Source: Tension grips Bikita, Chimanimani | The Financial Gazette November 17, 2016
TENSION has gripped Bikita West and Chimanimani West ahead of the forthcoming by-elections.
Seeking to avoid a repeat of the humiliation suffered at the hands of independent candidate Temba Mliswa in Norton last month, ZANU-PF is pulling out all stops to make sure that it wins the two vacant seats, while other political parties have also upped the ante with the hope of causing a major upset.
Following their defeat to Mliswa, ZANU-PF leader, President Robert Mugabe strongly castigated the commissariat department and warned that the party would not tolerate another embarrassing loss.
Temperatures in Bikita and Chimanimani have since soared following Mliswa’s pledge to descend on the two constituencies to campaign for the candidates who are fighting the ruling party for the two National Assembly seats.
The Chimanimani West by-election will be held on November 26, while the Bikita West poll is slated for January 2017.
The Bikita West National Assembly seat fell vacant following the incarceration of Munyaradzi Kereke for raping his then 11-year old niece in 2010, while the Chimanimani West by-election was precipitated by the recall from Parliament of Munacho Mutezo over his links to the recently formed Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) — a party mostly made up of people who were booted out of ZANU-PF for allegedly plotting to unconstitutionally unseat President Mugabe from power.
In Chimanimani West, the ruling party will be represented by Women’s League provincial secretary for economic affairs Nokuthula Matsikenyere, who will battle it out with Peter Gudyanga (Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe), Edmore Mtetwa (independent) and Pesanai Musakaruka (National Constitutional Assembly) for the sole ticket to represent the people of the constituency in the House of Assembly.
In Bikita West, the ruling party will be represented by Beauty Chabaya, while former ZANU-PF national Youth League member, Kudakwashe Gopo — who is now linked to ZPF — and National Constitutional Assembly spokesperson, Madock Chivasa are also said to be eyeing the seat.
Chabaya last week announced that she had sourced 30 tonnes of maize for villagers in Bikita West who are reeling from the effects of the El Nino induced drought, infuriating opponents who are accusing her of vote buying.
Bikita West’s Mukanganwi, Marozva and Mazungunye areas are currently hard hit by the drought.
A report dated October 31, 2016 by human rights watchdog, Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT), alleges that Chabaya threatened to deny food aid to anyone who does not vote for her during a meeting held at Mukute ward centre on October 29, 2016.
“She warned people that if they ‘rebel’ by voting for another candidate, her party was going to unleash political violence similar to the 2008 election violence,” reads part of the HZT report, which described the situation in Bikita West as “tense”.
The report also detailed how ZANU-PF provincial secretary for finance for Masvingo province, Jeppy Jaboon threatened communities there with unspecified action if they voted for the opposition.
ZANU-PF’s ward 9 councillor, Sabina Mudzonyonga and ward chairperson, Blessing Gore, were also caught offside at a meeting held at Bikita shopping centre.
“At the meeting, councillor Sabina Mudzonyonga openly told people that her party, with immediate effect, had imposed a ban on wearing opposition party regalia in the area, claiming that the area is a ZANU-PF stronghold and should not be infiltrated by other political parties.
“Gore also threatened to unleash violence in the area in the event that their candidate loses.
“Gore also told people that all ZANU-PF ‘rebels’ and opposition members were not going to benefit from any food aid initiative that will come in their area,” reads the HZT report in part.
Contacted for comment, ZANU-PF’s political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere dismissed the report as malicious.
“This is all false. If it happened why didn’t they make reports to the police citing the intimidation? It is the work of people who know that they are already defeated,” Kasukuwere said.
The situation is no different in Chimanimani West where Kasukuwere recently visited to drum up support for Matsikenyere as well as uniting people in the factious party.
Kasukuwere was accompanied by Manicaland provincial chairman, Samuel Undenge.
Manicaland provincial secretary for administration, Kenneth Saruchera said as part of their campaign strategy ZANU-PF politburo members will be seconded to different wards where they will lead campaign teams.
“We want to reach out to people from cells up to ward level so that we have a true appreciation of their concerns. As the ruling party, we are a people-orientated party and we are there to address the electorate’s everyday needs, hence the decision to go to the grassroots,” Saruchera said.
Analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, said the loss of Norton was a reminder of how fickle the electoral dominance can be in an environment of economic challenges, it was equally a call to arms for ZANU-PF.
“ZANU-PF will not tolerate another loss because that may indicate voter rejection of the party beyond Norton and declining political fortunes before 2018,” said Mukundu, adding: “ZANU-PF wants a morale and confidence booster at all costs. For the likes of Kasukuwere, this is personal because his political future hangs on a balance due to the Norton loss.”