By George Maponga
Mwenezi — Zanu-PF candidate Cde Joosbi Omar’s sweeping victory in the Mwenezi East by-election over the weekend is a forestate of the ruling party’s performance against its opponents in next year’s harmonised elections, observers have said.
In results announced early yesterday, Cde Omar garnered 18 700 votes while the combined figure for his two rivals was 868 votes.
Analysts said the landslide victory by Zanu-PF was proof of its close connection with the rural voters. They said the win was likely to replicate itself in many constituencies in next year’s elections.
Cde Omar was declared the new legislator for Mwenezi East by the constituency election officer, Mr Charles Daswa, after collation of final votes at around 6:45am at Sacred Heart High School in Rutenga, the constituency Command Cen- tre.
He shrugged off the challenge of Mr Welcome Masuku of NCA, who was a distant second with 482 votes, while Mr Turner Mhango of Free Zimbabwe Congress Party polled 386 votes.
There were 652 spoilt votes in the by-election, where voter turnout was 41,9 percent.
There are 56 000 registered voters in the constituency.
The by-election followed the death in December last year of Cde Joshua Moyo of Zanu-PF, who was the House of Assembly member for Mwenezi East.
Initially, there were supposed to be four candidates in the by-election, but ex-Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Mr Kudakwashe Bhasikit, now of ZimPF, pulled out later.
Cde Omar’s victory restored Zanu-PF’s control of all the 26 House of Assembly seats in Masvingo Province after the ruling party also retained the Bikita West parliamentary seat in a by-election in January.
There were 62 polling stations in the Mwenezi East by-election, with the highest number of votes cast at Nyuni Secondary School and Tokwe-Mukosi Primary School in the Chingwizi area.
An elated Cde Omar attributed his victory to President Mugabe’s visionary leadership.
‘”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 (yesterday). 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.”
Mr Mhango conceded defeat, saying he had lost to a better candidate backed by a well-prepared party.
“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,” he said.
“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 around the clock ahead of the by-election. If we had a similar presence as Zanu-PF, may be we could also have won the election.”
Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo Mr Jowere Mukusha said Zanu-PF’s landslide victory in Mwenezi East was a barometer of the voting pattern in next year’s general elections.
“The outcome of the Mwenezi East by-election shows that Zanu-PF is not a pushover as it is a party that has very solid roots,” said Mr Mukusha. “The voting preference of most of the rural voters in Mwenezi East is an indicator of the choices of all rural voters in Zimbabwe who have a close connection with Zanu-PF,” he said.
“In fact, signs on the ground are pointing to a bigger victory for Zanu-PF in rural areas in next year’s elections. The party is now poised to win even in urban areas. Politically speaking, Zanu-PF has proved that it is a pragmatic and principled party.”
Prominent Masvingo lawyer Advocate Isaiah Muzenda said the ruling party’s clean sweep of most by-elections held post-2013 harmonised elections pointed to a landslide victory in next year’s elections.
“If the pattern as shown by results of by-elections countrywide is accurate, Zanu-PF will get a landslide victory next year. The outcome of the Mwenezi East poll and results from previous elections are a warning to the opposition to either organise or pull out of next year’s elections as they face certain defeat,” he said.
“The electorate no longer tolerates parties that make empty promises.”
Zanu-PF Chief Whip and Gutu Central legislator Cde Lovemore Matuke said more electoral agony awaited opposition parties in next year’s elections.
“The outcome of the Mwenezi East poll confirmed that Masvingo is a one-party province, completely dominated by Zanu-PF,” said Cde Matuke. The ruling party has restored its total control of all the 26 seats in the Lower House (House of Assembly). It will be difficult for them (opposition) to change the status quo in next year’s elections,” he said.
Cde Matuke said the outcome of the Mwenezi East poll was also a political lesson to Mr Bhasikiti.
“The people of Mwenezi East proved to Bhasikiti that Zanu-PF is bigger than individuals,” he said. “People have shown that they want the party, not people, because when he was still in Zanu-PF they voted overwhelmingly for him and rejected him outright when he was jettisoned from the party.”
Zanu-PF Politburo member in Masvingo Cde Josaya Hungwe said the outcome of the Mwenezi East by-election showed the party would inflict electoral blows on any challenegr that stood in its way.
“It’s sweet victory for our party and sends a very clear message that we will crush any political opponent who stands in our way in elections,” he said.
“More disaster awaits opposition parties in next year’s elections. Zanu-PF opponents should be very worried because the ruling party will face them when it is even stronger.”
Zanu-PF has swept all but one of the by-elections held after the 2013 harmonised elections. The only blemish came in Norton where the ruling party candidate Cde Ronald Chindedza lost to independent candidate and former Zanu-PF legislator, Mr Temba Mliswa.