HARARE – Zanu PF’s hotly-contested primary elections took place countrywide yesterday amid violent and chaotic scenes, as well as damaging allegations of bribery, favouritism and the imposition of candidates – prompting the ruling party to postpone the internal polls in many constituencies to today.
The embarrassing anarchy did not only expose a potential lack of organisational capacity by Zanu PF’s new leaders, it also raised serious questions about the so-called new dispensation’s preparedness to successfully manage the national elections that are due in a few weeks’ time.
Violence erupted in Harare where police threatened to shoot some thugs at one of the polling stations, where a minister is said to have briefly run away with a ballot box.
An ugly ruckus was also reported at Karoi Primary School in Hurungwe West, where one of the candidates – Chinjai Kambuzuma – is alleged to have gone into labour after an altercation with another aspiring candidate, Mary Chikoka Mliswa. It later emerged that Kambuzuma had given birth to a healthy baby boy at Karoi District Hospital.
All this occurred as tens of thousands of Zanu PF supporters failed to vote on time in many constituencies, resulting in the party extending voting to today in the areas that were affected by the late arrival of ballot papers.
Zanu PF national political commissar Engelbert Rugeje blamed the chaos on problems with printers, while party candidates who spoke to the Daily News bemoaned the fact that their principals had failed the people.
Harare East constituency witnessed ugly scenes at around 5pm at Courtney Selous Primary School when current MP and deputy Finance minister Terrence Mukupe briefly snatched a ballot box.
This was after his supporters had complained that the name of one of the senatorial candidates, Stalin Mau Mau, was missing from the ballot paper.
Earlier, the hot-headed Mukupe had in full view of journalists and police assaulted his rival’s driver before driving away — causing pandemonium.
Mukupe’s rival Mavis Gumbo, was forced to flee the scene in fear, at which point many people started leaving the polling station.
Later efforts by the Daily News to speak to Mukupe drew a blank.
In Mabvuku’s Ward 19, people were voting from a commuter omnibus, while another group of people that was voting at a crèche was allowed to do so behind a huge steel gate with heavy shutters.
In Harare South, Kuwadzana East, Epworth and Hatfield, the situation was not much different, amid chaos and delays in the delivery of ballot papers.
War veterans spokesperson Douglas Mahiya, also a candidate in the Harare South primary elections, said they had not received their allocation of ballot papers by 5pm – while also expressing fears of rigging.
In Mufakose, voting had to be stopped after supporters of rival candidates clashed. Similarly, voting could not be completed in Mashonaland West due to delays in the delivery of voting material.
Zanu PF Mashonaland West deputy provincial chairperson Keith Guzah slammed Rugeje’s department for the shambolic management of the primaries.
“The commissariat department could have done a better job than this. Many people will not be voting and this is very sad,” Guzah said.
In Kadoma, prospective senator Jimayi Muduvuri claimed that his name had been mysteriously transferred to Mhondoro.
“I live in Kadoma but somehow my name is no longer on the list. I tried to call the chairperson (Ziyambi Ziyambi) and he is not picking up his phone,” he said.
In Mashonaland Central, police made several arrests in Mazowe West where alleged supporters of the sitting MP, Kazembe Kazembe, were said to have slashed the vehicle tyres of rival Tafadzwa Musarara.
“The tyres were deflated and my driver was attacked, and I know it is the work of incumbent MP Kazembe Kazembe’s campaigning team who were spotted at the scene. Arrests have been made under RRB 333861440,” Musarara told the Daily News.
But Kazembe refuted the allegations, saying he had nothing to do with the alleged criminal acts.
In Mashonaland East, voters were also made to wait the entire day, amid the logistical problems.
In Marondera Central, voters in Dombotombo told the Daily News that they had arrived at the polling station at six o’clock in the morning, but to no avail.
In the volatile Masvingo Province, there was also confusion as most candidates complained that their names were missing from ballot papers.
In the Zaka East Constituency, candidates Chiremba Mamutse, Alois Muchewa and Clemence Chiduwa were among those whose names were missing from the ballot papers.
In the Midlands, in Mberengwa North, elections were postponed to today while there was chaos in Zvishavane after an attempt to allow people without voter slips to cast their ballots.
In Bulawayo, the primary elections were marred by vote rigging claims, as well as the late delivery of voting material.
At Westgate, in the Makokoba constituency, Peter Nyoni – who is said to be the husband of minister Sithembiso Nyoni, traded accusations of bussing voters and bribery with ex-war Veterans minister and incumbent MP, Tshinga Dube.
Dube told the Daily News that busses that ferried voters were not meant for him alone, but all the candidates, since some were coming from far off places.
In Bulawayo Central, many people were turned away after their names were not found on registers, amid claims of rigging.
The looming national elections have generated such interest among both ordinary Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike that a number of opposition leaders are set to contest President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential plebiscite.
The polls themselves will be the first in the past two decades not to feature ousted former president Robert Mugabe and the popular late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Meanwhile, analysts told the Daily News last night that the disastrous Zanu PF primaries were a warning to the opposition that the national elections could be affected by shambolic planning.