HARARE – A Zanu PF activist who wrote to parliament last week raising objections to a draft delimitation report submitted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was seized by state security agents on Monday morning and his whereabouts are unknown, his lawyer said.
Simultaneously, Zimbabwean state security agents accompanied by South African police reportedly raided addresses in Johannesburg looking for Marx Mupungu, another Zanu PF activist whose Constitutional Court application in June last year saved Chief Justice Luke Malaba from removal from office following an earlier ruling by three judges of the High Court who said he had reached retirement age.
Professor Lovemore Madhuku said Tonderai Chidawa was arrested on Monday, a day after he recorded an audio narrating how men claiming to be from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) visited his residence in Harare and ordered him to accompany them to the main police station.
In the audio, Chidawa said he had barricaded himself inside his flat at the corner of Baines Avenue and Leopold Takawira Street. Chidawa said the agents wanted to know “who sent you to fight ZEC?”
Madhuku told ZimLive late Monday: “I have been informed that he was picked up this morning. He is not yet out.”
In his letter to parliament, Chidawa said the draft delimitation report was not signed by ZEC commissioners and was “not an act of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as a body corporate.”
“At most, it may be an act of the chairperson of the commission and her deputy,” Madhuku wrote on behalf of Chidawa, a former student leader in the Zanu PF-aligned ZICOSU.
Madhuku said he had also been informed that Mupungu, whom he represented in the Constitutional Court matter, was on a “wanted list.” He did not know what crime he is supposed to have committed.
When the team pursuing Mupungu failed to locate him, they went after his girlfriend who sent out a distress call from her workplace, ZimLive was told.
The orders to arrest Chidawa and Mupungu would have been made at the top of the government, and appeared to have the approval of Acting President Constantino Chiwenga.
The raids emphasise a growing split within Zanu PF over how to respond to the delimitation of ward and constituency boundaries ahead of general elections due in the second half of this year.
ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba and her deputy Rodney Simukai Kiwa are facing an open rebellion from seven other commissioners who have refused to sign off on the draft delimitation report claiming it “does not meet the minimum standards expected regarding transparent procedures that strengthen stakeholders’ confidence and dispel potential gerrymandering allegations.”
The rebels, in a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, demanded that the draft delimitation report be “put aside” and that elections should be held using old boundaries from the last delimitation exercise in 2008.
Mnangagwa loyalists led by justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi have reportedly told the Zanu PF leader that the draft delimitation report was a “mathematical exercise” designed to deny him a sweeping parliamentary majority, while boosting the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change’s electoral chances.
Ziyambi and the powerful justice ministry secretary Virginia Mabhiza allegedly told Mnangagwa that Chiwenga was behind a sophisticated plot to remove him from power after the elections by working with Zanu PF MPs loyal to him and those from the CCC.
The rebel commissioners are reportedly being controlled by the Ziyambi group which favours holding elections using the old boundaries, arguing: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Chiwenga, meanwhile, is backing Chigumba and in full support of the draft delimitation report. CIO chief Isaac Moyo has also reportedly aligned himself with Chigumba, and by extension Chiwenga.
ZimLive understands discussions have taken place about arresting two ZEC commissioners – Cathering Mpofu and Shepherd Manhivi – who are accused of being the ringleaders of the rebellion against Chigumba.
Mnangagwa loyalists accuse ZEC of collapsing seven constituencies currently occupied by MPs aligned with the Zanu PF leader – Mberengwa South, Bulilima East, Gutu South, Zaka East, Zaka West, Chikomba Central and Musikavanhu.
ZEC, they argue, also systematically moved voters from urban constituencies, the hotbed of opposition support, into neighbouring constituencies held by Zanu PF MPs in sufficient numbers to overhaul the Zanu PF winning margins from 2018.
It is not clear why the Mnangagwa camp blames Chiwenga for the alleged gerrymandering.
A cryptic message posted on Ziyambi’s WhatsApp status on Sunday read: “There are but two parties now – Traitors and Patriots.”