Zanu-PF is continuing on its winning trajectory after its candidate coasted to a foregone by-election victory in the ruling party’s Mwenezi stronghold over the weekend.
Cde Joosbi Omar polled 18 700 votes to beat Mr Welcome Masuku of the National Constitutional Assembly who got 482 votes and Mr Turner Mhango of Free Zimbabwe Congress who garnered 386 votes.
Cde Omar’s tally is, however, lower than the 19 279 votes that former MP Mr Kudakwashe Bhasikiti got in the 2013 harmonised elections. Mr Bhasikiti, fired from the ruling party a year later, had been replaced by Cde Joshua Moyo, who won the seat unopposed in July 2015. Cde Moyo died in December last year, necessitating the weekend by-election.
Mwenezi District, like most of Masvingo Province is largely a safe electoral ground for the ruling party. In the 2013 harmonised elections, Zanu-PF won all the 26 National Assembly seats in the province.
In the 2000 parliamentary elections, Cde Isaiah Shumba polled 22 676 votes in Mwenezi before the constituency was split into two. In that election, the candidate who came second was most curiously Mr Bhasikiti who contested as an independent and got 2 643. Cde Shumba was re-elected five years later.
He got 25 453 ballots, followed by Mr Charles Muzenda of MDC who had 3 549.
Since 2000, Mwenezi East and West have, in fact, been scoring the highest votes for Zanu-PF in Masvingo, an average of 18 000 votes.
There was therefore no chance for the opposition to do any better in that constituency this time, let alone winning it.
“It’s a sweet victory for me, which was achieved as a result of the people of Mwenezi celebrating their close connection with Zanu-PF and President Mugabe through the party slogan which is ‘unity, peace and development’,” he said.
“My real work starts today (on Sunday). We need to start working on the ground; developing roads, bridges and starting projects that create employment for our people in Mwenezi. My aim is to make sure Zanu-PF remains the only game in town in Mwenezi. I am aiming for even higher votes in next year’s elections.’’
The margin was so huge that his rivals acknowledged the strength of the ruling party.
Mr Mhango conceded defeat saying the result highlighted the daunting task the opposition faces in successfully challenging Zanu-PF in next year’s harmonised elections.
“It was a deserved victory for (Cde) Omar because he worked hard for it,” said Mr Mhango. “I have no problems whatsoever with the final result. The winning candidate was rewarded in a very peaceful poll because of the development projects he has been doing. To the local opposition parties, the message is very simple. We have a lot of work to do especially in the rural areas, if we entertain hopes of dislodging Zanu-PF’s dominance. The margin (of opposition political parties’ loss) can be bigger in next year’s elections unless we work hard as political parties in opposition.’’
Mr Masuku said; “Zanu-PF was present in all the four corners of Mwenezi East. Their victory is not surprising at all. The party’s campaign machinery worked round the clock ahead of the by-election. If we had a similar presence as Zanu-PF, maybe we could also have won the election.’’
Zanu-PF had a target of amassing around 47 000 of the 56 000 registered voters. Only 20 220 votes were cast, representing a turnout of 41, 9 percent.
This should not worry ruling party strategists really since by-elections typically attract fewer voters than general elections.
Indeed Cde Omar’s victory is yet another lesson for the opposition – that it is difficult to defeat Zanu-PF in any election in this country. It is a party with a history of delivery, it is genuinely a people’s party that has cemented its presence in their minds to such an extent that it is now a culture. All the people know, particularly in rural areas, is Zanu-PF.
We congratulate the party for the Mwenezi East success, as we have done when it registered other victories in by-elections in Bikita West, Chimanimani West, Mazowe North and others that have been held since 2013.
These good performances came as there is much internal fighting in Zanu-PF, which may have weakened the party a little bit. However, they also highlight the fact – one which is very important – that even at its weakest moment, Zanu-PF is still stronger than the opposition.
Be that as it may, we call for more unity in the revolutionary party, not the factionalism that we have been witnessing over the past few months. Its supporters and members can however take solace in that the party hierarchy appears to have identified the quarters that have been causing much of the fighting and is dealing with some of the suspected ring-leaders in the Women’s League and in the commissariat of the main wing.
Now we demand that the clean-up be widened to bring to book all who were involved in the plot so that the winning run that we are seeing in by-elections continues into the 2018 harmonised elections and beyond. Like we have always stated, Zanu-PF is an all-conquering force on the local political landscape.