Feature: Zanu PF primaries chaos, a harbinger for bloody polls

The ruling party is not ready to banish violence within its ranks.


ALLEGATIONS of kidnapping, guns being fired at polling stations, torture, intimidation, rape and beatings were the order of the day ahead of the Zanu PF primaries a fortnight ago as aspiring candidates battled for the ticket to represent the ruling party in general elections expected later this year.

According to political observers, the chaotic Zanu PF primary polls clearly demonstrated one thing: The ruling party is not ready to banish violence within its ranks.

The allegations of electoral malpractices sent tremors across affected constituencies and effectively reminded terrified Zimbabweans of past episodes of violence and intimidation, and many cringed fearing this could be an indication of what lies ahead, as the country inches towards general elections about five months away.

There has been a drumbeat of calls for peace, as key political figures battle to avoid a repeat of the bloodbath that soaked the nation following the tightly contested 2018 poll, which ended with aggrieved opposition supporters pouring onto the streets.

In the aftermath of the bloodbath of August 1, 2018, a government commission of enquiry recommended a string of measures, including holding to account the soldiers who indiscriminately opened fire on fleeing unarmed protesters, killing six in the process.

But the fact that five years on, no killer has been made to explain their role in the shootings could help to explain why during the ruling party’s recent internal elections, Zanu PF supporters were comfortable to pull the trigger against their own.

This week, analysts said what transpired in the Zanu PF primaries indicated that the forthcoming harmonised elections could be marred by bloodshed and chaos.

But Zanu PF political commissar, Mike Bimha believes the fear of violence during the impending harmonised elections emanating from what transpired in the ruling party’s primaries is tantamount to making a mountain out of a molehill.

“We have received reports of a few skirmishes which happen all over the world when there is a contest and there is jostling for positions. Mind you these people are not going to church. These skirmishes are nothing to write home about,” Bimha pointed out.

Political observers, however, argue that it is going to be difficult for the ruling party to exorcise the demon of violence that appears to possess the party given that its leadership is at times found promoting the scourge.

While drumming up support for Zanu PF at one rally last year, ahead of by-elections in Kwekwe, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga said the party would crush Chamisa’s party like lice.

His remarks sparked widespread outrage.  Although Chiwenga has since called for peace during the election period, he has never made an effort to publicly retract his earlier remarks.

Mnangagwa has repeatedly called for peace, but this has failed to stop incidents of violence within and outside his party.

Political analyst Effe Ncube said Zanu PF’s penchant for violence could ruin the credibility of harmonised elections.

“Zanu PF has always been violent and has never hesitated to use unconstitutional means to hold on to power,” Ncube told NewsDay.

“It has never believed in free and fair elections and will never do. Its primary elections are a copy of what it believes elections should be and its members who were subjected to violence went through what Zanu-PF has been doing to opposition supporters since 1980.

“Therefore, unless something changes, the upcoming election is not going to be free, fair and credible. Without a free and fair election, the political and economic crises will continue,” he added.

Under Mnangagwa, violence has been a recurrent theme in the ruling party.

This is synonymous with the bruising political battles between the late former Zanu PF leader and President Robert Mugabe and the late founding Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The worst episodes of violence yet took place in the 2008 harmonised polls after then opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai (now late) beat Zanu PF’s Robert Mugabe (also late) in the first round of the presidential race.

This resulted in widespread violence during the runoff which followed. Tsvangirai pulled out of the re-run amid claims that more than 200 of his supporters had been killed.

A power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai came into force in 2009.

During campaigns for the presidential run-off, Mugabe declared that it was impossible to overthrow him through the power of the pen.

Ironically, when he lost power in a coup in 2017, he criticised the power of the bullet.

Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said violence remained entrenched in Zanu PF’s culture.

“The violence in last week’s primary elections goes back to a culture of violence from way back in the 1960s. It is used as a tool for political conquest and power retention. It is in the DNA of the party,” Nkomo said.

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