Temba Mliswa rattles ZANU-PF

Source: Temba Mliswa rattles ZANU-PF | The Financial Gazette August 4, 2016

ZANU-PF mandarins are reportedly burning the midnight candle plotting against former Hurungwe East legislator, Temba Mliswa, who sprang a surprise last week by declaring his interests in contesting the Norton National Assembly seat.

Mliswa is seeking a second spell in the august House, eyeing the seat which fell vacant following the expulsion of controversial war veterans’ leader, Chris Mutsvangwa.

Mutsvangwa lost the seat after he was expelled from the ruling party by ZANU-PF’s Politburo last month.

He was subsequently expelled from Parliament, necessitating a by-election to replace him.

ZANU-PF has previously adopted a soft approach to by-elections in which it posted easy victories, mainly owing to the fact that its main electoral challenger – the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) – is boycotting the polls citing an uneven electoral field.

However, the party has now been forced to put its thinking cap on following Mliswa’s sudden announcement on Tuesday last week.

The ZANU-PF Mashonaland West Provincial coordinating committee (PCC) was reportedly critical of all party cadres who had submitted applications to contest the ruling party’s primaries at a meeting where applications from interested cadres were evaluated in Chinhoyi on Saturday.

Sources who attended the meeting said the provincial leadership was worried that none of the nine successful applicants matched Mliswa’s drive.

The sources said considerations were being made to smuggle former Zvimba East legislator and Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, Patrick Zhuwao, into the race.

Zhuwao was not one of the nine candidates, who will battle it out in the ZANU-PF primary election namely: Ronald Chindedza, Margaret Zvinavashe, Bybit Tsomondo, Joyce Marufu Mukazhi, Simon Sibindi, Langton Mutendereki, Nyarai Makamba, Flavian Charumbira and Godfrey Chikowore.

A source said ZANU-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman, Ephraim Chengeta, was highly critical of the ruling party’s candidates.

Chengeta could not be reached for comment.

“At the end of the nomination process, Comrade Chengeta said the party will have to work extra hard in campaigning because Mliswa posed a serious threat,” said one of the PCC members.

“Remember last year we had to direct all our efforts to Hurungwe West to wrest the seat from Mliswa and still won narrowly despite having a better standing candidate. It is clear Mliswa is no pushover,” added the ZANU-PF official.

Another official said: “Now that Temba comes on stage, certainly ZANU-PF has to raise its bar to his level.”

The factional divisions rocking ZANU-PF, said party officials, could work in Mliswa’s favour with the faction that fails to field its candidate likely to throw its weight behind him.

ZANU-PF is currently split between two distinct camps namely Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40) which are battling for the right to field a successor for President Robert Mugabe.

Team Lacoste is rooting for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while G40 is strongly opposed to that.

Mnangagwa has however, distanced himself from the Team Lacoste group after hawks targeted his sculp.

Currently, G40 has an upper hand.

“With these divisions, ZANU-PF will indirectly assist Mliswa. I am sure G40 will put its candidate. Will Team Lacoste support a G40 candidate, I don’t think so. Mutsvangwa himself is Team Lacoste and obviously will have great influence should Mliswa succeed in obtaining his backing,” one official said.

After his expulsion from ZANU-PF, Mliswa — a former chairman of the province — stood for Hurungwe West as an independent candidate.

The ruling party had to put up a vigorous campaign, often laced with violence, as if it was involved in a presidential race.

Mnangagwa and co-Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko, made a couple of trips each to the constituency, while ZANU-PF secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, and national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, travelled there every weekend.

The party also deployed massive State machinery to Hurungwe West, despite the fact that it was facing concurrent by-elections in more than a dozen other constituencies at the time.

This week, Mliswa — who now leads a pressure group called Youth Advocacy for Democracy — claimed that he was already on the ground carrying out door to door campaigns ahead of the by-election whose date is as yet unknown.

“The campaign trail is on. We are already having door to door meetings and the response is encouraging,” he said.

Mliswa said he would be approaching all opposition parties seeking support to win the seat.

“I have approached all parties in NERA (National Electoral Reform Agenda) and I will be following on that in writing,” he said, adding: “There has been talk of a coalition and so this is a way of testing to see if these opposition parties are true to the idea of a coalition. Up to now, all they have done is talk about it without action.”

Major opposition parties such as MDC-T, Zimbabwe People First and the smaller MDC have been boycotting by-elections citing an electoral field which they say is heavily skewed and tilted towards ZANU-PF, indictments which ZANU-PF strongly refutes.

Mliswa believes he has what it takes to upstage ZANU-PF, and claims he has massive support among the ruling party functionaries.

“I am not saying I am the best candidate that opposition parties can support,” he said. “But I have the ability to bring disgruntled ZANU-PF supporters on board. I was chairman of that province and now everyone knows my expulsion from the party was unmerited. If anyone thinks he can also do that, he or she can come forth. I am prepared to step aside and support that person.”

The outspoken former fitness trainer said he was excited about taking the fight to ZANU-PF.

“The exciting thing is that this election comes at a time when war veterans have withdrawn their support for ZANU-PF; and for that, I am looking forward to an election which will really put ZANU-PF to test. That’s the reason why I am excited about Norton. I like to challenge ZANU-PF, to take something from ZANU-PF,” he said.

By declaring his interest to contest in Norton, Mliswa could also be deliberately testing the applicability of last year’s landmark Electoral Court ruling, which said one does not necessarily need to be a registered voter in the constituency they want to represent.

The ruling came after Mliswa took the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to court arguing that the ZANU-PF candidate, Keith Guzah’s election was unlawful since he was not a voter in Hurungwe West constituency.

Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, however, dismissed the application with costs on the basis that section 125 of the 2013 Constitution was silent on whether or not a candidate must be a registered voter in the constituency he or she wants to stand.

Mliswa is not a registered voter in Norton.