Insiza and Matobo by-elections face credibility test

The political violence that flared in Matobo Ward 2 and Insiza Ward 4 is likely to affect Saturday’s by-elections with analysts saying the mini-polls will not pass the credibility test.

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) members were attacked and injured by suspected ZANU-PF supporters, who also damaged their campaign vehicles.

In Insiza ZANU-PF’s Daniel Dube will lock horns with CCC’s Augustine Gumede while in Matobo Fredrick Siwela of the ruling party will face Sindiso Ngwenya of CCC and Liberty Nyirongo of ZAPU.

The Insiza Ward 4 seat fell vacant following the death of Lawrence Maphosa of ZANU-PF while that one for Matobo Ward 2 was a result of the death of Tom Moyo of the same party.

In each contest, there are four polling stations where the eligible voters will be casting their votes.

Ntando Ndlela, CCC Matabeleland South provincial spokesperson said there is no way this weekend’s by-election could be free and fair

“Free and fair is out of the question,” he expressed scepticism.

“You cannot have a free and fair election in such a toxic environment. Our people are so scared right now as I speak to you. People are scared of going out of their homes in both Matobo and Insiza.”

He further said: “Most certainly, a good number of our supporters are not going to go out and vote for their candidate. So, definitely, this election will never be viewed as free and fair in any sense.”

He said the damage to their campaign vehicles had literally crippled their campaigns.

“ZANU-PF has somehow managed to strategically cripple us,” he decried.

“As I am telling you, they have damaged four cars in Insiza Ward 4 and they damaged seven cars in Matobo. So, our campaign has somehow been crippled. Tiny took our posters and fliers in Insiza which were in some of the cars. So, our campaign has been heavily affected.”

Vusumuzi Chirwa, a political analyst said the upcoming by-elections were already a “sham” in light of political violence which took place.

“If the electorate is now intimidated, then the by-elections are no longer credible,” he said.

“I think the string of CCC victories in recently held by-elections (in Bulilima) are now irking ZANU-PF since they have a bearing on the 2023 general elections. Any by-elections taking place in less than 12 months to the general elections is now a platform for campaigning for the upcoming general elections, thus any violence taking place during any by-elections should be treated as violence ahead of next year’s crunch elections.”

Chirwa added: “If current and upcoming by-elections in light of incessant recalls are not free and fair, then the 2023 general elections are not to be free and fair.”

Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) principal researcher, Bekezela Gumbo, said with voters already intimidated there is no way the by-elections could be free and fair.

“ZANU-PF wants to send a message to voters in the 2023 elections that it is still the ZANU-PF that has teeth to bite for a vote,” he said.

“Losing is losing no matter the size of position and it creates perceptions of a possible loss in a bigger position. They are trying to dissuade the Bulilima humiliation. This is a labour pain for the hard times ahead.”

Gumbo added: “As we have always argued, the transition from Mugabe to Mnangagwa was the most unfortunate reality to befall Zimbabwe as far as democratic transition is concerned. Zimbabwe needs a consociation ruling elite that shares power and encourages coalition building. This is unforeseeable under the current regime and this risks influencing the opposition to use the same approach when they get access to power. It must be condemned in every platform available.”

Fortune Mlalazi, a public administrator said Zimbabwe’s elections have never been free and fair.

Mkhululi Tshuma, another political analyst also said the by-elections will not be credible.

“There cannot be any talk of a free and fair election in Matobo and Insiza when ZANU-PF is allowed to act like a bull in a China shop,” he said.

“The election has lost its credibility. It doesn’t matter even if the opposition pulls a shocker and wins those elections that will not sanitize them. The die is cast. The elections in the two districts are a sham.”

Tshuma said ZANU-PF was rejuvenating its “violence machinery to aid the rigging.” “ZANU-PF has always been a violent party,” he said.

“Anyone that has been a threat to the party’s hold on power has been violently crushed. It was only in 2013 and 2018 elections that a moratorium had been put on violence.

The loss suffered by ZANU-PF in Bulilima last month, Tshuma said, was the major reason Matobo and Insiza were targeted.

“The party knows that those seats are going,” he said.

“The violence is being used especially in Matobo to remind the inhabitants there that the Gukurahundi machinery is still available and can be used again if need be. The 2023 elections will be a bloodbath. ZANU-PF is already on a war path. The party is aware that winds of change are blowing across the length and breadth of the country. It’s sad that the ruling party has since adopted primitive, unorthodox, stone-age and medieval means to retain political power. History has proven that such methods don’t work. I wonder why the ruling party is choosing that route.”

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