via ‘Let’s hold elections after conference’ 17 November 2013 Sunday Mail
When the provincial elections in Mashonaland West were postponed after it was announced that they would be held during the same weekend as the elections in Manicaland and the Midlands, many people were stunned by this development. There was a lot of speculation as to why the elections in the province had been postponed but in this candid interview with our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni, Cde Ignatius Chombo reveals for the first time the chaos that led to the postponement of the elections. He narrates how as one of the political leaders in the province he took it upon himself to write to the Zanu-PF national political commissar, Cde Webster Shamu, recommending that the elections be postponed.
Cde Chombo, who is the party’s national secretary for lands and resettlement, goes on to urge fellow comrades in Zanu-PF to put aside petty fights and even goes on to suggest that provincial elections in Mashonaland West should be postponed until after the party’s National People’s Conference set for Chinhoyi. Read on …
MH: Cde Chombo, we understand that you played a part in the postponement of the provincial elections in Mashonaland West. Can you explain why you thought it was necessary for the elections to be postponed?
Cde Chombo: The national political commissar, Cde Shamu, suggested that the elections in Mashonaland West be held, I think at the same time as the other two provinces that were supposed to hold their elections. This is Manicaland and Midlands. Circulars from the national political commissar were sent to the various provinces.
Now, two days before the elections, I just decided to go and understand what was happening in my own district, which is Zvimba.
So I called all the political leaders there to get an appreciation of how prepared they were for these elections, what are the rules and regulations.
To my surprise, there was very little information that had come down to the district and I realised that we were awfully unprepared, completely unprepared for this event.
As one of the senior persons in that province, I felt it was incumbent upon me to make sure that I inform the national commissar about my findings. So I sent him a text message and sent a similar text message to Cde Mafa, the provincial chairman, that the information I am getting here in Zvimba seems that we are by far, unprepared, unaware and uninformed as to really what is going to happen.
MH: What is it that you had seen in your district?
Cde Chombo: There was no clarity as to who qualifies to stand, no meetings had been held to explain that to the people, none at all.
The people were not clear as to how the posts were to be shared in the basket system.
A provincial co-ordinating committee (PCC) which converts itself into an elections directorate had not even met, yet we were only 48 hours away from the elections. All transportation logistics and voting centres had not yet been organised. We didn’t even know, we had not yet even vetted all the people who were interested in whatever posts.
And, finally, as we were discussing we realised that the persons who were expressing interest on that particular day, which was a Thursday, they didn’t know that the deadline for forwarding their names as candidates was the Monday before that Thursday.
This is when I discovered that things had not been done properly.
MH: But how come the party was so unprepared as if people didn’t know that these elections were to be held?
Cde Chombo: I think when the documents were sent to Chinhoyi provincial headquarters, the documents were not distributed.
I then confronted the provincial chairman, Cde John Mafa, why he had not convened a PCC, why he had not distributed these documents so that people would know. He then told me that he had not received the documents. He said he only saw Minister Nguni talking to people at a meeting in Mhondoro holding that document. He had never seen it. Whether he had seen it or not, the conclusion was that if this could be postponed, this was going to assist the province to have credible, free and fair elections.
MH: Do you think that there were attempts to sabotage the holding of the elections?
Cde Chombo: We are now going to interrogate the entirety of our leadership in the province at the next meeting to find out really what was the motive. Was the motive diabolic or satanic?
Or was this a case of having no information? We will soon find out and find out we shall when a proper PCC is convened. So after texting the two, I rang the two and the very next morning I sent a letter to the national political commissar after which I went to meet the political leadership of Zvimba administration district to assess the state of preparedness for this weekend’s provincial elections.
I observed that there was no clarity as to who qualifies to stand and that there was no meeting to vet the candidates and that the PCC had not been convened to inform members on how the elections were to proceed and to see which candidates had expressed interest and in what post.
And to also determine whether the candidates really exist in the district in which they claim to be coming from.
I also wrote that we were also informed yesterday about the deadline for those interested in contesting. Due to all these irregularities, I wrote that it would be in the interest of the party that the elections be postponed to a date when all these issues have been ironed out. I officially wrote this letter to Cde Shamu.
On the Thursday while I was in the meeting, I did text both Cde Shamu and Cde Mafa to register my unhappiness and my observations. Cde Mafa texted me back saying tomorrow Friday, at 2:30pm there would be a PCC.
On the Friday he then called for this PCC. This meant that we were going to get information at 2:30pm on Friday, a day before the elections. We were going to make decisions on how the elections were to be held a few hours before the elections.
Honestly, with all that needed to be done, we were about a week too late for the elections. We wanted everyone to be given an opportunity to participate and we wanted everyone to know what was happening because it is the people’s democratic right to contest in the elections.
But, more importantly, Mashonaland West, this year 2013, from the 10 to the 15th of December we are hosting the People’s Conference.
MH: We are going to talk about the Zanu-PF conference a little later. Now after the postponement, what is the situation like in Mashonaland West? Has the situation improved in terms of being prepared for the elections?
Cde Chombo: When the postponement was done, the purpose was now to correct and make sure that the relevant information is given to the interested parties. We also wanted to make sure that all the relevant legal meetings as dictated to by the Zanu-PF constitution, be followed and implemented. I am glad to report now that today I heard that the provincial executive is going to meet I think tomorrow (yesterday) so that they can inform the people.
