THE ruling Zanu(PF) is set for a clean sweep of the 16 constituencies where by-elections will be held on Wednesday in what will not only bolster its Parliamentary majority but pull out all the stops that could have impeded President Robert Mugabe’s party from tweaking with the new Constitution.
Ever since the new charter was signed into law in May 2013 after nearly four years of delicate negotiations between parties that constituted a coalition government that ran Zimbabwe’s affairs between February 2009 and July 2013, there have been choruses of disapproval in Zanu(PF) over certain clauses seen as inconsistent with the party’s values.
In the wake of the fierce infighting within its rank and file which has deeply divided its lawmakers along factional lines, Zanu(PF) has been hesitant to push the amendments through without first increasing the threshold of legislators who are unquestioningly loyal to the current leadership.
The by-elections have therefore offered the party a gilt-edged opportunity to dilute former vice president Joice Mujuru’s influence in Parliament and wriggle out of compromise clauses it had acceded to in its desperation to have the unease coalition government liquidated.
The new Constitution, which replaced the colonial Lancaster House-negotiated charter, was one of the key deliverables predicating the holding of the July 2013 synchronised polls, won by Zanu (PF).
Patrick Chinamasa, the party’s secretary for legal affairs, hinted early this year that significant amendments would be effected to the supreme law.
Chinamasa, who is also the Minister of Finance, premised his argument on the fact that Treasury can no longer afford the expanded administration which is a by-product of the new charter.
Apart from increasing the number of seats in Parliament, it has also created several independent commissions that need funding.
It can also not be ruled out that buoyed by its impending victory in the by-elections Zanu(PF) may push to do away with presidential term limits and devolution, which is implied in the supreme law.
Party insiders said the alignment of the country’s laws to the Constitution will be pursued vigorously once the new charter has been amended.
The by-elections set for Wednesday next week, will see the party making a mark in areas where it had struggled to gain a foothold since 2000.
Since the entry of the MDC in 1999, Zanu (PF) has failed to penetrate Bulawayo and larger parts of the capital.
The party is seen on the verge of breaking the jinx in the wake of an election-boycott by Morgan Tsvangirai’s party as well as its splinter formations.
In Bulawayo, by-elections will be held in five constituencies namely Luveve, Makokoba, Pumula, Mpopoma and Lobengula.
To all intents and purpose, the battle in the second city will be between Zanu(PF) and ZAPU, led by Dumiso Dabengwa.
A historical rift between the two parties makes the contest interesting.
ZAPU was revived by Dabengwa after he became disillusioned with Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party, which was hastily put together a month before the March 2008 elections in which Zanu(PF) lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in 1980.
Dabengwa, a former ZIPRA intelligence supremo, ditched Zanu(PF) along with Makoni on the eve of the 2008 election.
Since the revival of ZAPU, Dabengwa has not been forgiven by his former colleagues in Zanu(PF) for undermining the Unity Accord signed in 1987 between President Robert Mugabe and the late former vice president Joshua Nkomo.
Aware of the misgivings on the part of his former colleagues, a victory for ZAPU in the by-elections would be a slap in the face of ZANU-PF as it will herald Dabengwa’s party as an emerging force in Bulawayo once again, something it had lost to the MDC.
Zanu(PF) has much more to lose. For the past 15 years, it has failed to garner a single seat in Bulawayo — always playing second fiddle to Tsvangirai’s party.
A defeat at the hands of ZAPU would turn out to be a huge embarrassment for the ruling party as it would all but confirm that the people of Bulawayo do not wish to have anything to do with it.
As a result, Zanu(PF) has mounted a spirited campaign to gain leverage in Bulawayo with analyst predicting that its diehard supporters may come out in huge numbers to cast their ballots and secure victory for the party.
While several independent candidates have also thrown in their hats into the race, they are unlikely to make an impression in view of the fact that candidates that are not affiliated to any party have hardly made an impact in the past.
Lawton Hikwa, a political analyst, said on the basis of the absence of the MDC-T, the ruling party would likely emerge victorious.
