders to be used as political contraceptive. If Mnangagwa was doing it as state vice president it would be better but is doing it as part of Zanu PF campaign to help Dube win Makokoba, this is totally unacceptable.”