Emotions were high when Zapu’s much-awaited elective congress kicked off Friday in Bulawayo, where for the first time since its inception, party members will vote for a party president on an open floor.
History will show that ZAPU members did not contest for the presidency, instead leaders were selected by acclamation or through a unanimous decision.
Party members noted that founding leader and nationalist, the late vice president, Joshua Nkomo became ZAPU leader unanimously and this also happened with the late, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, who served for two terms unopposed.
During congresses, delegates would come to rubber-stamp their preferred presidential candidate and this year, for the first time, members are hotly contesting for the top post.
Six candidates, namely: party Secretary-General – Dr Strike Mkandla, party Treasurer General – Mark Mbayiwa, former Matabeleland South chairperson – Matthew Sibanda, the youngest presidential candidate -Bernard Magugu, Sithembiso Mpofu based in the United Kingdom and Sibangilizwe Nkomo, son of the party’s late founding leader will battle it out for the party’s highest position on Saturday.
On the first day, ZAPU delegates will in a closed-door session, discuss policy, state of the party, constitutional and legal matters including its media department.
However, it seems ZAPU’s SG post has been filled, if no nominations come from the floor, after one of the two candidates, the party’s deputy secretary for international relations, Future Msebele, withdrew from the race leaving Mthulisi Hanana who runs the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation, likely to land the post.
Supporters of the candidates were on a high and were fervently pushing for the recognition of their preferred candidates.
There was some excitement from the crowd when Nkomo arrived and made his way to the high table where the party’s outgoing leadership was seated alongside the National Executive Council members.
However, supporters of other candidates asked Nkomo to step down from the high table and sit with other ordinary delegates, as he had not been elected.
Some party youths also brought the congress to a temporary halt, as they interrupted proceedings, demanding to have their own conference running concurrently.
The youth claimed they and the women’s wing, the Zimbabwe African Women’s Union (ZAWU) were neglected by the main wing.
In his opening address, ZAPU president Isaac Mabuka said the party had witnessed some ‘reasonable’ growth that was driven by interest in the presidential race.
“For the past three years the party has been growing reasonably and for the past one year, we have seen more growth. We think everyone was interested in the congress.”
Mabuka noted that Zapu even had some structures in Botswana while in Canada, structures have also been revived.
“In the past 12 months, we have seen a stampede and jostling for positions. Competition is healthy, people can’t compete for a dead thing so this means ZAPU is alive and kicking,” he said, praising members for remaining resolute despite tough conditions.
“In other parties, we have seen the commotion, fighting and factions but we have remained intact nearly three years since Dabengwa death.”
Mabuka took the opportunity to criticise the Emmerson Mnangagwa led government for mismanagement of the economy, which has contributed to increased levels of poverty.
“Young people are seeking greener pastures elsewhere. They can’t plan for their future and even though educated, they become domestic workers in neighbouring countries. There are no formal jobs, yet we expect to have formal employment as the young need loads to buy houses, they need insurance but have no guarantee as most are involved in the informal sector,” he said.
The outgoing ZAPU leader accused the government of failing Zimbabweans.
“Whilst some may cry sanctions, it’s mismanagement and corruption. As long as the economy is not managed well, corruption creeps in. Corruption is when goods and services are charged in forex yet people earn in local currency. People are then forced to take their money, go buy money in the black market to buy goods,” Mabuka said.
He also decried the state capture, alleging state institutions such as the national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) were not independent.
“We need an independent electoral commission that will control all political parties, both ruling and opposition, speak out against vote-buying. As for ZBC, they stampede for the ruling party, every day they shout Zanu PF from morning to evening,” he said.
Meanwhile, no Zimbabwean based political party attended the congress, except for a solitary message from the Zimbabwe Communist Party.
Regional parties such as ZAPU received solidarity messages from regional organisations and parties such as Umkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association, Swaziland Communist Party, Black First Land among others.
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