PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday re-lived his worst fears, making a passionate plea for unity and peace during primary elections to select party candidates ahead of harmonised elections later this year.
Report by Everson Mushava
Addressing thousands of people who turned up for Independence Day celebrations in Harare, the Zanu PF leader admitted internal selection processes were a problem to all political parties, but warned that police would descend on perpetrators of violence ahead of polls.
“Leaders of all structures, wards, branches, districts and provinces, listen!” Mugabe pleaded.
“We will have elections this year and there will be fighting within all parties when choosing each other. We want it to be done procedurally and people should be left to vote peacefully.”
Mugabe also pleaded for peace before, during and after the elections saying cases of electoral violence would be an embarrassment to a country celebrating 33 years of independence and boasts of having the most educated population in Africa.
This came as serious factional fighting erupted in Manicaland last week and Matabeleland provinces threatening to rip Zanu PF through the middle, forcing Mugabe to shelf party primary elections to choose candidates who will represent the party during the forthcoming elections.
Soon after infighting broke out in Manicaland last week, Mugabe dispatched party national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo to try and close ranks after the provincial leadership petitioned the veteran leader urging him to rein in party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa for allegedly fanning divisions.
A faction reportedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru is battling with another allegedly led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa in the race to succeed the 89-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since Independence in 1980. The two have, however, denied habouring presidential ambitions.
Zanu PF, which is yet to conduct a selection exercise for its candidates, has been experiencing internal strife over Mugabe’s successor.
Previous Zanu PF primary elections have been marred by violence and accusations of candidate impositions. The party was forced to disband influential grassroots structures – district coordinating committees – last year after serious factional fights and vote-rigging.
Internal fights ahead of polls have also broken out in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party where aspiring MP veteran journalist Geoff Nyarota reported to the police Makoni West MP Pishai Muchauraya for allegedly threatening him with death.
The matter is now before the courts. But Mugabe yesterday said no one should impose himself on the electorate and members who lose in internal political party vetting processes should peacefully accept the verdict and rally behind winning candidates.
The veteran leader admitted the country was under international scrutiny and any form of violence would disgrace the nation. He discouraged the use of force for support by political parties and called for a replication of the peace that characterised the referendum on March 16.
“We are all Zimbabweans although we differ in ideologies. As we go for elections, go and vote your own way, No one should be forced to vote for anyone. The people will make their choices; they are now educated and clever to decide who they want,” Mugabe said.
He also welcomed the re-engagement efforts initiated by Britain, the European Union and the United States of America.
“We hope these efforts will lead to the unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions in Zimbabwe. We will never allow interference in our country, we need respect as a country,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe’s relationship with the West turned sour at the turn of the millennium with the West accusing him of gross human rights violations following the violent land reform programme. Mugabe hit back, accusing the latter of attempting to cause regime change by imposing targeted sanctions on his Zanu PF party.
Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, Arthur Mutambara and other top party officials attended the Uhuru celebrations.