ZANU-PF Elections: The work of internal democracy
Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party provincial elections held over the weekend in seven provinces were a classic story of the good, the bad and the ugly.
The elections also raised serious questions about the concept of internal democracy in the revolutionary party as President Mugabe’s refrain that while ZANU-PF was ready for internal democracy, some in the leadership were not as there was serious contestation on voter registers with lists from the Commissariat Department being disputed at the grassroots.
The question then became, who drafted the lists, and for what ends?
This question must be asked when the Politburo meets to ratify the results if the party is not to gloss over a problem that can fester with costly consequences.
ZANU-PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo last Monday said he would give a review of the process only after reporting to the party’s Politburo.
The good thing may be that the elections and the hype and political innuendos around them, which had been described as an “unnecessary distraction” to the party, are over.
The initial elections in Manicaland, Mashonaland and Midlands early last month were characterised by massive logistical challenges and reports of vote rigging, among other irregularities.
Last weekend’s elections followed more or less the same script, all amid hype about alleged factions and succession race in ZANU-PF, which the party leadership has not helped by not debunking.
The contest was being packaged as a Mujuru versus Mnangagwa affair, with pundits speculating whoever got the sympathies of the majority of the winning candidates would be the heir apparent in the race to succeed President Mugabe.
Both vice president Mujuru, and secretary for legal affairs Mnangagwa are on record denying leading the so-called factions.
Saturday had its ugly moments.
In Mhangura, Mashonaland West, police had to fire teargas to quell violent skirmishes that arose out of factional loyalties and the non-appearance of some names on the voters’ roll.
Themba Mliswa, the eventual winner, and Phillip Chiyangwa were the main contestants.
Pictures from Mhangura, where some people were injured in the violence, told a story of a party fighting itself.
One of the losing candidates ‑ Blessing Geza ‑ described the elections as a “disaster because people were not able to exercise their democratic right to choose their preferred candidates”.
The losing candidate in Mashonaland East, Philemon Mutongi, has not been graceful in defeat either.
He is even questioning the authenticity of the figures, which saw Ray Kaukonde win by 24 263 votes, while he also cries foul that he submitted his CV with the party on October 24 yet it was only published on November 27, forty-eight hours before voting.
He also claims there was multiple voting in favour of Kaukonde.
“I was looking at the numbers from other provinces and it’s an average of 5 000; where did the figure of 24 263 in Mashonaland East come from when there was low voter turnout?
“I was even beating him in his home area of Mudzi South,” he said.
Mutongi, political commissar of Ward 5 Marondera Rural for the past 15 years, said he was going to petition the party over the issue.
In Bulawayo, Killian Sibanda decried the process claiming that 70 percent of the voters failed to cast their ballots because their names were not on the lists.
Some reports say some candidates produced their own voters’ rolls.
Police had to be called in to intervene in Gutu and Bikita as fights broke out because some voters’ names were not on the roll and some claimed they had been disenfranchised because they supported a particular candidate.
At another polling station, voters stormed out after allegedly being told to vote for one candidate.
In Bikita, said one report, voters’ names were removed from the Electoral College allegedly because they supported Munyaradzi Kereke, who won the parliamentary elections on a ZANU-PF ticket ahead of the party’s official candidate.
The elections shone the limelight on the state of internal democracy in ZANU-PF.
War veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda said the elections showed that “ZANU-PF is not only a revolutionary party but a democratic party”.
“Infighting and voting irregularities do not reflect democracy in an intra-party or national election,” said Sibanda.
Political commentator and Midlands State University lecturer, Nhamo Mhiripiri, notes that the elections reflected internal democracy at work, although facing challenges.
“When you have an electoral college that administers the transparency and fairness of elections it shows your system is working,” he said.
“The problem in any political elections arises when you find the results are being contested like the national elections . . . (but) systems are never perfect and political parties might have irregularities because they do not have sufficient resources,” he said.
Democracy is expensive, it serves public interests and not personal interests, he added.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Charity Manyeruke, said the elections showed ZANU-PF was very serious about implementing internal democracy as a political party and that internal bickering is normal for people in a political party.
“If they are willing to correct their mistakes, democracy works for a common ground and not to gratify personal agendas,” she said.
“The predicament is when problems arise and they are not addressed,” she added. – The Herald