HARARE – Opposition Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) leader Joice Mujuru has thrown Zanu PF into disarray amid reports that she has wooed Bikita West traditional leaders ahead of a by-election in the key constituency.
The spooked Zanu PF — currently struggling to deal with the raging factional wars over the succession of the increasingly frail President Robert Mugabe — is now whipping up emotions and threatening to unleash violence on the traditional leaders who have dumped it ahead of the crucial poll scheduled for this Saturday.
Zanu PF’s acting chairperson for Masvingo province, Amasi Nenjana, confirmed that only four out of an expected 21 village heads turned up for a recent meeting called by the ruling party.
“There is a total 21 village heads in this area but we only have four here.
“Where are the other 17? This is the kind of behaviour we do not tolerate at all. Village heads should be working to mobilise people to rally behind Zanu PF,” he fumed during a Zanu PF meeting in Bikita West.
“How will they be able to do that if they don’t attend rallies? The elections are close so it’s not about liking Chabaya or not, it’s about voting for Zanu PF,” Nenjana further told TellZim — a Masvingo-based publication.
The biggest number of Zimbabwe’s eligible voters is believed to be rural-based.
And ahead of elections, Zanu PF usually turns to traditional leaders to marshal support among villagers, who are then chaperoned to polling stations by the village heads.
However, the tide is seemingly turning against Zanu PF as their erstwhile comrades gain passage in areas hitherto closed to the opposition parties.
Traditional leaders have unwittingly and gradually been drawn into the political fray by Zanu PF, becoming agents of coercion for the ruling party.
In 2015, a startled Zanu PF assigned aides to traditional leaders in Hurungwe after it became apparent that chiefs and village heads were backing independent candidate Temba Mliswa.
That has been particularly worrying for the ruling party which fears losing its iron grip in rural areas — the base of its support since independence from Britain in 1980.
According to Heal Zimbabwe, a peace monitoring organisation, former Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu, who is working hard for his redemption after having been linked to Mujuru, told traditional leaders in Bikita West to “write names of all people in their villages and submit” them to him.
“At the same meeting, Zanu PF youths were writing down names of people present at the meeting and announced that they were going to use the list to check people who will be voting on the day of the by-election. The youths also took pictures of all people who had attended the rally,” read a statement from Heal Zimbabwe.
While Zanu PF is sulking, the latest developments in Bikita West have been a boon for ZPF, which is keen to start its political life as an opposition party on a high note.
ZPF founding member and former minister of State for Masvingo province Kudakwashe Bhasikiti also marvelled at the fact that traditional leaders have turned their backs on Zanu PF.
“Kana chaikuda chokuramba rega kumanikidza. Zanu PF vazhinji havachaida, nyangwe madzimambo kuBikita West. Mwari vaifuratiravo (If people no longer like you don’t force them. Most people no longer want Zanu PF, even the traditional leaders. Even God has forsaken Zanu PF),” said Bhasikiti.
Mujuru, untested so far in the country’s tumultuous politics, is set to gauge her popularity against her former comrades, through the by-election.