“It is a little difficult to say how things will go this time around as Zanu(PF) has never participated in a by-election which has been boycotted by its main rival, the MDC-T. So because of this and the absence of a formidable opponent, Zanu(PF) then might be able to make it and get all the seats,” said Hikwa.
In Harare, by-elections will be held in Harare East, Kuwadzana, Glen View South, Dzivarasekwa, Kambuzuma, Budiriro and Highfield West.
The capital has been a pain in Zanu(PF)’s backside since the entry of MDC in politics.
In the 2013 elections, Zanu(PF) won only five seats in the capital, out of a total of 29.
With the MDC formations staying away from the polls in protest over the absence of electoral reforms, Zanu(PF) is seen bulldozing its way through.
A coalition of independent candidates, comprising mainly disgruntled former Zanu(PF) members, is hoping to spoil the party for ZANU-PF.
The group has fielded candidates in five constituencies namely Harare East, Kuwadzana, Dzivarasekwa, Budiriro and Kambuzuma.
Spokesman for the group, Farai Kuvheya, who will battle it out with Zanu(PF)’s Terrence Mukupe and other candidates in Harare East, said he was confident that the coalition’s candidates would romp to victory.
“We have been holding door to door campaigns and the response everywhere has been overwhelming. If Zanu(PF) thinks it is getting the seats on a silver platter, they have to rethink that,” said Kuvheya, a former youth league member in the ruling party.
A tricky poll beckons in Hurungwe West where Temba Mliswa is fighting to retain the seat following his expulsion from Zanu(PF).
Zanu(PF) is also unlikely to have it easy in Headlands where former party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa is reportedly backing independent candidate David Mukaratirwa against Zanu(PF)’s Christopher Chingosho.
The seat fell vacant following the expulsion and subsequent recalling from Parliament of Mutasa, Mliswa’s uncle.
In Tsholotsho North, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo, is on the verge of victory.
Three times, Moyo has bagged the Tsholotsho constituency, twice as an independent candidate in 2005 and 2008.
In 2013, Moyo lost the seat to MDC-T’s Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo by only 228 votes.
The absence of MDC-T in the poll could be an opportunity for Moyo to wrest back the seat.
He has been visibly on the offensive, charming his way back into the hearts of residents in Tsholotsho with the constituency undergoing a major infrastructural facelift such as the drilling of boreholes and construction of a stadium, expected to be completed later this year.
“I think his calculation is that he lost in 2013 because he was outside of the State and now that he is in, he can capitalise on this to win,” said political commentator, Charles Mangongera.
Another political analyst, Vivid Gwede, said in the absence of the main MDC in the elections, any victory for Zanu(PF) would be hollow.
He said: “Obviously this election is a discredited election from the simple fact that the main opposition, which recently won the seat is not contesting for clear and understandable reasons which must not be taken lightly. It is on the mercy of the same opposition party that Moyo once won the seat, and when they dumped him in 2013, he lost it. Because of the absence of a formidable opposition, which previously held sway in the constituency, it is possible that Moyo will win the discredited by-election.”
In Manicaland, ZANU-PF is also expected to steamroll past its competitors in Headlands and Dangamvura-Chikanga.
In the Midlands, the party is also expected to win the Mbizo seat.
The by-elections were necessitated by the recall of MDC lawmakers from Parliament after they deserted their parent party, the MDC-T, on whose ticket they won the constituencies in the 2013 general elections.
Zanu(PF) has so far won all the by-elections that arose after the 2013 plebiscite.
It has had a fairly-tale run in Mt Darwin West, Wedza North and Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe.
Political analyst, Discent Bajila, came short of describing the forthcoming elections as a farce.
“They (by-elections) are just a fixture the nation has to fulfill. Besides being a creature of internal dynamics of the Zanu(PF) and MDC-T, they won’t answer any bread and butter issues,” said Bajila.
Over 400 000 people have registered for the June 10 by-elections.