I am sure that now, some of the views have been taken into account, there have been some improvement in terms of putting things in order. Once that has been done, there has to convene now after tomorrow a provincial co-ordinating committee which should hear their report and convert itself into an elections directorate in order to give effect to the elections, in order to guide how elections are going to be managed and conducted.
At the PCC meeting, those interested in contesting should be vetted to see whether they are bona fide candidates, whether they meet the criteria or not. Then and only then, can their names be forwarded to Harare as candidates and in Harare if anyone feels that I have not been treated well in Mash West, I am being excluded unfairly, they also have a right to appeal to Harare through the national political commissar and the entire leadership.
These people have to be heard. The whole process needs time so that the aggrieved has the opportunity to be heard.
MH: Some reports seem to suggest that these problems arose because of attempts to target some individuals. Did you detect any attempts to target some individuals so that they don’t stand in the elections?
Cde Chombo: I have not heard that yet.
I am assuming that it’s just poor communication, mismanagement and maybe lack of understanding of systems.
MH: The Politburo and Central Committee have made recommendations regarding the holding of these elections. Are these recommendations being implemented?
Cde Chombo: I will go back on the ground early in the week to check whether really people are now in the know.
I will then make my views known to the relevant authorities. As of now, I am waiting for these two important meetings to be held for me to be able to make an assessment of the degree of our preparedness.
MH: There are concerns that the problems encountered regarding the holding of these provincial elections have tarnished the image of the party and some people have lost confidence in Zanu-PF’s internal electoral process. What is your comment?
Cde Chombo: I really think that we need to prepare for elections and for that matter any party activity carefully and that consultations are very important. If everyone is in the know, then there would be less of the blame game.
MH: Due to these problems, Zanu-PF is being accused of keeping people in the election mood instead of moving the country forward. What is your comment?
Cde Chombo: There is merit in that observation. We won elections resoundingly and when we won the elections, the first gathering that we are going to have is the People’s Conference is Chinhoyi.
Everyone is coming to Chinhoyi to celebrate our victory and enjoy the thrashing of the MDC in the elections and also celebrate how much people endorsed our leadership. If we go there and we are fighting each other as a result of these provincial elections, this is going to dampen the celebratory mood that we were expecting.
So I am hoping that we can find a way out so that we quickly get this out of the way. We can even look at the possibility of postponing the elections until after the Chinhoyi conference.
This will give us time to plan properly, to have sufficient funds to the national political commissar to conduct his business properly.
MH: Is it procedural and does the Zanu-PF constitution allow the postponement of these elections to some time after the conference?
Cde Chombo: I think they have been postponed before and postponing them for a month or two simply in order to hold them in an organised manner, I really don’t think that’s a big deal.
MH: Do you think your suggestion to postpone the elections to after the conference will find many takers in the party?
Cde Chombo: I think there should be others who really want to see something more credible than what has happened so far. I know when people lose, they always complain, but I think some of the problems that we are facing have to be addressed. These burning issues have to be corrected.
MH: There are concerns that what led to the postponement of elections in Mash West reflects what’s happening in other provinces. Do you think this could be true?
Cde Chombo: I am not really sure what is happening in other provinces, but what has happened in my province wasn’t good at all. We wanted more dialogue and more consultations so that people are fully aware of what’s going on.
We need to make sure that things are done properly and make sure that the Zanu-PF constitution is adhered to. Those people who are aggrieved should have recourse so that their issues are addressed properly.
I really think we need to be more cautious, more careful and we need to do our work in a systematic and thorough manner that instils confidence.
The provincial chairpersons must make sure that all their districts are in the know and in the picture. If we don’t do this, we are stifling democratic processes.
MH: Some reports say all the problems regarding the holding of the provincial elections are being caused by people in different factions who are readying themselves for the party’s congress next year. How far true is this?
Cde Chombo: I have heard about those issues, but my observation is that as Zanu-PF members, we subscribe to the values and dictates of our party not of individuals.
President Mugabe was elected overwhelmingly by the people and we had a huge national event at the National Sports Stadium where he was sworn into office in front of several heads of state and government from across Africa. On that particular day, the President clearly enunciated where we were going as a country.
It is our duty collectively to make sure that his vision becomes reality. The President has a five-year tenure given to him by the electorate. So we need to focus on the delivery of what he promised the people of Zimbabwe.
All other things, I think we need to put them aside for now.
MH: Now with all the problems pertaining to the holding of these elections, how are the preparations for the conference going?
Cde Chombo: Everybody is now busy running around all over the show trying to get a vote. Even the provincial chairman is busy campaigning all over. They are not in Chinhoyi where they are supposed to be preparing for this carnival event we are expecting after the emphatic victory on July 31.
We really need to focus more on having a good time in Chinhoyi. We can focus on these elections after the conference, especially for Mashonaland West. I really would plead.
MH: You still feel confident that the Chinhoyi conference will still be a success?
Cde Chombo: Yes, we are going to have a successful conference.
As the leadership in Mashonaland West, we need to make it abundantly clear that let’s focus on receiving the entire nation in Chinhoyi. As for issues to do with elections, well, other provinces can afford to have their elections, but as Mashonaland West, I don’t think we still have the time and the resources for these elections. As a province, we have too many things on our plate now.
Let’s focus on one thing, which is the People’s Conference. After this we can then go back to our elections. Well and good. I really would appeal.
Our party Zanu-PF did extremely well, our party chose a President to represent us and he has done a wonderful job.
Let’s focus on the activities we want to do for our people. Let’s focus on supporting our leader.
Let’s not focus on petty matters that do not help to build our party.