Zimbabwe National War Veterans’ Association chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa has warned that President Emmerson Mnangagwa may lose this year’s elections and lashed out at Zanu PF commissar, Engelbert Rugeje, whom he described as a political novice.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mutsvangwa, who is Mnangagwa’s adviser, said many Zanu PF members had been disenfranchised in the party’s internal polls, which have been described by observers as chaotic, and said war veterans were not happy with the outcome of the primary elections.
“It is inconceivable that the President will win given that the party’s members have been largely disenfranchised,” he said.
“We realised that instead of being in the primary elections to provide peace and a stable environment in which Zanu PF members freely express themselves and choose their leaders, the national commissar, being a political novice, sought advice from a rehabilitated ex-Gamatox commissar in the form of Webster Shamu to turn police into returning-officers.”
Chegutu East MP and Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister Shamu is a former Zanu PF political commissar and was deposed in 2014 along with former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
His wife, Constance Tsomondo was eyeing the Norton seat before her name was removed from the candidates’ list.
Mutsvangwa lost in Norton to Langton Mutendereki, while war veterans’ spokesperson, Douglas Mahiya, who was eyeing the Harare South seat, is hanging on by the skin of his teeth, as the results for the constituency were nullified after he had also been defeated.
This represents a major setback for the war veterans, who had championed former President Robert Mugabe’s ouster.
Mutsvangwa was not done with Rugeje, saying he had failed to handle the primaries well.
“The new national commissar, while he is a comrade, lacks the party’s institutional memory and failed to handle this issue well, leading to the disenfranchisement of thousands of party members countrywide,” he said.
“The political commissar relinquished his position as chief returning officer of the primary election to the police, who are supposed to be there to maintain law and order.”
Mutsvangwa raised the spectre of the war veterans turning against the Zanu PF’s new administrators, which could raise political temperatures in the ruling party.
“Zanu PF’s problem has always been the abuse of the office of the political commissar and we are seeing this again,” he said.
“So, as war veterans, just as we did during the Mugabe era, give choice between a party that has lost through acts of omission or commission its fiduciary role, then we will be left with no choice but to go with the people.”
But Mutsvangwa was quick to point out that he would not contest the elections, as an independent candidate, but insisted the party needed to take “corrective measures to avoid such eventualities because we will stand with the people and we know their position”.
“The first line of protest is our election agents, who refused to sign the results and secondly that the war veterans countrywide, who have declared that they will choose the people instead of the party if forced into making a choice,” he said.
“I am under pressure because the war veterans feel that something is going wrong again with the party’s commissariat department.”
Mutsvangwa claimed Rugeje did not seek the blessing of the party to engage the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), as returning officers in party polls.
“Neither did he get clearance of the Head of State to deploy much unloved police as poll returning officers,” he continued with his charge.
“The ZRP is still smarting from the loss of income from banned ubiquitous roadblocks of Mugabe G40 era.
“The war veterans are always alive to the hopes and grievances of the people.
“They are fully aware of the width and breadth of the anger and disapproval of the rank and file party membership on the conduct of the primary elections.
“Paradoxically, just as well these abuses have come ahead of the national plebiscite.
“War veterans hope the party leadership embarks on prompt and thorough remedial action well before the July elections.
“This is a very sore point with party rank and file.”
Rugeje was unwilling to comment on the issue when contacted for comment, only saying results for the primary elections will be announced officially soon.
According to a Zanu PF internal memo on social media, the party had two police officers at every polling station, although it is not clear if ZRP had been paid for the services.
Party spokesman, Simon Khaya Moyo on Monday denied that Zanu PF had used State resources for its internal polls, although this has come under scrutiny and will be spotlighted more following Mutsvangwa’s statements.