Tsholotsho Boreholes Galore: A Case Of Vote-Buying

By Sij Ncube

The state media has literally camped in Tsholotsho North ahead of the June 10 by-election as it props up its boss, Jonathan Moyo, the minister of information and broadcasting services, who is eyeing to recapture the seat for Zanu PF.

Moyo, who doubles up as the Zanu (PF) secretary for Higher Education and Technology and government spokesperson, narrowly lost to Roselyn Sipepa Nkomo in the controversial July 31, 2013 harmonised polls, culminating in the wily politician lodging an appeal with the courts, citing irregularities during the vote count.

However, the courts subsequently threw out his appeal, in the processes recognising Sipepa Nkomo as the winner of the Tsholotsho seat.

As fate would have it, Sipepa Nkomo was recently kicked out of parliament together with 21 other opposition legislators as they were deemed to be sitting in the house illegally after they broke away from MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, resulting in President Robert Mugabe calling for fresh by-elections on June 10.

While there are 14 by-elections altogether set for June 10, focus is on Tsholotsho because of the financial, material and human resources being thrown into the marginalised area which Mugabe’s spin-doctor desperately wants to win back by hook or crook, it would appear.

Moyo is presently receiving rave views in the state media, both broadcast and print, which to all intents and purposes he controls with an iron fist, as journalists sing for their supper.

However, the two independents challenging Moyo for the seat are being lampooned in the state media for daring to challenge the former independent legislator in what critics view as an unnecessary propaganda campaign in a one-horse race as the MDC formations are boycotting the poll.

Events on the ground indicate Moyo and his so-called Team Zanu (PF), including the state media, are proverbially leaving no stone unturned to land the seat he coverts so much after narrowly losing it  to the former member of parliament.

Sipepa Nkomo has been accused by Moyo’s cheer-leaders in the state media of failing to utter a single word during her nearly two year stay in the august house and also failing to bring development to Tsholotsho.

Ironically, Tsholotsho is the home of the late vice President John Nkomo and long-serving Zanu PF governor and President Robert Mugabe’s point-man Cain Mathema.

Mathema is known to drive daily from Tsholotsho centre to Bulawayo, a distance which is about 120 kilometres, to attend government business on a pot-holed road, which critics say confirms it is not “so-far-so-good” for this Matabeleland North district exactly 35 years after independence.

Critics point out that it is cheap politicking for Moyo’s running dogs in the state media to claim opposition legislators have failed to bring development in the area when VP Nkomo and long-serving resident minister and former governor Mathema have failed to rehabilitate the pot-hole riddled Bulawayo-Tsholotsho highway as well as upgrade the only provincial hospital in Matabeleland North, which has gone for years without water and electricity.

While the late VP Nkomo was a frequent visitor to Tsholotsho, Mathema is said to have been commuting between Tsholotsho and Bulawayo every day for more than 20 years as his government offices are located in the second capital city.

Critics note that in a sudden realisation that Tsholotsho villagers and other residents are wallowing in abject poverty, Moyo has in recent weeks caused the donation of packets of rice, cooking oil and other cheap freebies as he desperately wants to emerge victorious in the June 10 by-election.

On Tuesday with state journalists on toe, Moyo supervised and watched the drilling of boreholes in his coveted constituency amid revelations the only two boreholes in the area were sunk during colonial rule, a clear confirmation Mugabe and Zanu (PF) have paid little attention to this backwater of Matabeleland North.

Just like the town lights he caused to be installed and a bank which was opened ahead of the 2005 polls when he was eyeing the same seat on a Zanu PF ticket, critics say Moyo, typical of Zanu PF when faced with elections, is on an elaborate vote-buying exercise.

He has been on social media “advertising” the drilling of the boreholes in Tsholotsho in which his side-kick, Saviour Kasukuwere, the minister of water, environment and climate who doubles up as the Zanu PF national political commissar, barked orders.

Moyo, together with Kasukuwere, are said to belong to a powerful faction in Zanu PF and hence not trusted in the inner circles of the party.

They are known as the Gang of 4 or 5 a development viewed as a tough one for Zanu PF hawks but in the meantime the anti-Moyo/Kasukuwere group in the party is said to be more concerned about winning the Tsholotsho seat.

Critics maintain that hate him or love him, Moyo stands a higher chance to land the seat largely due to a combination of factors: his visibility, vote-buying, apathy, manipulation of voters and a weak opposition.

For Masimba Nyamanhindi, a political analyst, the drilling of boreholes ahead of the June 10 by-election is nothing but an economic transaction where Moyo is using boreholes as material benefit to voters in Tsholotsho, in exchange for votes.

But others argue vehemently that vote buying is mostly a natural phenomenon of Zimbabwean politics so Moyo cannot not be faulted, more so a political scientist of repute even before his Damascus moment to join Zanu PF after the 2000 constitutional referendum in which he was the national spokesperson.

Charles Mangongera, an independent researcher, agrees the boreholes are “obviously” vote buying but “unfortunately that is the nature of our politics.”

“But the electorate doesn’t seem to understand that the role of a legislator is to make laws and not to sink boreholes and construct bridges. As long as that mentality is not changed we will continue to have politicians manipulating the people by using money to buy votes,” said Mangongera.   

But even after Moyo wins the by-election some in Zanu PF are seen keeping a close watchful eye on him as he is allegedly not fully trusted – at least not by all power centres in the party.  

“The issue of trust in politics does not suffice,” argues Nyamanhindi.  “By its nature, politics is self- centred, driven by unbridled ambition.  Even in the Gang of Four, each and every one of them could be harbouring different motives and ambitions, so he cannot be trusted and should not be trusted.  Neither should he trust anyone.  That is politics.”