The race to succeed axed former Zanu PF Mashonaland East chairperson Ray Kaukonde is getting hotter with some ruling party bigwigs allegedly now backing new entrant Chikomba East MP Edgar Mbwembwe as the election date draws closer.
by Jairos Saunyama
Mbwembwe’s reported entrance into the race brought the number of candidates eyeing the position to three. Interim chairperson Aeneas Chigwedere and his deputy Joel Biggie Matiza have already showed their interest to succeed Kaukonde.
Sources told NewsDay that Mbwembwe was ready to surrender his central committee post to contest for the hot seat.
For the past three days, Mbwembwe’s team was touring the province mobilising support and was reportedly seen in Wedza district on Wednesday.
Matiza, who was previously considered the front-runner in the race, now faces a formidable challenger as Mbwembwe was reportedly being backed by some politburo members from the province.
“The race is getting interesting with the coming on board of Mbwembwe. After realising that Chigwedere cannot stand against Matiza, some party bigwigs resolved to rally behind Mbwembwe who was secretly eyeing the post,” said a senior Zanu PF official in the province.
“The officials are arguing that the northern half of the province has been the one producing chairpersons at the expense of the southern part. In this case, they are arguing that former chairpersons in the names of Paddington Zhanda, Alois Mangwende and Kaukonde all hail from the other side of the railway line.”
He said the there was a push to elect a new chairperson from either Chikomba or Wedza districts.
“As we speak, a vibrant team is on the ground mobilising support for Mbwembwe and I predict a tough contest come election time,” the official said.
Asked to comment on the issue, Mbwembwe could neither deny nor confirm that he was interested in the position and now actively campaigning.
“I am busy today I cannot divulge much to you. But I am ready to serve the party and people in any capacity,” he said.
Kaukonde was the provincial chairperson before he was ousted for allegedly promoting factionalism in the province. He was accused of being aligned to former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who was also fired for allegedly plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.
Mbwembwe faces a tough battle from Matiza who has been on the ground garnering support. Recently, flamboyant businessman-cum-politician Energy Mutodi withdrew from the race and pledged to support Matiza.
Last December, Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere dissolved the Kaukonde-led provincial executive, replacing it with a 15-member interim executive headed by Chigwedere, that will run the party affairs until provincial elections.
The provincial election will be held soon after completion of the ongoing restructuring exercise.